Got introduced to a fantastic bandha workshop courtesy of Edward Clarke of Tripsichore Yoga.
Edward's take on bandha and lifting into arm balances/inversions/handstands is the opposite to how I've been taught, or possibly just how I'm getting the vinyasa breath count incorrect, I'm not sure. Anyway he lifts on an exhale, rather than an inhale. I haven't had chance to try it out for myself yet due to this weekend's illness, but it seems to make sense. Anyways, I thought I'd share some of his concepts, which are brilliant.
"Jack and Break" - In a squatting (utkatasana) position he "Jacks" up his sitting bones by straightening the legs and directly the "pointy bits" (sitting bones!) back and up. However, "Jacking" on its own can cause a crunching of the lower vertebrae, so the "Break" needs to be applied to counter this. The "Break" is uddiyana bandha (the fold at the hips) directing the energy back, keeping the abdominals long. Uddiyana for Edward appears to extend from the bottom of the rib cage down to the pubis. He literally pushed the top of the pubic bone downwards between his legs towards the "moola region", which is pointing upwards and backwards. Basically, the pubic bone travels towards the coccyx.
Somewhere between the sitting bones is where the moola is situated (the zero point of what is going on in the spine and the extension if energy, I guess the end point is the crown of the head). Edward says that you want to keep a straight line for the energy to travel from the moola region up through the crown of the head and maybe beyond. He says that if you have a kink in the line then the energy will not flow, i.e. if you crunch your lower back by overextending the lumbar region or if you overextend/crunch the neck when looking up. These actions will prevent the upward flying energy.
Whilst doing "Jack and Break" in utkatasana the knees are over the toes, so that weight is evenly distributed across the feet, and not leaning backwards. (He demonstrates in utkatasana because it's an easy pose to go from to get into arm balances.)
"J & B" for forward bends = if you take an uttanasana, you may find that the moola region drops down and uddiyana is squished/contracted and no longer lengthened. You are not going to benefit from this posture apart from a hamstring stretch. Edward takes his torso away from his thighs until he is working into a forward bend (uttanasana) of about 80 degrees (so his chest is almost parallel to the floor). Edward says you are not working the principles of uddiyana and moola, as J & B define them, if uddiyana is not lengthened and extended. (Edward goes on to say that he'll work there until he is 92 when he may feel a lot more stretched! I love this great tip for beginngers to back off the toes in a forward bend!)
"Drag" - Not a form of dressing up, oh no....
"Drag" is what happens to the feet on an exhale and what happens to the hands on an inhale. Take a forward bend, hands placed on the floor. You do "Jack and Break"and whilst exhaling your feet want to drag backwards behind you with the force of the exhale. On an inhale your shoulder blades press down the back bringing the arms back with them. This movement of the shoulder blades can either pull the torso forward or drag the hands back, depending on how much pressure is in the hands. For a handstand you want to inhale drawing the shoulder blades down tieback and the torso forward and exhale dragging the feet back to draw them off the floor.
"Scissoring and Splitzing" - this is how Edward describes the legs actions in postures such as revolved triangle and padmottanasana. Inhaling the legs have a tendency to move apart from each other and on the exhale you try and draw them together towards each other and the midline of the body. I guess this is a bit like the spiral dynamics theory I was taught a while ago, which helped in these postures to "square" the hips.
"Pubic bone to Coccyx" - Edward talks about this starting in a high arch on an inhale. On an exhale pulling the pubic bone to coccyx, resulting in a lengthening of the lower part of uddiyana. It should not be confused with overarching the back. Both pubic bone and coccyx are stretching down between the thighs (something you can only talk about in a yoga video ;) The lower back stays long and the uddiyana stays long.
"Piking" (up into scorpian/headstand/handstand etc) - usually happens on an exhale, a back bend and a forward bend happen at once. Keeping "Jack and Break" on to resists the temptation to sink into the lower back
Two common mistakes about uddiyana - 1st: pulling the navel back towards the spine; no you want it to pull it back and up, you will crunch the back and stick the ribcage and bottom out.
Jalandhara: Edward says that dropping the chin to the chest to lengthen the uddiyana not advocated and dropping the head back so the face is looking upwards is also not advocated. Edward advocates keeping the head on line with the spine. Do not shunt the head back so that it gives you a double chin but just so that the back of the neck is long and in line with the rest of the spine. You are essentially still gazing forward.
I love all this stuff and cannot wait until I'm better to have a go with it all in my practice :) (Exciting!!)