Uddiyana-Bandha (Eugenia demonstrates the goal, left) is included in Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is considered the most important Yoga bandha to practice. Uddiyana in Sanskrit = upward flight or climb. Bandha = locking or blocking. Yogis used these two words because by its practice the Prana (= life force) flies into the susumna. (There is much more about susumna in the Chakra series. The link is also on every page of this site in the navigation menu, above left.) Nauli is just the opposite of Uddiyana-Bandha. Freely translated = to bring into motion, unblock. Here it means an inner massage of organs. Uddiyana-Bandha is the first step to gain control over the solar plexus and the stomach muscles. It goes together with Nauli-Kriya, which is the continuation, the final goal. Part 2 of this series gives you detailed instructions to achieve the goal. You need to learn this Bandha first to receive the full benefits of Nauli. You will use many of the same steps in both exercises.
How to Begin - Preliminary Moves
As taught to me by my teacher, Eugenia Basilewsky
- First you need to find the muscles you are going to use to do this incredibly invigorating and healing Bandha.
- Place your hands on your abdomen and your middle fingers navel-height and tense your stomach muscles. By doing this, you will be able to feel the band of muscles that reach all the way up to the ribs and also down to the lower abdominal (rectus) muscles. These are the muscles that you will learn to control.
- When you practice Nauli (detailed instructions included in Part 2 of this series)—after you have learned this Bandha—you will isolate these same muscles and roll them to get the inner massage that is so healing. (Note: Fat melts away like butter if you do this several times a day, but it has to be on an empty stomach - 3 hours after a meal.)
In the image (left), it is easier to see just how far the abdomen has managed to disappear! You can also see the ribcage clearly. The portions above and below the navel should be drawn backwards towards the spine. Get the feeling that you are pulling your navel into the small of your back. “By practicing Uddiyana-Bandha, a spontaneous liberation is experienced and it becomes a natural movement.” —Gheranda Samhita 3:11. Another classic Yoga book. One of the best sites I found on this is Gheranda Samhita. Unfortunately, they don't allow you to print it, but you can save it and read it (PDF file). It is also sold online, inexpensively. The similarities of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika with Gheranda Samhita are almost like reading the same book, the wording is so similar for the various methods. If you can also tense the muscles of your anus, the flow of the air can be directed through the hollow bone of your spinal column down to your perineum (that soft, small spot between your anus and genitals). This is a very powerful movement of energy.
How to Begin
- First learn the diaphragm and ribcage breath techniques as provided in the Breath series. These are two stages of the Complete Yoga Breath. There are links to these specific pages, but it would be a wise idea to learn all the stages if you plan to do the postures on this site.
- When you begin to practice breathing with the diaphragm and ribcage, sit with your legs crossed (or if you already know how, in the lotus posture <<only for the advanced) and do the breath techniques about 10 times before you begin this Bandha.
- Once you have learned how to breathe properly, continue with this second step.
- Stand with your legs apart (as shown in the image by Eugenia, left). Take a deep breath with the feeling that you are collecting all the energy in your stomach (notice how Eugenia's abdomen expands when she inhales) and then as you bend forward, open your lips slightly and say sh! (as if you are trying to hush someone in a movie theater or in a library), and exhale with great power. Imagine that you are taking every bit of air and exhaling it out of your body. If you think there is any air left, blow it out completely with your lips in a whistling position.
- Inhale deeply again through your nose, relaxed. Lift yourself up again with your arms in the position shown above (fists, arms stretched). Exhale through your nose. Repeat this 3-4 times.
- The third step is in the same standing position as above. Inhale with the feeling that you are filling your entire body with powerful energy. Make a fist with your hands, and then hold your breath as you press your diaphragm up and down several times. Note: To help the diaphragm move down, it helps to use your fists and press them down around your body. Get the feeling that you are loosening the area around your navel as you press something down around you with your fists - as if you have something heavy to push down. Try to prevent your shoulders from moving up. The impulse should be that you are pointing all the energy down. The minute you feel it is necessary to exhale (and this should be without straining), do it powerfully again as you bend forward as you did in Step 2, through your mouth. Repeat this exercise 3-4 times.
- The sh! sound makes it easier to control the exhalation until all the air is out of your abdomen. By this time you have exhaled completely, you will pull your stomach in as described above.
- Relax between these exercises. Stand with your legs apart and your back straight. Let your head hang down while you concentrate on your solar plexus and practice abdominal breathing. (Abdominal breathing is also in the Breath series with details.) Breathe long exhalations and short inhalations.
- Once you have practiced these steps, you are ready to actually perform Uddiyana-Bandha, as Eugenia shows (the goal) at the top of this page. It is very important to prepare your body for that posture to achieve the results that you desire and to gain the benefits from this powerful exercise with the stomach muscles and all the inner organs.
- Stand with your legs apart. Lean your body forward slightly, and place your hands on your knees (slightly bent). (You can also place your hands on your thighs or groin). Look at the images (above) again, from both angles, front and side.
- Even if you are leaning forward, your back is held straight. In fact, in the beginning, even go so far as to make your lower back swayback (so that it is going in where the small of your back is). Be careful to not roll forward with your spine so it is rounded.
- Keep your head straight, not hanging forward or leaning back. Breathe normally while you you practice this positioning with your body. A mirror can be very helpful to get this right.
- Once you have the position right, inhale and then exhale through your mouth and bend your body forward and down. Without inhaling, place the palms of your hands on your knees (which are slightly bent) or on your thighs (if that is easier). Lift your back up a bit without inhaling yet.
- Get the feeling you are sucking your abdomen into your spine and up under your ribcage, and then lift your diaphragm. Hold your breath as long as it's comfortable, but never force it. The minute the impulse to breathe arrives, relax your abdomen first (this is important so that you are not inhaling while your abdomen is pulled in and tense), then relax your diaphragm. Once you have relaxed these, you can bring your back up straight and slowly inhale and exhale through your nose. In other words, you should inhale after you have let go of the position and relaxed.
- Let your head sink down, but keep your back straight. Concentrate on your solar plexus again. Get the feeling that you are inhaling through your navel and practice breathing with your diaphragm. Inhalations longer than exhalations.
- Concentrate on the thought that your self-control increases constantly as you relax. Repeat this 3-5 times, preferably in the morning on an empty stomach. This can be done sitting, standing, or lying down. When you are lying down, place the palms of your hands on the very top of your things (front). This will stretch your elbows. When you exhale, try to not lift your upper body off the bed. Imagine you are bringing your navel into the floor under the small of your back. Keep your feet together. You'll get it right after practicing it a few times. Do it however it feels easiest for you, as long as you don't lift your head and upper body off the floor.
Instructions for Final Goal: Uddiyana-bandha
BenefitsAll of the organs in the body are worked on with this exercise. Even the heart and the lungs are lifted a bit. This is about the best way you could ever find to massage your inner organs. Digestion is improved, constipation eliminated, liver strengthened. Caution: If you have a heart problem of any kind, this exercise must be done with caution. In fact, it is a good idea to ask your health care practitioner before doing this. It is also extremely important that each time you hold your breath or wait to inhale, it should feel good, not stressful and tense. Tension with this exercise could be hard on the heart and the lungs. There are more advanced ways to do this exercise, but I leave that to Yoga teachers to guide you. At the end of Kumbhaka, and at the beginning of Rechaka, Uddiyana-Bandhas should not be performed. (Read about these in the Pranayama pages of the Patanjali series.