The Sanskrit word granthi means “knot” or “doubt” and also means “an especially difficult knot to untie.” People in India wearing a sari or dhoti cloth will form a small pouch to hold money, and close it by knotting the fabric – this tightly knotted purse is called a granthi. Granthi in spiritual practice are psychological or psychic barriers to total freedom. Granthi prevent prana from moving freely up sushumna nadi. Granthi bind the soul; they lock us to our misperception of reality (avidya) and self (asmita). They hold us to our preferences (raga and dvesha) and root us in fear of death (abhinivesha). Knowledge (jnana) is a key component to transcend fear, and together with action (karma) they give wings to our spiritual desires – the rise of Kundalini.
The hathayoga methods for untying these knots are the bandhas, or energy locks. By focusing the pranas in Sushumna Nadi the bandhas increase the potency of the rising Kundalini allowing us to transcend normal restrictions of thinking and acting.
Brahma Granthi is located at the base of the spine between Muladhara Chakra and Svadhisthana Chakra where primitive brain functioning like the “fight or flight reflexes” guarantee survival. Fear of death, anxiety about food, shelter or clothing, or general lack of grounding, all manifest as Brahma Granthi. When you experience fear in an asana like handstand or split, and the fear itself prevents success, this is Brahma Granthi. Lack of spare time can be part of this knot. When your bills and rent payment keep you at work and away from yoga, that is Brahma Granthi.
Mula (Root) Bandha is the first consolidation of Prana and Apana, piercing Brahma Granthi. Vitality, thought, breath, and speech are joined in pursuit of truth. This root lock can be applied all the time transforming every thing we do into a holy act.
Vishnu Granthi knots energy between Manipura Chakra and Anahata Chakra. This Granthi is a knot of individual ego and power. Our clinging to ego, self-cherishing and the quest for personal power can slow spiritual success. Fear of being ignored or of loosing prestige may plague our spiritual growth. This is a knot of power and manipulation, but it is also the knot of accumulation. Accumulation of power, possessions, and fame, all tie us to this level of consciousness. In order to transcend this level of consciousness we must “give up the love of power, for the power of love!” The degree of vulnerability that we show in life – the ability to put our façade aside and challenge our own status quo, unties Vishnu Granthi.
Uddiyana (Flying up) Bandha is the second consolidation of Prana, Apana, and Samana vayus.
Applied together with Mula Bandha, this lock pierces Vishnu Granthi. The individual is able to transcend individuality. The whole abdomen is drawn in and up – symbolizing the renunciation of accumulation and concentration of energy upward toward Anahata Chakra.
Rudra granthi is knotted between the Anahata and Ajña chakras. The attractiveness of heart centered action and the experience of serving others can distract the yogi who desires to “Be Love” – not just experience it. Serving others is a completely satisfactory way to spend your life, but this service could become your cross to bear, where you hold resentment against others, and view them as lesser beings. We must strive to transcend otherness and experience the “oneness of being” in the highest levels of consciousness, and then complete the circle by bringing that consciousness into our compassionate actions. When we are free from the illusion of otherness our actions emerge spontaneously from Love. Jalandhara Bandha enables this leap of consciousness.
The consummate consolidation of prana is Jalandhara Bandha (Cloud Catching Lock or Net Lock – for the network of nadis in the neck) when Prana, Apana, Samana and Udana vayu in Sushumna Nadi loosen Rudra Granthi, and the veil of separation is lifted.