Bando Yoga or Burmese Yoga is an ancient yoga system that has existed for many centuries, perhaps over 2,000 years. Bando Yoga is a form of yoga from Myanmar often taught as an adjunct of the martial art of bando. Composed of three major yoga systems, Bando Yoga was greatly influenced by the internal training of Indian martial arts and Indian Kundalini yoga, Tibetan Tantric yoga and Chinese Chi-Gong (from the southwestern region). Today it is practiced by ethnic Burmese in parts of Southeast Asia, India and Bangladesh.
The purpose of Bando Yoga is to maintain health, prevent injury and restore health when injury has occurred. Originally, the term "Bando" [around 500 B.C.] represented physical, emotional and spiritual discipline. In ancient times, improvement of one's health and physical dexterity, management of one's emotional state and development of one's spiritual experiences were all part of Bando training.
Bando Yoga is a Healing System. In the Bando martial arts system the word "healing" has 3 meanings:
- Maintaining one's health is considered healing.
- Preventing from injury and sickness is healing.
- Restoring after sickness and illness is healing.
Maintaining, preventing and restoring one's health are all considered "healing."
Bando Yoga has been called “peasant yoga” since it was often used by peasants/workers to maintain/restore/recover/rehabilitate their health so they could continue working doing their menial work...digging, lifting and pulling heavy loads, cutting trees, moving stones, building structures, etc. for maintaining and restoring health for practical reasons...not for enlightenment as some yoga styles aspire to.
Bando Yoga was also used by monks to maintain and restore health and prevent injury in their daily lives as they trod the jungles and hills of Burma to minister to those in need and to help people survive the daily challenges of their harsh lives.
Warriors used Bando Yoga for similar purposes...to stay healthy to march and survive off the land and to keep the body ready to fight. Warriors used Bando Yoga to prevent injury from training exercises and drills and the long marches that were part of training and part of the battles they fought. Bando Yoga also helped recover from the inevitable strains and minor injuries that were part of being a warrior. And Bando Yoga helped maintain the warrior’s high level of conditioning that was such a vital part of his survival on a battle field.
Bando Yoga today is critical to developing the foundation to be able to move properly and perform the coordinated techniques that are part of bando. Consistent and proper practice of Bando Yoga will develop the ability to move and coordinate movement better as a result of balanced strength, increased stamina and stability, increased suppleness, enhanced speed and heightened senses. Bando Yoga can help the practitioner understand how the human body works, enable efficient, healthy living and help recover from minor aches and pains.
The practice of Bando Yoga is considered to be extremely important in maintaining one's health and physical well being. Thee yoga systems in Bando are:
1. Dhanda Yoga [Staff or a stick is used to stretch, align and adjust the body.]
In ancient Sanskrit, the term “Dhanda” means staff or stick. Dhanda is the yoga symbol for the human spine through which Prana (vital energy or Chi) flows. According to ancient yogic tradition, there are vital energy centers, Chakras, along the spine. Various yogic postures are practiced to allow free flow of energy in the body.
Dhanda Yoga uses a STAFF to assist in performing various asanas (yogic postures). Traditionally the staff was between 3 to 6 feet long. It was made of bamboo, wood, rattan, vine, or root. The staff enhances the alignment and helps maintain a center axis to twist evenly through the spine. This wringing activates all the muscles along the spine including the abdominals which helps squeeze out the stale air and massages the internal organs.
2. Lonji Yoga [9-12 foot long cloth or rope is used to stretch, align and adjust the body.]
Longyi is technically a sheet of cloth worn in Burma, similar to a sarong or lungi.
Lonji Yoga is a yoga system using a long rope to help develop:
- mobility of the core of the body
- flexibility of the limbs
- structural balance
It is variously spelled longyi, longi and lonji. Basic postures consist of :
- 6 standing poses
- 6 sitting poses
- 6 lying poses
Hand and Foot Movement
This practice requires:
- Coiling or wrapping the cloth or rope
- Sliding the cloth or rope
- Pulling the cloth or rope
Injuries and Pain
Many martial arts practitioners suffer from muscle, joint and ligament problems resulting from overuse, misuse or abuse of their bodies from long hours of rigorous training, participating in numerous competitive events and/or from accidents.
Coiling, sliding and pulling the rope during yogic practice stretches, adjusts and aligns the body and limbs and provides structural mobility and flexibility of the core. These movements also stimulate and massage the hands and feet, removing toxins, and facilitate circulation, allowing proper flow of prana [chi, ki, gha] in the body.
3. Letha Yoga [Partner-assisted improvement of circulation, stimulation of joints, structural alignment and adjustment]
Letha Yoga, according to His Holiness Halin Sayadaw and Homalin Sayadaw (the last abbots of the respective monasteries on the border of the northern India and Burmese border) means “partner-assisted yoga” , “yoga for lower caste or outcast people” or “yoga for menial and manual workers.” Developed by the diverse hill tribes and monks living in the high Letha Mountain Range, which lies between northeastern India and northwestern Burma, it descended slowly to be discovered by lower tribes in other areas of Burma. Local monks and village elders passed down the knowledge of the system orally.
Letha Yoga is body manipulation, adjustment and alignment of the joints that is accomplished with the aid of a partner. Each adjustment technique has its origins in the asanas (postures) of Hatha yoga. Letha Yoga stretches large and small muscles, lubricates the joints and increases range of motion, aligns internal organs and removes wastes, provides circulation, and regulates flow of energy with the release of emotional stress.