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uddiyana = upward (cf. ud = “up, upwards”)
bandha = binding, tying a bond, fetter; putting together, uniting, contracting, combining; mundane bondage, attachment to this world (as opposed to emancipation, mukti or moksha).
There are a few important points to remember when beginning the practice of Uddiyana Bandha: perform it only on an empty stomach, and only after an exhalation, never before an inhalation. During the time you hold the bandha, also perform Jalandhara Bandha. Most teachers recommend that you learn this bandha in a standing position, and only move to sitting after you’ve gained some experience. Similarly, wait until you’ve been sitting for a while before using this bandha during pranayama. T.K.V. Desikachar suggests that Uddiyana can also be learned in a supine reclining position (see the Variation section below).
Step by Step
Stand with your feet slightly apart, eyes open. Different teachers have different ideas about the proper way to perform this bandha. Here are four possibilities:
a) Practice with your torso rounded forward, knees bent, hands resting on your knees.
b) Learn the bandha first with your torso rounded forward and then, after getting some experience, practice the bandha standing upright, hands on hips.
c) Practice throughout with your torso upright.
d) Start the practice with your torso rounded forward, perform Uddiyana Bandha, and then stand upright, with your hands on your hips (Iyengar).
Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale quickly and forcibly, also through your nose (or pursed lips). Contract your abdominal muscles fully to push as much air as possible out of your lungs. Then relax your abdominals.
Perform what’s called a “mock inhalation”; that is, expand your rib cage (thorax) as if you were inhaling, but don’t actually inhale. The expansion of the rib cage (without the inhalation) sucks the abdominal muscles and viscera up into the thorax and hollows the belly (some teachers say to actively but slowly lift abdominals, or navel, toward the spine). Because you should always perform Jalandhara Bandha along with Uddiyana Bandha, come into Jalandhara Bandha at this point.
Hold the bandhas for five to 15 seconds. Then slowly release the abdominal grip and inhale normally. Perform three to 10 rounds, depending on your capacity, with one or more normal breaths between each round.
Contraindications and Cautions
- Stomach or intestinal ulcers
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Baddha Konasana
- Supta Virasana
- Viparita Karani
Perform Uddiyana Bandha at the beginning of your asana practice to stimulate the energy resident in the belly.
Instead of simply resting your hands on your knees in the standing position (as described above in Step 1a), firmly press the bases of your palms against the very tops of the thighs (right hand on the right thigh, left hand on the left). This downward pressure on the femur bones will create a slight natural hollowing of your lower belly.
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles and diaphragm
- Massages abdominal viscera, the solar plexus, and the heart and lungs
- Increases gastric fire; improves digestion, assimilation, and elimination; and purifies the digestive tract of toxins
- Stimulates blood circulation in the abdomen and blood flow to the brain
- Stimulates and lifts the energy of the lower belly (apana vayu), to unite it with the energies localized in the navel (samana vayu) and heart (prana vayu)
The hollow belly of Uddiyana Bandha can be approximated in a reclining position. Technically this position is called Tadagi Mudra, the Tank Seal (tadagi = tank), because the hollow belly is reminiscent of a water tank. Lie on your back and stretch your arms overhead, laying the backs of the hands on the floor. Extend through your heels in the opposite direction. The opposing stretch of the arms and legs sucks the belly into the torso, shaping it like a water tank or pool. Don’t, however, hold the breath; breathe normally, allowing the upper belly to expand fully on the inhalation, while keeping the lower belly hollow. Gheranda says that this seal “destroys decay and death.”