Learn how to do the Throat Lock in yoga with proper form. Understand the steps, benefits, and common mistakes, alongside some handy tips to deepen your practice.
By PS Editors | Revived by Yoga Acharya Hansraj Joshi | Updated on August 13, 2021
Jalandhara Bandha (Throat Lock) is the simplest of the three internal locks used in yoga asana and pranayama. Its primary purpose (simplistically speaking) is to increase the flow of prana - the vital breath - in the upper chest and torso.
Jalandhara Bandha is a Sankrit term. Etymologically, Jalan (a net) + Dharan (a stream) + Bandha (hold) combine to suggest this technique will 'cast a net in the stream to hold (restrict) the flow'. For that reason, it is also called the 'Net-Bearer's Bond.'
What stream and what net, though? In yoga theory, the lunar plexus is located in the head. It drips Amrita or nectar into the torso. This nectar falls into the fire of metabolism and digestion. The cool/calming nectar and hot fiery energy negate each other.
The Throat Lock's purpose is to compress the neck to block this mechanism. It allows the fire to grow, heat up prana, and circulate it in the torso and upper chest. This gentle, controlled heat massages the organs and glands in the region, resulting in the benefits of Jalandhara bandha.
Some of the goals of Jalandhara bandha include:
Activate the Vishuddhi (Throat) Chakra
Create a "seal" to retain prana
Physical health benefits
Improves breath retention capacity
Jalandhara serves as a point of entry to other bandhas. It is the first internal lock taught to yoga aspirants. Take your time to master this "chin into the chest" maneuver. It will open doors to numerous intermediate and advanced variations in pranayama and yoga breathing.
Meaning: What is the Throat Lock (Jalandhara Bandha) in Yoga?
Jalandhara bandha or Throat Lock is one of the three internal body locks in yoga. It's a technique to compress the neck compartment by bringing the chin and upper chest to touch each other in a specific manner. Throat Lock is done during pranayama or seated yoga breathing, either by itself or in conjunction with Mula Bandha and/or Uddiyana Bandha - the other two locks.
The throat lock is not combined with yoga poses in traditional yoga texts. It must be done in a meditation posture during internal retention. Although rare, it can be done on external retention. Certain yoga poses have 'bandhas' built into them. If that is the case, it is usually mentioned in the name of the pose i.e Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose).
"The throat lock can be used as a standalone practice or in conjunction with the other locks (Mula, Uddiyaan). It is a good place to start for beginners but can take anything between a few weeks to a few months of regular practice to attain mastery and perform the full extension," says Yoga Acharya Hansraj Joshi.
Base Pose: Any seated pose
Expert guidance: Recommended
Prepare with: Ujjayi Pranayama
Rounds: 3 to 5
Post-bandha: Rest in Corpse Pose
Jalandhara bandha can be done in any cross-legged meditation posture. You can perform Jalandhara bandha in any seated pose where the back is straight. Generally, the Lotus Posture (Padmasana) or Accomplished Pose (Siddhasana) are preferred.
The following yoga asanas are frequently for the Throat Lock:
Baddhakonasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Virasana (Hero Pose)
Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
Swastikasana (Auspicious Pose)
Prepare: Rest your palms on the knees, cupping them. Don't use yoga mudras at this point. Focus on learning the bandha without hand gestures until you are proficient. Lift/raise the shoulders. They will remain elevated till you return to the base pose. Lean forward (about 10 to 15 degrees) to reduce strain on the neck. Keep the muscles relaxed. This is the base pose.
Empty your lungs with a hearty exhalation and begin the bandha.
Step 1: Inhale deeply and fill your lungs so that the rib cage protrudes. Once done, you will do the Jalandhara bandha as soon as you transition to internal retention.
Step 2: Retain the inhaled breath (Antara kumbhaka). Perform the throat lock by lowering your chin as much as possible and raise your sternum (breastbone). The two may not touch if you are a beginner. Do the best you can without straining the neck. The rib cage should not cave in.
Step 3: As you hold the Throat Lock, relax the forehead muscles. Divert all focus (Awareness) on the Throat (Vishuddhi) Chakra. Retain your breath for as long as comfortable. Now, release the bandha before you exhale. Do not exhale while holding the throat lock.
Step 4: Raise your head back to starting position and exhale heartily to empty the lungs. This is one round of Jalandhara Bandha. You have now returned to the base pose.
Safety and Precautions
Avoid performing Jalandhara bandha when tired, dizzy, or recovering from any injury to the upper body. Additionally, Jalandhara bandha is contraindicated in the following conditions -
Neck or back pain
Consult a yoga teacher and healthcare practitioner to discuss what is permissible if you have chronic health problems or use heavy medication. Bandhas or advanced variations are best learned under expert guidance.
What is the purpose of Jalandhara bandha?
Jalandhara bandha compresses the sphincters via muscular contractions to retain and redirect the vital breath (prana). As the exit is blocked by the throat lock, prana is momentarily sealed into (or out of) particular regions. It prevents dissipation and promotes deep penetration of prana into the desired muscles, glands, and tissues, which results in its benefits.
1. Stimulate the endocrine system
Several Hatha Yoga Pradipika commentaries assert that the throat lock improves the functioning of the parathyroid, thyroid, and pituitary glands. The neck compression massages the glands in the front of the throat, and the digestive fire provides warmth and ushers prana into the malnourished nooks and corners of the region.
The lunar plexus is part of the brain that cools the body. Its energy flows downward and is balanced by the heat of the solar plexus. However, a lot of it dissipates wastefully. The throat lock prevents the lunar plexus energy from flowing into the digestive fire (Jatharaagni)," says Yogi Hansraj.
It also momentarily frees the digestive fire from the task of balancing out the cooling energy. This act permits the hot energy to regulate prana to the heart, endocrine glands, and stimulate the upper body organs.
2. Control and direct the flow of prana
The purpose of Jalandhara bandha is to control the flow of prana by sealing the applying seals or locks to crucial openings along the spine. If you look at the human anatomy, the throat is at the tip of the spine. This sphincter is a critical ring of muscles that can be opened or closed. At a pranic level, the Throat Lock stimulates the Ida and Pingala pathways. It urges prana to move into the Sushumna pathway that runs through the spinal cord.
3. Sense withdrawal and relaxation
The Throat Lock creates a contraction in the neck compartment (upper esophageal sphincter) to close the sphincter. In doing so, it influences the parasympathetic nervous system and slows the heart rate. This induces a feeling of introversion (described as withdrawal of the senses). Jalandhara bandha also calms the mind and body, preparing you for deeper states of self-awareness and meditation.
4. Improves breath retention capacity and prevents dizziness
Many students feel a touch of vertigo or dizziness when they start pranayama, especially due to breath retention. Dizziness can occur as a result of pressure on the eardrums. It is caused by air entering the Eustachian tubes during breath retention. Jalandhara bandha prevents this and can be used to increase your breath retention capacity without any risks.
5. Stimulate the vocal cords
The lock alleviates throat problems and improves the functioning of the vocal cords. The breath retention aspect of it also strengthens the lungs. These two aspects make it a beneficial practice for vocalists. At a more subtle level, prana invigorates the throat chakra. The throat chakra is associated with communication and self-expression. Thereby, one may find it easier to express themselves if they regularly practice the Jalandhara bandha.
Jalandhara Bandha Benefits (TL;DR Version)
Stretches the neck and clears the nasal passages
Stimulates the Throat Chakra (Vishuddhi): Better self-expression
Calms the five senses and draws them inward
Improves the capacity for breath retention
Strengthens vocal cords and provides relief from throat ailments
A preparatory practice for meditation that improves concentration
Alleviates the symptoms of throat-related issues
Improves blood flow to the thyroid and parathyroid glands
Prevents dizziness experienced while practicing pranayama
Helps a yogi attain spiritual exultation
7 Tips to practice the Throat Lock for Yoga and Pranayama
1. Understand the theory and technique of Jalandhara bandha from a reliable resource or yoga teacher. It includes understanding the gross and subtle aspects of the practice.
2. Start with Ujjayi breathing (Victorious breath). It is a precursor to Jalandhara bandha and will help you understand throat contraction at a fundamental level.
3. Many students try to lower the chin to the chest and end up straining the neck muscles. Remember – do not lower the chin all the way. Raise the chest to meet the lowered chin.
4. While performing the Throat Lock, take a moment to ensure that your chin, chest, navel, and pelvic floor are in a straight line. If you are performing it correctly, you won't be able to talk.
5. Never hold the pose tightly and clench any muscles. Moreover, do not hold your breath for longer than your natural ability. Forcing your breath to do so is counterproductive; breath retention is a skill that you need to work on gradually.
6. Similarly, elasticity will develop with regular practice. Never stretch a muscle beyond its natural limit. The body and breathing should stay relaxed while performing bandhas.
7. If you are a beginner, start with four counts of retention and add one count per week. Do three rounds of the Jalandhara Bandha and increase by one round every 7 to 10 days.
Jalandhara Mudra in Classical and Modern Yoga-texts
In Light on Pranayama, B. K. S. Iyengar emphasizes that Jalandhara bandha is the first energy or internal lock a yoga student should learn and master. The throat lock, he says, is essential to "distribute energy throughout the body and prevent waste (of prana)."
The throat lock is mentioned in two verses of Gheranda Samhita (Chapter 3, Verse 12 and 13) and Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Chapter 3, Verse 70 and 71). To summarize, the classical texts state that it leads to vitality, longevity, and the status of a Siddha – an accomplished yogi.
Krishnamacharya describes the throat lock as an effective way "to bind the essence of all sensations". It restricts the spreading of sensory inputs to the rest of the body and encourages sense withdrawal. In simple words, it helps you cultivate a one-pointed focus for meditation.
Jalandhara Bandha is also mentioned as a mudra in Shiva Samhita (Chapter 4, Verse 38 to 40) written between 1300 and 1500 CE.
"Having contracted the muscles of the throat press the chin on the breast. This is the Jalandhara-Mudra. Even gods reckon it as inestimable. The fire in the navel (gastric juice) drinks the nectar which exudes out of the thousand-petalled lotus. In order to prevent the nectar from being consumed), a yogi should practice this bandha." - Shiva Samhita
Despite hyperbolic praise of their power and potency in the classical texts, bandhas are glossed over in modern times. We hope this post has addressed your questions and curiosity regarding the Jalandhara bandha.
This post is informed by our personal practice, a close reading of the classical yoga texts, and inputs from long-standing yoga practitioners. As is our tradition, we will sign off with links to resources that may further expand your knowledge of yoga and pranayama.
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