Uddiyana means “to rise up” or “fly.” Uddiyana bandha, also known as the abdominal lock, creates tension in the core, resulting in a natural upward flow of energy that is required to support the abdominal organs and spine.
This is opposite to the Mula Bandha (root) lock which brings the energy down to the base of the spine. Uddiyana Bandha is crucial for yoga inversions such as floating into a handstand, jump backs from crow, etc.
Let me put it out here that practising Uddiyana Bandha is tough. Even after years of yoga practice, I am still working hard on this Bandha in order to help me with inversions and arm balance work
That said, the use of Uddiyana Bandha has resulted in visible stability and strength in my inversion work. So I hope that this post will help aspiring inversion junkies to be able to one day float to handstand with ease.
Bandhas 101 Recap
Previously, we gave an introduction of the three major bandhas and shared more in-depth explanations of Mula Bandha (the root lock) and Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock). The final important lock is the Uddiyana Bandha, the upward abdominal lock. Engaging all three major bandhas results in Maha Bandha, or the supreme lock.
Each bandha provides unique benefits for your practice. However, Uddiyana Bandha is considered a more advanced technique that is often difficult to visualize or done correctly.
When done appropriately, Uddiyana Bandha can be one of the most powerful foundational poses that brings your yoga practice to the next level.
Benefits of Uddiyana Bandha
On a physiological level, Uddiyana Bandha is the active engagement of abdominal muscles. It is engaged at the end of an exhale when abdominal muscles are most engaged. Uddiyana Bandha, therefore, tones and creates space for the abdominal organs as the diaphragm is drawn upwards under the rib cage.
|This toning and lifting of our organs through Uddiyana Bandha enables yogis to fly easily into inversion poses without muscling through the inversion practice and risking injuries
In addition, Uddiyana Bandha is specifically useful for lowering blood sugar levels and relieving constipation while stimulating the intestines. This bandha is also an excellent remedy for dousing irritability and temper.
On an energetic level, Uddiyana Bandha reverses the flow of Apana and enables pranic energy to move upwards. If you also perform Jalandhara Bandha (Throat Lock) concurrently, it allows Prana and Apana to meet at the Solar Plexus, awakening it and improving the function of all organs associated with it.
When to Use Uddiyana Bandha
Depending on the style of yoga, bandha work may or may not be done together with asanas.
In Iyengar Yoga, bandha work is usually done separately from asana, often at the end of an asana session. In Ashtanga Yoga, both Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha are supposed engaged throughout all the postures.
However, in Ashtanga Yoga, Uddiyana Bandha is defined a little differently and is more of a toning of the abs, which are drawn towards the spine but not up and under the rib cage. This enables normal breathing to occur even when the Bandhas are engaged.
In a more modern yoga class, it is not uncommon hear the cue “draw your navel in towards the spine” during many standing poses. This may be considered the adapted version of more traditional bandha work.
Practise the following poses to activate the right muscles before you perform Uddiyana Bandha
- Staff Pose (Dandasana)
- Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
- Hero Pose (Virasana)
- Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
- Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)
- Headstand (Sirsasana)
Uddiyana Bandha Practice Step-by-Step
Uddiyana Bandha is best practised with an empty stomach, preferably first thing in the morning. If you practise Uddiyana Bandha in the evening, ensure that there is a gap of 4-5 hours from your last meal before practising.
Beginners: Standing with Hands on Thighs
For beginners, it is recommended to start practising Uddiyana Bandha in a standing position. You can progress to sitting after practising for a while.
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hips-width. You may wish to stand against a wall if it helps.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and reach your arms upwards.
- Put your hands on your thighs and bend your knees
- As you press your hands on your thighs, curve your back as in cat pose
- Then exhale quickly and completely to stretch your diaphragm to its most expanded position
At the end of your exhale, straighten your arms, suck your belly in and pull it up into your spine. Once you have pulled your belly in as much as possible, start pulling it up into your ribcage
- Do a “mock inhalation” by expanding your rib cage as if you were inhaling, but don’t actually inhale. This action pulls up the abdominal muscles and viscera into the thorax and hollows the belly, slowly lifting the abdominals.
- Hold for as long as you can without breathing further – breath retention.
- When you can hold no further, inhale through your nose as you stand up and extend your arms upwards. Exhale, bring arms back down and your abdominals back to its neutral position.
- As a beginner, it may be difficult to maintain the proper contraction of your abdominal muscles. However, with practice, you can extend your hold for 2 minutes and above.
- Progress your practice by doing Uddiyana Bandha with straight back
Tip: Understand the difference between aggressively sucking in your abdominal muscles VS letting your abdominal wall be pull in by the vacuum in the chest.
Intermediate: Perform Uddiyana Bandha in a Seated Pose
Once you have mastered Uddiyana Bandha while standing, try performing it in a seated meditative position
- Sit in a comfortable meditative position in a cross-legged pose or lotus pose if you prefer.
- Keep your spine straight, while placing the palms on your knees. Your knees should be stretched outwards and firmly touching the floor
- Close your eyes and breathe normally. Feel your body relaxing as you start breathing slower and deeper
- Perform Jalandhara Bandha or the Chin Lock
- Inhale deeply now, raising your chest and holding your breath for 10 seconds.
- Contract your throat muscles, and push your head and neck to your chest. Let your chin touch the chest, ensuring that it rests between the collarbones
- Now perform Uddiyana Bandha by contracting the abdominal muscles and pulling it in and up towards the ribcage.
Feel as if there is a vacuum just behind the breastbone (sternum). This will enable the abdomen to go fully inside and pressing the organs against the spine.
- Hold both locks with the breath for as long as you are comfortable before releasing them and returning to the starting point.
- If you have mastered all three bandhas, you may wish to practise them together to achieve Maha Bandha. First engage Mula Bandha, then Uddiyana Bandha, and finally Jalandhara Bandha.
Practising Uddiyana Bandha early in the morning can be very energizing, helping your abdominal organs warm up for the day ahead. It is also helpful in keeping you calm and centred.
Bandhas practice, when done right, is an amazing way to connect with your mind and body.
If you’ve started practising bandhas work, let me know how it has helped you, whether in your yoga practice or mind-body connection.
This post concludes our mini-bandhas series. Download the PDF guide that covers the introduction to the three major bandhas here.
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The YogaMad is founded by Mila, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.