In my last post I gave a brief overview of the root lock. This time we move up the chakra line for Uddiyana Bandha (UB). Uddiyana means to “fly up.” Uddiyana Bandha involves the entire abdomen from the top of the pubic bone to the solar plexus at the base of the sternum or breast bone. This is the territory of the second and third chakras. The effects of UB permeate all the abdominal organs and reach up into the heart, throat and head. It is a very powerful technique and must be accorded great respect. The basic technique is quite simple. One may either stand or sit to practice UB. Either way is effective. Let’s take standing first. Stand with hands above the knees leaning forward. Take some gentle, full, three part breaths and then exhale completely using your abdominal muscles and diaphragm to empty the lungs. Brace your hands above your knees for leverage. Hold the breath out. Pull the abdomen back and up as if you were drawing your navel toward your spine. The abdomen will have a deep concave shape. If you have a bit of belly fat you may not get the dramatic concave look, but you are still receiving the internal benefits. (Children often play with UB quite instinctively as they explore their bodies.) Hold the bandha as long as it is comfortable. Release and inhale slowly. This may leave you a bit short of breath for a few seconds but it’s nothing to worry about.
As you can feel this is a powerful contraction that provides a deep stretch and massage for the internal organs. As with root lock UB pulls the affected musculature up and down simultaneously. This internal massage increases circulation, cleanses and tones. UB has a strong, direct effect on the intestines and encourages efficient digestion. It is also my firm personal belief that UB also helps prevent disease for the reasons I’ve listed above. Disease begins and takes hold in a stagnant atmosphere where circulation, and thus oxygenation are limited.
As your UB practice develops you will learn to pull and release the abdominal action several times without inhaling. This should be done slowly and gently. I practice three rounds of 15-20 abdominal pulls. Beginners may only manage just a few abdominal pulls per exhaled breath at the start. Be patient and build your capacity gradually. Because of UB’s potency I emphasize slow, deliberate action. A fast pumping can cause pranic derangement that could lead to injury or imbalance, so take care.
In addition to the physical benefits of cleansing, massage, and healing, UB also has strong psychological effects. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “guts” or “intestinal fortitude” that indicate courage, bravery or total commitment. These common sayings show what people have long understood: that the second and third chakra sites govern attributes like resolution and determination. Consistent practice of UB helps clear away obstacles to making the commitments important to flourishing to our full potential. As we include UB into our Hatha Yoga practice we willfully engage the visceral, instinctive human motivation for action at the deepest, cellular gut level. We become the gutsy, fearless beings we’ve always hoped we could be.
Although I learned this technique from the Sivananda Yoga Companion book, I advise the supervision of a teacher well-versed in the bandhas to learn UB. Practice mindfully.
As with root lock, if you have any active disease conditions of the abdomen, high blood pressure or hernia do not practice UB until these conditions are resolved. If you have any doubts about the suitability of this technique for yourself consult your doctor.
Generally, UB can be practiced to great effect by most relatively healthy people.
Next time we will consider Jalandhara Bandha or the throat lock.