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The Muscular Contractions, or Bandhas

In most of the postures, certain muscular contractions are necessary to bring the vital energies under control. These muscular contractions are called "ties" (bandha), and the most important of them, three in number, are the Root contraction, or mula bandha, the Net-holding contraction or Jalandhara bandha, and the Flying contraction or Uddiyana bandha. These contractions are sometimes counted amongst the Gestures (mudras) as is invariably a fourth, the Arch contraction (see "gestures").

Breathing exercises may be harmful when done without the muscular contractions.

(1) The Root Contraction (Mula bandha) is the most important and should be maintained constantly during breathing exercises. It consists in powerfully contracting the upper part of the anus, drawing it inwards and releasing it periodically. This diverts the excreting energy, which dwells in the Basic Center (adhara chakra) above the anus, from its downward trend and makes it the support of the vital breath for its upward motion. When the Root Contraction is defective, breathing exercises cause injury to the lungs. When practiced almost continuously it brings perpetual youth.

"Close the anus by pressing it with the heel and strongly draw upwards the excreting (apana) energy and bring it gradually to the upper region (i.e. the life breath (prana) region). This is the Root contraction which conquers old age and death." (Shiva Samhita 4, 64-65.)

"By performing this contraction, the union of the excreting and respiratory vital energies (apana and prana) is realized and the yoni gesture is performed automatically." (id. 4, 66.)

(2) The Net-holding Contraction (Jalandhara bandha): "The chin should be pressed on the chest closing the net of arteries of the neck; this is called the Net-holding contraction, difficult to achieve even for the gods. The purpose of this contraction is to prevent the ambrosia which flows from the lotus of a thousand petals at the summit of the head from being devoured by the digestive fire which dwells in the navel of all beings." (Shiva Samhita 4, 60-61.)

"By this contraction the wise yogi comes to drink himself the ambrosia and, gaining immortality, he wanders with delight through the three worlds." (Shiva Samhita 4, 62.)

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