TEACHERS NOTEBOOK: Engaging the Locks (Bandhas)
By introducing three body locks into simple poses, we encourage our students to move from a fitness-directed workout to a yoga-infused work-in.
Finding a way to encourage students to create a personal experience within a group fitness setting can challenge even the most senior yoga teachers. When students show up to class expecting a work-out, as we all know, they can miss the work-in that yoga has to offer. So how can we shift their experience? I found introducing the bandhas (body locks)—Mula Bandha, Hasta Bandha, and Pada Bandha—gives individuals a way to move deeper into their own practice and begin to understand how it can best serve them physically and emotionally. Here are a few poses you can offer—bandhas included—which introduce the concept of internal investigation—without expectation, judgment, or competition. Sounds like the essence of YogaFit, doesn’t it?
Seated Heart Openers (Cat/Cow)
From an easy seated position, take a couple minutes to find a rhythmic inhale and exhale. Encourage students to pace the breath with a count of 2, 3 or 4 for each inhale and each exhale—without strain. Once the breath awareness is established, round the spine from seated on the exhale (like cat pose), then, inhale and shift forward with a seated chest expansion (like cow). Continue to work with the rhythmic physical expression matched with the unique cat/cow movement. Once students are familiar with the movement and matching breath, introduce Mula Bandha. At the top of the next inhale, tighten the pelvic floor muscles, keeping these muscles engaged, slowly exhale and round the spine. Release the contraction, inhale forward into the cow expression, repeating the contraction at the top of the inhalation, through to the exhalation, then, releasing. Work up to continuing this rhythm for 2 to 3 minutes.
Adding on more Bandhas:
Seated Butterfly with Seated Heart Openers: Placing a block between the feet, establishing the same rhythmic movements of cat/cow with each exhale/inhale respectively. When adding Mula Bandha, have students also push feet into the yoga block. Placing special emphasis on pressing with all three corners of the feet (ball of the foot, part of the foot’s sole just below pinkie toe, and middle of heel). This recruits the use of Pada Bandha, the foot lock, considered a secondary lock that links up into Mula Bandha.
Seated Heart Openers from a chair (can also be done seated on the floor with legs our straight or bent) Placing block between the knees and/or thighs. Establishing the same rhythmic flow with the breath and integrating Mula Bandha at the top of the inhale, through the exhale. Squeezing the block while we engage Mula Bandha. By keeping the hands, palms down, on the knees in each variation, we can keep Hasta Bandha (the hand lock) engaged, which is also a secondary lock to access Mula Bandha.