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The Muscular Contractions, or Bandhas

The chin should be pressed against the triangular hollow at the join of the collar bones. This causes pressure on the Center-of-Extreme-Purity (Vishuddhi chakra) which is in the neck. When properly done, this contraction obstructs the respiratory tracts and thus, when holding the breath (kumbhaka), it prevents the air from creating pressure above the glottis. The Center-of-Extreme-Purity commands the network of the perception-transmitting nerves throughout the body, and is more particularly connected with sixteen points of special importance, namely, the toes, the calf of the leg, the knees, thighs, hip joints, sex-organs, navel, heart, the throat below the Center-of-Extreme-Purity, the neck above this Center, the glottis, nose, brow, skull, the bumps behind the ears, and the Center behind the forehead (Brahmarandhra).

The center of the perception-transmitting nerves is really in the head, but the nerves all pass first through the Center-of-Extreme-Purity and it is through it also that the orders pass in response to the perceptions.

The Net-holding contraction protects the ends of the nerves from the brutal pressure of the air while holding the breath. If not properly done, many disorders appear in different parts of the body, particularly in the nose, the eyes, the head, the throat and even in the digestive tracts.

The Contraction is so-named because of its connection with the Center-of-Extreme-Purity and the network of nerves that it commands.

At first, the Contraction should not be held for more than five minutes; later, its duration may be gradually increased. When the practice lasts too long, the muscles at the back of the neck begin to ache, in which case they should be massaged with ghee made from cow's milk mixed with eucalyptus oil.

(3) The Flying Contraction (Uddiyana bandha) consists in strongly drawing in the belly at the level of the navel and then releasing it. (Shiva Samhita 4, 72.) This gives support to the lungs during breathing exercises and has a beneficial effect on the health by balancing the various elements of the body. Its defective practice weakens both lungs and digestive organs.

In breathing exercises, this Contraction is usually to be maintained while inhaling and exhaling, but relaxed while holding the breath. After holding the breath, at the moment of exhaling, relax the Net-holding Contraction and establish the Flying Contraction.

The Flying contraction is so called because "It causes the life breath to fly into the central artery of the subtle body." (Yoga Kundali Up. 1, 47.) Or "because it is the contraction by which a great bird soars up without effort, it is called the 'Flying contraction'; [and because it defeats death, it also goes by the name of] the 'Lion-which-masters-Death-the-Elephant' (Mrityu-matanga-kesari)." (Yoga Chudamani Up. 48.)

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