In yoga, the bandhas are body locks. Essentially, they are areas of the body that are isolated in some way to unlock benefits. There are three main bandhas: Jalandhara Bandha – the constriction of the throat, Mula Bandha – the contractions of the pelvic floor, and Uddiyana Bandha – the compression of the stomach. Each of these body locks involves targeted use of the breath to reap the unique benefits. In this article, we’re going to focus on Uddiyana Bandha. Many yogis believe this bandha is the most difficult to utilise; however, it can be the most powerful when used correctly. If you’re interested in learning more about Uddiyana Bandha, put on your yoga pants and keep reading.
Uddiyana Bandha is the body lock that compresses the stomach. The lock involves the contractions of the abdomen up and into the rib cage, so it’s important to practice on an empty stomach. If you practice Uddiyana Bandha after a meal, it’s likely to result in stomach cramps and/or nausea. For best results, practice the bandha first thing in the morning.
Providing that you practice on an empty stomach, the bandha encourages better circulation through the digestive system and more efficient fluid exchange between the organs and surrounding tissues. As well as benefiting the digestive system, Uddiyana Bandha can have an energising and refreshing effect on the body. Some people compare it to a reset button for your digestion and breathing.
Like all of the bandhas, Uddiyana Bandha boasts some great benefits. Practising the lock first thing in the morning will prepare the digestive system for food and invigorate your entire body. It can also encourage deeper breathing throughout the day, keeping you relaxed, centred, and focussed.
Another great thing about bandhas is they help you to interact with your body in a mindful way. As they’re tricky to achieve, they require full concentration. Turning your focus inward, Uddiyana Bandha helps you connect with how your insides feel. Practising for just a few minutes each morning will help to connect your body and mind and keep your stomach happy all day long.
To practice Uddiyana Bandha, begin standing with your knees slightly bent with your hands on your thighs. This position develops a forward and downwards movement of the digestive organs, which you will then counteract with an abdominal lift. While this can be practised in any upright position, this bold stance will help you to detect and correct mistakes more easily.
From your starting position, exhale fully. Notice how your chest and abdomen press in as you do this. If you’re struggling, imagine you’re blowing up a balloon as much as possible with a single breath. Next, do a false inhalation using your chest and relax your abdomen. Hold this position while restraining air from entering the lungs. If you’re unsure how to do a false inhalation, go to inhale without taking any air in. If needed, you can block our nose and mouth with your hands. Although no air is entering the lungs, you should feel the chest lift.
Holding your breath, continue your false inhale while keeping your stomach relaxed. As you do so, your upper abdomen should form a deep concavity that extends up under your ribs. You are now practising Uddiyana Bandha.
To come out of Uddiyana Bandha, relax your false inhalation, letting your chest and digestive organs drop and your abdomen release forward. Pull your chest and abdomen slightly in to equalise the air pressure on the inside and outside of the body. When you’re ready, gently inhale without gasping for air.
After practising the bandha several times in this position, try practising standing against a wall with your hands on your hips. As practising with a straight back requires more concentration, the benefits can be even better. If you really want to challenge yourself, practice Uddiyana Bandha in a seated position.
As mentioned previously, the best time to practice is first thing in the morning. For best results, practice with an empty stomach and empty bowels. Though Uddiyana Bandha is beneficial for most, there are a few contraindications including hiatal hernia, high blood pressure, ulcers, menstruation, and pregnancy. If you’re experiencing any of these, refrain from using Uddiyana Bandha for the time being.
When you first practice Uddiyana Bandha, it’s not uncommon to struggle. Thankfully, there are things that can make the lock easier. If you hold your breath at your glottis as you exhale, it will be easier to drop your chin toward your chest or into the concavity above the sternum.
If you want to take things further, Mula Bandha goes well with this practice. Known as the root lock, Mula Bandha requires you to tighten the muscles at the base of your body, almost like you’re restraining a bowel movement. While Mula Bandha has some great benefits, don’t add it to your practice until Uddiyana Bandha comes easily. If you’re struggling to relax your abdomen and let it be pulled in and up, trying to do Mula simultaneously will only create confusion.
If you’re having trouble with Uddiyana Bandha, you may be doing something wrong. One of the most common mistakes is not exhaling enough at the start. The less you exhale, the less prominent the lift will be. Another common mistake is letting air in on the false inhalation. Annoyingly, you have to inhale without taking any air in at all. The whole point of the bandha is to lock your airway at the glottis, so if you’re not doing this the bandha won’t be effective. If you’re struggling, try holding your nose and mouth at the end of the exhalation. The final mistake you may be making is not relaxing your abdomen during the false inhalation. Interestingly, this is the most common fault. If you keep your abdominal muscles tight, your organs and abdominal wall cannot be sucked in and up.
When practised correctly, Uddiyana Bandha boasts some great benefits including improved digestion and an invigorated mind. For best results, practice first thing in the morning with an empty stomach and bowels. If you’re struggling to focus, try wearing a piece of yoga jewellery to calm the mind.