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Fly Right

Find strength in your poses by engaging Uddiyana Bandha.

By Hillari Dowdle with asana instruction by Tim Miller

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika calls Uddiyana Bandha"the most excellent," promising that the practitioner can use it to defy old age. Uddiyana means "flying up," and the bandha is so called because its use causes "the great bird Prana to fly up incessantly through sushumna nadi," or spinal column, the Pradipika says. And that is nothing less than the path to enlightenment.

Uddiyana Bandha, a pPranayama exercise generally not used in conjunction with asana, involves drawing the abdominal organs in and up. It can be employed only during kumbhaka, or the retention of the breath after an exhalation.

Ana Forrest, founder of Forrest Yoga Institute in Santa Monica, California, uses it extensively in her own practice and in her teaching. "I teach Uddiyana as part of abdominal education and awakening," she says. "This bandha is about bringing vitality to the core of the body so that you can cut through delusion and find your own truth."

For Forrest, the use of the bandhas is intensely practical; she teaches students to direct energy to places in the body that need healing and often uses it to treat menstrual cramps, back pain, or infertility.

Forrest explains how beginners can do Uddiyana Bandha: Stand with your feet 12 inches apart, knees slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist to brace the hands against the thighs, keeping the elbows straight. Inhale deeply, and then exhale strongly through the mouth. Hold the exhalation, tuck the chin into the notch of the collarbone, and pull the belly back and up. Flare the ribs and lift the chest to help create an internal vacuum that will draw the abdominal organs upward toward the diaphragm. Hold for several counts, then relax your belly and inhale. Repeat at least three times.

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