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relax into Uddiyana Bandha..

December 2, 2013

Uddiyana Bandha – the abdominal lift

Samantha Gallo, Yoga Instructor

Using our abdominals isn’t limited to building muscle, or getting a six pack. It includes learning how to relax them. To me, strength means finding intelligent ways to use our muscles at each end of the spectrum. That’s why I often teach and emphasize the importance of Uddiyana Bandha practice in class. Not only do your abdominals move in new ways, but the neighbouring diaphragm is stretched and lengthened, to heighten our capacity to breathe. This practice commonly causes anxiety as well as confusion and it’s hard to address all issues in every 60 minute yoga class. Thus, following are tips on how to practice and common problems with this abdominopelvic exercise.

(following excerpt from Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by Coulter)

 Once you have become proficient in Mula bandha (seal of the perineum), you are ready to learn the second great lock in hatha yoga: Uddiyana bandha. To do it, you must exhale all your breath out, and create a vacuum in your chest that sucks your diaphragm and abdominal organs to a higher than usual position in the torso. This can happen only if the body is sealed above and below – above at the glottis (Jalandhara bandha) and below at the perineum (Mula bandha).

 Where does the vacuum come from? In Uddiyana bandha we are trying to inhale without inhaling, and this makes the thoracic cage larger, expanding it from side to side and from front to back. And since no air is allowed in, the air pressure inside the chest has to decrease, which in turn creates enough of a vacuum to pull the diaphragm up in proportion to the expansion of the rib cage.

 Uddiyana bandha is the only practice that frankly stretches the respiratory diaphragm. Uddiyana goes beyond other complete exhalation practices because the vacuum of the chest that is superimposed on full exhalation pulls the diaphragm to an incredibly high position. We can surmise that regular practice of Uddiyana bandha will stretch, and in time lengthen the diaphragm’s muscle and connective tissue fibers. You will be able to exhale more completely as you gradually lengthen the muscle fibers, and you will be able to breathe more comfortably and efficiently as you increase the diaphragm’s mobility.

Problems:

–       You may not be exhaling enough at the start. The less you exhale, the less convincing will be the lift.  You have to exhale the entire expiratory reserve volume.

–       You may be letting in a little air on your mock inhalation. You have to try to inhale without doing so. That is the whole point of locking the airway at the glottis (Jalandhara)

–       You are not relaxing the abdomen during the mock inhalation. You must learn to distinguish between pressing in with abdominal muscles, which we want only for the preliminary exhalation, and allowing the abdominal wall to be pulled in passively by the vacuum in the chest.  Many students hold their abdominal muscles rigidly or even try to keep pushing in with them during the lifting phase of the practice, and this prevents the abdominal organs and abdominal wall from being sucked in and up. It is also common for students to relax their abdominal muscles momentarily but then get mixed up and try to assist the inward movement with an active contraction. It won’t work. You have to keep them relaxed to do this exercise.

The energetic benefits of this practice:

 UddiyanaBandhaUddiyana bandha changes the course of the downward moving apana vayu and unites it with prana vayu and samana vayu in the navel centre. When the two opposite energies of apana and prana meet in the navel region, there is an explosion of potential force which travels upward through sushumna nadi. Powered by udana vayu, it is taken up to the higher centres. Of course, this is a major event in the course of one’s sadhana and it does not take place with one or two rounds of practice. It requires patient and ardent performance in combination with other techniques.

(Hatha Yoga Pradipika)

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