Compiled by Vineet Kaul | Reviewed by Dr. Alok Sharma (BAMS)
The benefits of Jalandhara bandha stem from experiential accounts of yogis or anecdotal evidence. But how much of it stands up to scientific scrutiny?
Jalandhara bandha – the throat, chin, or neck lock – is a yoga technique to compress the neck compartment. You practice the 'lock' by pressing the chin into the jugular notch. It happens in conjunction with internal breath retention.
Anatomically speaking, both sides of the neck have internal carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. The bandha applies controlled pressure to the carotid arteries to restrict blood flow.
The throat lock reduces the nerve impulses to the brain leading to a decrease in heart rate and trance-like exultation. Yogis call upon this trance to clear up their minds. It prepares them for deep states of meditation.
In this post, we look at the eight possible benefits of the throat lock reported by scientific studies.
1. Reduces Resting Heart Rate and Stress
A study (1) observed the impact of Jalandhara bandhas on resting heart rate and blood pressure. The participants, aged 22 to 25, practiced the Throat Lock for eight weeks.
The study observed participants that practiced Jalandhara bandhas in conjunction with pranayama. They noticed a decrease in the sympathetic nervous system and an increase in peripheral blood flow, resulting in a lower heart rate and a relaxed body/mind.
The throat lock is performed in conjunction with pranayama (yoga breathing). Other studies (2) have already demonstrated that pranayama breathing patterns can significantly reduce adverse responses to stressors and exert a positive influence on the autonomic nervous system.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure
Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is of great concern to the modern world. The WHO Factsheet states that 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women had high blood pressure in 2015.
1.13 billion people struggle to manage hypertension. It's among the top causes of premature deaths in the world today.
A study (3) examined the effect of the throat lock on blood pressure. The researchers found that Jalandhara bandha reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure by creating pressure on the Carotidal Sinus.
There was a significant improvement in blood pressure and resting heart rate after eight weeks of performing the Jalandhara bandha. Encouragingly, the study noted improvements in blood pressure after practicing the throat lock for a month.
3. Causes Change in Neck and Chest Temperature
A study (4) tracked the impact of yoga techniques such as Jalandhara bandha, Kapalbhati, and Bhastrika on the thermal signatures of the head, neck, and chest regions of yoga instructors.
They observed a significant change in the chest and neck temperature of all the participants. An average increase of 0.76 ºС in the minimum temperature and 0.49 ºС in the mean temperature of the neck was noted after Jalandhara bandha.
It is encouraging evidence for a pilot study. Due to the relatively small sample size, more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.
4. Can Cure Throat Disorders
There are many claims that the regular practice of the throat lock can cure throat disorders. Yogis say it improves a person's voice quality as prana massages the thoracic glands and organs.
Some research indicates that the throat lock’s stimulus may balance thyroid function and be helpful in metabolic disorders. There is evidence that the throat lock shields the eyes and inner ears from the possibility of internal pressure during breath retention.
A single case study (5) noted that Jalandhara bandha may alleviate problems such as sneezing, running nose, and allergic rhinitis. There are no conclusive studies that indicate it can improve the quality of the voice. The bandha’s potency to cure sore throat disorders is anecdotal.
5. Improves Breath Retention Capacity
Anecdotally, many yoga students report an improvement in their capacity to retain their breath due to Jalandhara bandha. B. K. S. Iyenger has also listed this as a benefit of the throat lock in his book ‘Light on Pranayama’.
Many yogic explanations of the neck lock assert that it causes manipulations that prevent the air in the lungs from rushing into the ears, which is one of the most common discomforts associated with antara kumbhaka – internal breath retention.
They observed that adding the throat lock to pranayama exercises can stabilize vasomotor reactions in the fingers and heart rhythm. The stabilized heart rhythm enables yoga students to hold their breath for longer.
6. Painless Tooth Extraction
A yogic technique of teeth extraction is prevalent in many parts of India. In this traditional extraction, patients who use Jalandhara bandha do not need any local anesthesia.
A study (7) of 60 patients was conducted to evaluate the effect of the throat lock in dentistry. The researchers found that Jalandhara bandha raised the pain threshold right before the tooth extraction. This allowed patients to undergo extraction successfully without the need for anesthesia.
It should be noted that the operative procedure is done in a specialized manner using a traditional technique called Pradhana Karma that involves the manipulation of pressure points. All patients undergo special care in a pre-operative procedure.
7. Positive influence on physiological function
Many people restrict their practice to basic pranayama and omit internal locks. A study (8) was conducted on 60 randomly selected adolescent girls. The participants were divided into three groups: bandhas, pranayama, and pranayama + bandhas.
The pre and post-test statistics demonstrate that the pranayama + bandhas group displayed the most significant changes in physiological functions. This indicates that the combination of the two practices is more advantageous and beneficial.
This study only lays the groundwork for exploring the human mechanisms and exploring them in further detail. Even so, it hints that all branches of yoga are synchronous. Practicing the holistic version may be a sound way of tapping into its true potential.
8. Positive effect on metabolism and thyroid gland
A study (9) on the mechanism of asana, mudra, and bandhas explored the impact of yoga on the thyroid gland and thyroxin level. It was observed that practicing mudras such as Jalandhara Bandha and Surya Mudra improves the body's metabolism.
When practiced alongside specific poses and breathing exercises, it may lead to an improvement in the functioning of the thyroid gland. Although, the stimulation is a long-term benefit that is seen after months of regular practice.
The study concludes that Jalandhara bandha and other yoga mudras can be beneficial in regulating body temperature and metabolism. They can be pursued as an adjunct therapy to treat thyroid disorders.
Safety and Precautions:
As the first taught 'internal lock' in pranayama, Jalandhara bandha is simple and effective. Yet, it should be approached cautiously and after full knowledge of the contra-indications.
The Throat Lock is always practiced after the inhalation – at the moment between inhalation and internal breath retention. It should be released before exhalation.
Don’t forget to check out our definitive guide to the throat lock if you wish to learn more about how to include it in your yoga practice.
We often hear about the awe-inspiring merits of spiritual traditions and yogic practices. Preventing psychosomatic diseases, boosting immunity, spiritual exultation, chakra-healing, easing anxiety, and a vast array of physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits.
Many yoga aspirants contend with the descriptions found in books, commentaries, and the yoga sutra. Even so, the world has reorganized itself around science, and for good reason. Literary and clinical studies continue to examine and scrutinize the veracity of classical references.
In this case, the evidence seems to support a bulk of the claims. Others are yet to be verified. We will update this post with new information as and when it emerges.
Hopefully, until then, the list will offer all the encouragement you need to deepen pranayama with the inclusion of internal locks. After all, we all feel the need to move past alternate-nostril breathing at some point.