Uddiyana Bandha or "Stomach Lock"
So we assembled, definitely in need of coffee and feeling rather thirsty. We were going to learn to perform uddiyana bandha, also known as the “abdominal lock”. It’s best done on an empty stomach, preferably first thing in the morning (but after you’ve gone to the bathroom!!). So, here are some things I learnt about it, after our morning practice.
The word bandha literally means “to bind” and it seals, constricts or isolates a particular segment of the body. Engaging or using bandha gives important support to the body and organs in the abdomen, pelvis and spine.
“Uddiyana” pretty much means “flying up” and when practised, the abdominal wall is firmed and lifted, through the creation of a vacuum in the chest. Apart from being a form of breath retention, the Uddiyana Bandha is also a form of kriya which can help to strengthen the visceral organs and stretch the diaphragm. Nauli Kriya, which is an advanced variation of Uddiyana Bandha, massages the abdominal region through some eye-popping, circular massaging of the abdominal muscles. It’s important to note because of the pressure placed on the abdominal and pelvic muscles, persons with the following should not perform Uddiyana Bandha or its variations: stomach ulcers or ulcers. Pregnant women or those on their moon cycle also are included.
We were also shown a video (which frankly made my eyeballs pop) and I found another video from Yoga International in which the practitioner demonstrates these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGS2kKO6uns
But anyway! Here are some steps (but not perfectly) to perform the Uddiyana Bandha:
- Stand with your feet about hip width apart, legs slightly bent, with your hands on your thighs. While the Uddiyana Bandha can be performed upright or in the Padangusthasana position (with index and middle finger grabbing the big toe), this position can help the practitioner identify mistakes and correct the technique.
- Completely exhale – empty your body of air.
- Do a “fake” inhalation through locking the glottis: the opening between the vocal folds in the larynx. It’s a kind of valve between the lungs and the mouth.
- Draw the abdominal wall in and up as if you would try to make your waist smaller. Expand the rib cage. Your upper abdomen will form a deep concavity that extends up underneath your rib cage.
- Hold this for about 10 – 15 seconds, whilst keeping the abdomen muscles relaxed.
- To “unlock”, relax your mock inhalation, letting your chest and abdominal organs drop. Release the abdomen forward and inhale gently. Allow the air pressure to equalize.
- Repeat 3-4 times.
I also read:
“…Uddiyana Bandha fans the agni, or element of fire that is most highly concentrated at the navel. Strengthening this fire aids in purifying the body’s subtle channels, or nadis. This purification process is intensified if uddiyana bandha is practiced during a bahir/bahya kumbhaka, or external breath retention. This is sometimes called uddiyana kriya.”
Fascinating! In all honesty the Uddiyana Bandha reminded me a of a game we used to play when we were children – but now it has much more dimension!
But first, breakfast.