As we explore our yoga meditation practices, we can learn various techniques and applications to bring us to places of greater connection. A useful tool to create this greater connection in our meditation sessions is Jiva Bandha.
Jiva means “soul or the consciousness of the living being” and Bandha means “internal lock“.
Jiva Bandha is the subtle locking of the tongue to the palate. Jiva Bandha has many effects that transmit direct and indirect benefits into the meditation practice. The first initial benefit is the tongue lock reduces the production of saliva, thus allowing you to maintain greater levels of stillness and reduces the distraction of needing to swallow. Jiva Bandha is also an effective aid in reducing tension and pain stimuli in the neck and jaw. I have practiced with a physiotherapist who specializes in chronic pain therapy. She uses Jiva Bandha and other tongue techniques for some of her patients suffering from chronic neck and jaw conditions.
When we are experiencing physiological and emotional trauma, stress, pain, poor posture, respiratory disease, smoking, or muscle tension, we can be bombarded by a complex negative feedback system ultimately resulting in apical breathing (breathing only in the top of the lungs), which brings forward a flood of unwanted physiological conditions:
*poor posture, muscle tension and pain
*poor breathing mechanics and poor lung compliance
*increased ventilation rate and the sensation of being “out of breath”
*excess venting of carbon dioxide (often occurs with rapid, swallow breaths when stressed or experiencing tension) leading to respiratory alkalosis (high pH levels)
*increased urine production and reduced ability to buffer pH fluctuations
*constriction of blood levels leading to reduced flow of oxygen to cells
*increased state of anaerobic (lack of oxygen) respiration in the cells
*increased cortisol production
*poor sleep and increased states of arousal
When performed correctly, Jiva Bandha creates a cascade of healing benefits:
*encourages proper placement of the skull reducing tension on the neck and encourages breath to move more freely through the nose and not the mouth
*proper head positioning leads to proper spinal alignment and reduced stimuli from neck tension, thus transmitting freedom to the abdomen
*with freedom around the abdomen, we can more effectively breathe with the diaphragm leading to improved lung compliance
*in this deeper state of yogic breathing, we now move into a slower ventilation rate reducing the tendency of venting off carbon dioxide
*with reduced CO2 venting, pH levels in blood and urine production normalize, blood vessels relax allowing better flow of oxygen to the tissues, and cells enjoy improved metabolic reactions with oxygen (aerobic respiration)
*the body moves into a healthier, homeostatic level including reduced production of cortisol (stress hormone), which leads to better sleep and overall reduced arousal states
To perform Jiva Bandha properly, simply think of saying the letter “N” silently. Feel where the tongue softly touches the palate. If the tongue is pushed forward into the teeth, the jaw becomes pulled forward as well. This is counterproductive since the forward position of the jaw brings the head forward, posture is lost, tension develops, and the cascade of negative stimuli begins.
The tongue should be slightly back from the teeth creating a very light “cupping” motion. With this proper placement of the tongue, the mouth can close, but the jaw can float sending release through out cheeks and neck.
Jiva Bandha does not need to be held for the entire length of your yoga meditation practice. Slowly develop the endurance of the tongue while focusing on sending release and freedom through the jaw, down the next, over the shoulders, and into the core. Aside from the physiological benefits, explore how this tongue lock can help create a new level of meditative connection to the consciousness of the living being.