Uddiyana bandha is one of those yogi super power moves that is visually impressive and surprisingly not that hard to master. Before we take a closer look at the how to, let’s look at the why.
Apart from being impressive to your friends, this bandha also has great physical and energetic benefits. Uddiyana bandha is a hold requiring the retention of breath, so please see the precautions below before attempting this one. If you’re new to bandhas or missed the intro, I’d recommend you start here.
Uddiyana bandha, also sometimes known as the ‘upward abdominal lock’, involves the pulling in and lifting of the abdominal muscles. This causes a concavity in the belly and the navel being drawn back towards the spine. It can sometimes be found placed in between yoga poses in a sequence or it can be a stand-alone practice for cleansing and massaging the abdominal organs.
Accessing The Uddiyana Bandha
Once mastered, uddiyana bandha can be practiced as part of the maha bandha, but to begin with, we will look at the basics of this technique:
Start in a standing position, hands by your sides. With feet shoulder width apart, lean forward and place your palms just above your kneecaps. With head lowered, take a deep breath and exhale deeply so that your lungs empty fully. With your lungs empty, suck your abdomen back towards the spine and then up into the lower part of the rib cage. Refrain from breathing in for a few seconds, release your abdominal hold and then inhale in a controlled manner, without gasping.
When holding the out-breath, don’t strain. Try to allow your body to just rest with empty lungs without creating a tight vacuum. Do not try to tightly hold onto the exhalation as this can greatly increase internal pressure and perhaps cause problems.
It’s Also Good For Your Organs!
Uddiyana means ‘to fly up’ and you can see why when you practice it. You may also feel a rise in energy too. It is possible to practice mūla bandha at the same time as uddiyana bandha and this can greatly stimulate the inner energy in the pelvic and abdominal region.
By pulling in and up on the abdominal muscles you are actively massaging the internal organs and flushing them with fresh, oxygenated blood. Also, by holding this bandha it is said that it stimulates and frees prana trapped in the abdominal cavity and allows it to flow unhindered through the body.
Due to the massaging effect on the organs, this bandha is considered an internal cleanser. The intestines are stimulated, helping to relieve mild constipation and gas or bloating. The internal organs and adrenal glands are filled with fresh oxygenated blood, flushing out toxins and restoring balance. By lifting the diaphragm up, space is created for the internal organs, relieving them momentarily of internal and gravitational pressure which is great for blood circulation.
Starting Slowly: Posterior Tilts
Just as in locating and practicing the mula bandha, it may take a while to find and engage the correct muscle groups when starting your uddiyana practice. Here’s an exercise you can try in order to locate and contract the right muscle. Anyone who’s ever practised pilates may be familiar with this one…
First, lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands either side of your waist, thumbs towards the spine, and become aware of the natural curve that lifts your lower back away from the floor. Now you are aware of that space, rotate your pelvis up so that the lower spine flattens and meets the floor. You will feel your abdominal muscles engage at this point, especially just below the breastbone. Once you have mastered that feeling of engagement, try to perform uddiyana bandha standing up again and see if you can feel for that engagement again.
We’re not looking for a sit-up crunch movement here, just a concavity, or a feeling of concavity in the abdomen. Don’t worry if you’re not seeing a huge, empty bowl of space where your belly used to be, this bandha requires some strength to build before you can fully pull back and up.
Uddiyana Bandha On The Mat
If you’re kinda hoping that practicing uddiyana bandha alone will give you a six-pack and a rock-solid core, then I’m sorry to disappoint you – this bandha won’t do it alone! However, core stability and strength is a major component to this bandha and to your yoga practice generally so why not use core strengthening poses to tune into and flex those abdominal muscles?
Once you’ve mastered the basics, try an uddiyana bandha while seated cross legged or in Cobblers Pose. It feels slightly different to the standing version because your back is upright. Another time to practice your bandha is during a one legged seated forward bend – tuck your chin too when doing this one. Both are an excellent primer for maha bandha.
As with the mūla bandha, yoga is not about creating tension – quite the opposite! This is about gently lifting and pulling in muscles in the abdomen but because they’re usually not used to performing in this way we must allow some time for strength to develop.
A Word Of Caution
Please read these precautions and contraindications before practicing bandhas. Although they are a great tool, they are not appropriate for every practitioner. This does not restrict or limit your practice in any way, as there are many other ways to strengthen and deepen your yoga practice.
Bandhas are not suitable during pregnancy, for those with blood pressure problems, heart conditions, risk of stroke or thrombosis, glaucoma, an internal ulcer or any condition that may be aggravated by breath retention and increased internal pressure. It is always best to seek advice from an experienced yoga teacher and your doctor before embarking on bandha practice if you have any known medical conditions.
Practicing uddiyana bandha will result in a rising of energy, or prana, from the base of the spine to the head. Be sure not to over-do your practice. Build up gently, and be sure to rest in śavāsana to allow your energies to return to normal afterward. This bandha is all about waking up all those dormant muscles in your pelvis and abdomen, so be prepared to see some changes after a while!
If you’re interested in knowing more about the bandhas, keep an eye out for my next article featuring the chin lock: jaladhara bandha! If you’ve been following along, why not let us know how you’re getting on in the comments below!