Jiva Bandha is the fourth bandha following Mula, Uddiyana, and Jalandhara. Jiva means the soul and a Bandha is an energetic lock within the body used to control and contain energy or prana. Prana is the life force that lives in the atmosphere and is always around us.
As yogis, we believe that it is only assimilated through the sinuses. This means that we can really only take in prana when we breathe through our nose. Obviously, when we breathe through our nose our mouth is closed. Because we want to be such good diligent students, we try very hard to keep our mouths closed and often this leads to tension in the jaw. When I started yoga I had a mild case of TMJ and could only fit two fingers between my teeth. My jaw was so sore the first year of yoga until I realized one day that I was clenching my teeth and my jaw. I started to be more conscious of it and gradually was able to relax my jaw. What has helped me the most and what I share with yoga students is jiva bandha.
Each of the bandhas has a physical landmark on the body which helps our human mind connect more deeply with our inner experience.
To practice Jiva Bandha:
- First open your mouth and with your tongue, wet your lips.
- Bring your tongue back into your mouth and seal your lips closed.
- Bring your attention to the tip of your tongue and make it as pointy as you possibly can.
- Place the very tip of your tongue at the upper palate of your mouth just above the enamel of your two front teeth where the palate is still hard.
- Let the pressure with which you place your tongue be about as much pressure as a butterfly landing on a flower.
- Continue to breathe freely through your nose; ujjayi pranayama.
What this bandha does in the mouth is incredibly soothing. It drops the lower jaw away from the upper jaw and makes it virtually impossible for the teeth to clench, thus helping to relax the jaw. It also relaxes the tongue as it moves back and down your throat, softening and relaxing the throat which is the yogic area of communication and the site of the fifth Chakra, Vishudha Chakra.
Jiva bandha completes the inner loop of the soul as the tongue is considered to be the gateway to the subtle body. Making that connection between the tip of the tongue and the upper palate creates an energetic loop within the body that nourishes the soul.