We are all used to hearing about Mulha, Uddiyana and Jalandara Bandha, but how many of us have heard of Nabhi Bandha and Hri Bandha. This article attempts to explain them and how to practice them. They are in my opinion essential to our practice, and you may be utilising them already.
Nabhi Bandha is located four finger widths below the navel, and is accessed by contacting this area only, without the areas above or below. Above and we end up going into Uddiyana Bandha, below and we may contract the urinary tract.
The way to get in touch with Nabhi Bandha is to pull the abdomen below the navel back towards the spine. It is essential we practice into this area only, otherwise it becomes a gross contraction and we don’t feel the subtle changes. An exercise we can use is to take the breath below the navel, and each time we exhale draw the area below the navel to the back of the spine. Try adding two breaths to every exhale, so if we breathe in for a count of four, breathe out for six. Each time adding a couple of breaths to your exhale as you increase the inhale. Please don’t force or strain in any way.
If you practice you will feel the stability that it creates, and I believe we can use this stability during our asana practice.
This may at first seem like a quite gross action, but with time I believe it has very great subtle benefits. It is said to have a stabilising and energizing effect on the upper part of the water chakra, and the lower part of the fire chakra. Nabhi Bandha is located between the second chakra Svadhistasana (water) and the third chakra Manipura (fire). It could be said this area produces and stores energy which is then distributed out to the rest of the subtle body via nadis. I am told by a colleague this area is important in Chinese and Japanese martial arts and yoga, and is called Dan dien or Hara amongst other names. James Wheatly, who was a professional martial arts competitor tells me this is where they locate their centre and stability from.
I would recommend trying this in daily life, and combining it with light mula and Uddiyana bandha contractions, creating lift in the torso and allowing the abdomen below the navel to move towards the back of the spine. Add a pumping action to your practice for Nabhi kriya. Not to be confused with Agni sara kriya.
Like Uddiyana bandha, a proper Mula bandha is necessary for an effective nabhi bandha. The pelvis is neither in retroversion nor ante version, but rather in trans-integrity, or as I would normally say pelvis in neutral. It can be said that Nabhi bandha is a continuation of Mula Bandha and Swadi Bandha, as it is felt dynamically between the pelvis and the navel, but I would say that swadhi bandha is more front back, whereas Mula Bandha is more three dimensional. One way a beginner might get in touch with Swadhi bandha is tucking the tailbone, try it in a shortened down dog, which by the way is a great way to practice if your low back is a bit sore and stiff.
This practise will definitely bring renewed awareness to Samashiti, and overall postural balance. It is definitely a worthwhile practice if you tend to over arch your lower back, it will bring stability and balance, along with relief from those nagging low back issues.
I did start out by saying I would introduce Hri Bandha as well, but that will have to wait for my next article.