Uddiyana Bandha or “Stomach Lock”

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Completely exhale – empty your body of air.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. Hold this for about 10 – 15 seconds, whilst keeping the abdomen muscles relaxed.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”

Source: https://www.sonima.com/yoga/uddiyana-bandha/

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.

Nauli Kriya

Kriyas in yoga are cleansing techniques, ranging from the use of Neti pots through the nasal passage to Vasti the cleansing of colon. I was first introduced to Nauli in a detox flow class at my regular yoga studio, and only this particular teacher teaches this in detox classes. When she first demonstrated it, my face scrunched up because it looked so intimidating to have a hollow in your belly, and have it moving from side to side like waves. How is that even humanly possible?
To learn how to perform nauli kriya effectively, one must first be familiar with performing the 3 bandhas (locks) effectively, namely the Jalandhara (chin), Uddiyana (rising up) & Mula (root) Bandha, because in nauli, all 3 bandhas are engaged to their fullest. On top of it, one has to learn how to isolate & move the abdomen from side to side while holding the bandhas in place.
Nauli is great for detox, improving sluggish digestive tract issues, & constipation as it highly stimulates the intestines & keeps the internal system moving. It also helps to clear & awaken the brain, due to the fresh flow of oxygen into the body with each round of complete exhalation, intense engagement of all 3 bandhas & finally the much welcomed inhalation.
I have since been trying to incorporate it into my daily morning routine before the day starts to kickstart the day. Hopefully one day I will be able to practise it fully.
Faith Phang
Weekend YTT (Jan 2016 batch)

Kapalabhati…. A shining forehead!

Kapalabhati is a highly energizing abdominal breathing exercise in which every tissue in the body is stimulated. When practised on a regular basis the face shines with good health and radiance due to the cleansing effect on the entire body. As one of the six kriyas (yogic cleansing practices), kapalabhati  helps rid the body of waste materials allowing successful pranayama practice to follow.
To good to be true?? Let me explain how this practise influences individual body systems, organs and muscles; then the claim will be validated.

  • Respiratory system – Cleanses the nasal passages, bronchial tubes and lungs. How? In exhalation the abdominal muscles contract inward and upward, this action pushes up the diaphragm towards the thorax and the air is expelled out forcefully. With forceful exhalation the entire system is purified from the alveoli all the way through to the nose. Inhalation then comes very naturally, abdominal muscles are relaxed which in turn descends the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles contract. This causes an increase in size in the thoracic cavity, the lungs expand, and the air pressure within decreases (in accordance with Boyle’s law). The air outside the body now has greater pressure then that inside the lungs, external air rushes in to supplement. From this we can see that kapalabhati practice can help strengthen intercostal muscles and  increase both the lungs capacity, and it’s efficiency.  
  • Cardiovascular system –  During Kapalabhati we breathe at a significantly higher rate per minute then usual,
    Oxygenation of the red blood cells

    however the depth of the breath is not altered. This increases the rate of blood circulation within the body, oxygen therefore is taken up by the red blood cells at a faster rate.  From here the blood flows through the aorta towards the tissue and cells of the body. The richness of the blood being delivered is heighten due to the system’s ability to eliminate large quantities of carbon dioxide, allowing greater oxygen uptake to each red blood cell.
  • Nervous system– The sympathetic nervous system is initially stimulated when practicing kapalbhati. The brain receives more oxygen, which brings alertness, creativity, refreshment and a feeling of exhilaration. Waste materials or removed, clearing negative thoughts and unusable information.
  • Digestive system – The vigorous muscular contractions during kapalabhati alternately compress and release the abdomen giving it a thorough massage . Individual organs such as the stomach, liver and pancreas are stimulated. This stimulates the digestive system and increases digestion, absorption, peristaltic movement and defecation. The vigorous use of the abdominal muscles has the added benefit of making them stronger, thus improving posture. The strengthening also makes the muscles less likely to bulge outwards which they tend to do when they lose their vitality.
  • Integumentary system – Oxygen rich blood flows through the body at an increased rate, this means all cells will be positively effected. The skin cells are no exception; the more oxygen received by a skin cell; the more efficient it becomes. Skin develops resilience against dryness, dehydration, and excessive sagging.

Indeed it is ‘too good’, but very true! Practice Kapalabhati each morning, 15 pumps for 3 rounds initially; the proper assimilation and excretion will be established. Let the cleansing begin and enjoy a face that shines with good health and radiance!

Sutra Neti (Nasal Cleansing)

Sutra Neti demonstration by Master Paalu Ramasamy from Tirisula Yoga during a 200 Hr Yoga Teacher Training Course in Singapore. Sutra means thread and Neti means nasal cleansing. Neti is one of the six purification techniques known as Shat Kriya as documented in the literature, Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Neti helps to clean the nasal passage ways, removing excess mucus and stimulate the nerves to make the brain more alert.
Do not practice this on your own without guidance from a Yoga teacher.