The “Great Lock” or the Maha Bandha is the practice of engaging the Mula Bandha, Uddyana Bandha, and the Jalandhara Bandha. The Maha Bandha makes me think of the scene in Ghostbuster (1984) with Sigourney Weaver (who plays Dana) and Bill Murray when she is inhabited by Zuul “The Gate Keeper.” I often attempt to create a connection between something we know and yoga philosophy, so that it’s easier to absorb. But fear not mastering the “Great Lock” will not open another dimension, it will just bring new awareness.
Why practice Maha Bandha? It gives a sense of peace and clarity creating a clear path for meditation. It is also said to stimulate the pineal gland which secretes melatonin and helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s circadian rhythm (sleep cycle). This may be the reason why deep meditation can feel as beneficial as a good nights sleep. It is also said to activate the Muladhara Chakra, Manipura Chakra and Visshudha Chakra.
So how do you practice it? Sit in an easy seat. Place your palms on your knees and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and press your palms into your knees, then exhale fully. Simultaneously engage the Jalandhara Bandha, taking the ears forward and the chin down, then the Uddiyana Bandha draw the belly button in and up, then the Mula Bandha gently lift the pelvic floor. Hold the breath (don’t take any air in). Holding the breath at the end of an exhale is called Bahir Kumbhaka. Attempt to hold it for a count of 2. Play with holding it for longer. At first, it’s hard to hold the space between breaths, but with time it’s doable. You can rotate your consciousness between the three locks to increase awareness. To release inhale fully into the belly, the lungs and chest in that order.
I find that the above engagement tends to be too difficult for beginners. If you are pregnant or have heart issues, it’s not recommended for you to practice the Maha Bandha. So, how can you access it if you are total noob? Lay on your back, walk your feet in toward your bum, arms parallel to your torso. Inhale up into bridge (meaning lift your pelvis). Then exhale completely drawing the belly button in and up and lifting the pelvic floor. Then while holding the breath slowly come down onto your back. Attempt to hold it for a count of two. Did you feel the three locks engage? Awesome! I knew you would this is the most accessible way to feel it. Now attempt to hold it longer.
When you begin this practice, you will find it uncomfortable to retain the emptiness on the exhale. Because the inhale is automatic and it takes conscious work to hold it. After a while when you will be able to retain the breath for a longer duration once the lock is released, you will feel calm and peaceful.