Keep a Cool Head


By Hillari Dowdle with asana instruction by Tim Miller  |  

Keep a Cool Head

Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock) comes into play in Pranayama practice. Considered the safest of the bandhas, it’s often the first one students learn. “When we do pranayama, we always
do it with Jalandhara Bandha,” says advanced Iyengar instructor Joan White. “It’s important, because just as the solar plexus, the seat of the digestive fire, burns food and creates heat, so the lunar plexus is the center of the brain and creates coolness. When you do Jalandhara Bandha, the cool energy of the head is not allowed to flow downward and be dissipated by the hot energy from the solar plexus.”

White can see the effects on students who forget this crucial lock. “If you practice pranayama without it, you feel the effects of the heat on your heart, brain, eyeballs, and inner ears. When people complain of dizziness during pranayama, it’s usually because they’ve let go of Jalandhara Bandha.”

White’s basic instructions for engaging Jalandhara Bandha create conditions that create the lock without force:

Sit cross-legged with several blankets underneath your hips. Center your weight evenly over the sitting bones, with the pubic bone running perpendicular to the floor, the tip of the tailbone moving slightly back and the sides of the waist lifting. Spread your collarbones and draw your shoulder blades down and in. Don’t push the bottom ribs forward. Lift the front of your spine from bottom to top. Keep your head in line with your spine and rest your lower arms and backs of the hands on your thighs. Soften your throat and tongue and let your facial skin recede against your bones. Keeping the sides of the neck soft and maintaining the lift of the chest, gently descend the head from the roof of the nose (that’s the space immediately above the bridge of the nose). Without jamming the chin backward or hardening the sides of the neck, allow the chin to surrender toward the chest.