Bandhas and Garlic

January has so far been a busy month, but a really good one. I didn’t make resolutions so much as having high hopes for change this year, change in myself and my habits, and so far none of that has happened! Typical! But aside from my usual bad habits, I’ve not been cooking so much this month, which is unusual for me, and I think stems from being out the house more and being more sociable (probably not a bad thing). It’s made me reluctant to blog though because I’m not coming up with new recipes to share, and even night before last I made this beautiful, colourful roasted Romanesco cauliflower with turmeric and cayenne and umeboshi… it was really tasty too, and the first comment I got was, “same as usual, yeah?”. So, apparently I’ve become predictable. I will start experimenting and creating again, watch this space…

Meanwhile, let’s talk about garlic. Garlic is a powerful vegetable. Not only does it taste great and make everything else taste great, it boosts your immune system and is anti-viral which helps prevent you getting sick, and it will help you recover from any viral illness quicker too. This is particularly important just now because the cold and flu is flying around everywhere, but I’ve been taking a garlic supplement on top of cooking with a ton of it and so far (touch wood) I’ve not caught anything! There are a great many claims made as well about its effects on cardiovascular function, blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease, but I wouldn’t like to perpetuate any false information and I’m not sure enough to comment on that. What I do know is that garlic is so so good for you, and you should eat more.. lots more… as much as possible. Especially when you’re unwell, or the people around you are.garlic-drawing

If you’re worried about your breath there are a few options… chew parsley and that will refresh your breath. Drink milk (plant, obvs) to take the smell away, mushrooms might help and if in doubt… make sure everyone else smells garlicky too! People love being cooked for, and all that garlic will do your friends just as much good as it does you. My mother said to me when I was younger, “Always cook for your man, so that you know he’s had as much garlic as you.” Take from that what you will.

This week in yoga we were rocking Garudasana (Eagle Pose) as well as the usual forward folds, twists and some core work – high plank, low plank, Ardha Pincha Mayurasana (Dolphin Pose), Navasana (Boat Pose), all the favourites ;). But I want to focus today on Bandhas, because they are so so important and so often neglected!

A bandha is a lock we put on the body, and the two we’re concerned with just now are Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Now, not just fun to say, these are vital for an effective and safe practice, and I bet even if you’ve never head  the term you have used these in your practice.

Mula bandha is quite simply engaging and lifting the perineum. If you haven’t the faintest idea what that is, it’s the muscle in the space between your junk or vajayjay and your anus. Engaging your perineum gets easier with practise, you’ll be happy to hear, but it’s similar to doing a pelvic floor contraction or “kegel”. Ladies, just imagine you’re smuggling something downstairs and you feel like it might fall out… hold it in. Gents, practise, sorry – you don’t get a special trick to it. Tucking your tail bone under will facilitate engaging mula bandha.

Uddiyana bandha is engaging the core and lifting the abdomen. Draw your belly button in towards your spine, lift the chest and hold this in. Make sure you don’t lift your shoulders away up to your ears, relax them, slide your shoulder blades down your back. Engaging both these bandhas will help with your core work, stability and balance, and can be engaged in virtually any pose. Jumping in sun sals will be much easier, and arm balances more available. Bandhas really are so helpful, so please, next time you’re practising, try to be mindful of them and incorporate them into your practice however you can.

Other bandhas you might have heard of – Jalandhara Bandha; drawing the chin in towards the chest to constrict the throat, as in shoulder stand. Maha Bandha; all 3 of the previously mentioned bandhas engaged at once.

Hope you’re all having a fab year so far, it’s only going to get better from here, I can feel it!

Namaste,

Nicky 🙂 x

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