Maha bandha is all three bandhas - jalandhara, uddiyana and mulabandha - performed at once on an exhalation retention. This practice is used extensively in all the practices of hatha yoga - asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, and kriya yoga. It leads to pratyahara - the fifth of Master Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga as presented in his Yoga Sutras. This is the bridge from the “outer” four practices of yama and niyama (observances and commitments), asana (physical yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing practices) to the “inner” three practices of dharana (bringing the mind to concentrate on an object of your choice), dhyana (single pointed focus on that object) and samadhi (meditation). It is a pranic practice which can awaken the entire pranic capacity in the chakras and draw it into sushumna nadi.
This practice and its accompanying practice of maha mudra can alleviate abdominal disorders, constipation and can stimulate digestive capacity. Hormonal secretions of the pineal gland are affected and the entire endocrine system is regulated. This can halt the decaying, degenerating and aging processes and rejuvenate every cell of the body!
Maha bandha can soothe stress and mental restlessness, develop the mind and inner awareness and bring about inner harmony and balance. It can arouse receptivity. When the right and left side channels (pingala and ida nadi) merge with the central channel (sushumna nadi) as a result of this practice, the mind moves into a subtle and wise process of discrimination - the attitude of the witnesser, the one who simply observes without reaction or judgment.
Subtle Body Benefits
Maha bandha locks shakti prana into the central channel and causes it to rise within sushumna nadi. Mulabandha forces it upwards, jalandhara bandha forces it down, and uddiyana bandha draws the two pranic currents to meet in manipura - the navel chakra centre. When these two opposite poles of energy meet, they are forced up to ajna chakra, and “the mind attains the seat of Shiva” - the highest conscious capacity of man.
Devoting great effort to practices which withdraw the senses, draw the prana into the central channel and cause ultimate wisdom and compassion are the very causes which bring about a higher state of awareness. This then allows us to turn our focus and efforts to assisting others to reach enlightenment, assuring our own perfect Buddha state.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika says to sit in siddhasana or siddha yoni asana, or half padmasana or full padmasana.
Rest hands on knees, keep spine erect and head straight, shoulders level and relaxed, eyes closed. Relax the entire body.
Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose.
Exhale forcefully and fully through pursed lips, then retain the breath outside.
Perform jalandhara, uddiyana, then mulabandha in that order.
Retain the breath outside for as long as is comfortable as you rotate your awareness from muladhara chakra to manipura to vishuddhi, mentally repeating the names of these chakras as you focus on each.
When you can no longer retain the breath outside, release mulabandha, uddiyana, and lastly, jalandhara bandhas, and inhale slowly and with control.
Keep your eyes closed, and breathe naturally for several rounds, before repeating another round of maha bandha.
Do three rounds to begin with, and increase gradually as your Teacher instructs.
Tips From Deep Retreat
The best time for practice is first thing in the morning, with completely empty stomach, bladder and preferably after a bowel movement.
Be completely relaxed.
It is always a bit easier to do maha bandha after having done some inversions, such as viparita karaani asana, sarvangasana (shoulder stand) or sirsanasa (headstand).
It is essential that you have mastered the three bandhas individually and in isolation before attempting maha bandha.
Maha bandha comes very naturally in between rounds of kapala bhati or bhastrika, and is facilitated by these practices.
Maha bandha can also be practiced regularly as part of your asana practice while performing ado mukha svanasana (downward facing dog) uttanasana (standing forward fold) or pashchimottanasana (seated forward fold).
Please don’t practice maha bandha without the guidance and instruction of a qualified teacher. Maha bandha is contraindicated if you have high or low blood pressure, hiatal hernia or ulcer or any visceral condition involving the stomach, intestines or other abdominal organs. It’s important to be in good health before practicing.