Uddiyana bandha. You hear about it. Your teacher encourages you to use it in your yoga practice. You THINK you know what the heck she’s talking about, but you’re not exactly sure that you’ve got it or are doing it right.
Why should you use uddiyana bandha anyway?
You might not be practicing Ashtanga and that’s really the only yoga practice you need those bandhas in, right?
Well, no, not so. Bandhas are useful in any style of yoga because under the physical layer is the energizing effect the bandhas have on our practice, whether it be a vigorous style or a more relaxing form of yoga.
And who doesn’t want a bit more energy?
The bandhas are also useful in meditation and pranayama practices.
Whether you know it or not you may be using them already. If you’ve been practicing yoga long enough to feeling strong in your balancing and standing poses and lighter in your sun salutations, then you’re feeling the effects of the two lower bandhas—mula bandha and uddiyana bandha.
By becoming more aware of the physical aspect of the bandhas, you’ll be able to active that stability, strength and lightness in your yoga practice. And as they become more a part of your practice you will start to feel the energetic effects the bandhas stimulate.
So let’s look a little closer at three of the benefits of using the bandhas…
If you’ve ever felt tippy in trikonasana or natarajasana (dancer), or another standing or balance pose, and have then found a stable position where you feel like you could stay in the pose indefinitely (almost), you’ve probably accessed your root lock, mula bandha, without even knowing it.
Have you ever been in a strong standing pose like parshvakonasana or virabhadrasana and felt like you had the strength of 10 yogis? Betcha’ mula and uddiyana bandhas had kicked in to help you out.
How about a feeling of floating through a surya namaskar or feeling light when transitioning between standing poses. Maybe you’ve come into a balance pose and almost felt like a helium balloon was lifting you up. Bandhas, baby!
Let’s try it in utkata konasana
A great pose to play with mula and uddiyana bandha (or one of these at a time) is goddess pose (utkata konasana).
Come into this asana and plan to stay for at least eight or 10 breaths. This will give you enough time to try out the following experiment:
1. First, bring your focus to the big muscles of the legs and hips, the quads and glutes.
Notice the work going on in these muscles. At the same time use a belly breath, so your core is not engaged.
2. Next, focus your attention on the muscles in the floor of the pelvis, the sphincter muscles, the perineum, basically the diamond-shaped area between the sitz bones, pubic bone and tail bone.
On an exhale engage this area while softening your glutes and quads. Really focus in on the floor of the pelvis and allow that to support you. This is a gross application of mula bandha. It’s a good place to start. Refining will come later.
What do you notice?
3. Now, release the floor of the pelvis. What do you notice? Engage it again. Do this a few times before you need to rise up out of goddess pose and take a break. Share what you felt/noticed in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you discovered.
Let’s try this pose one more time, and this time we’ll play with the abdominal lock…uddiyana bandha.
1. Come into the pose again allowing the big muscles of the lower body to support you. Stay a few breaths until you start to feel fatigue in these muscles.
2. On an in-breath, draw the rib cage away from the pelvis, lengthening the abdominal area and the sides of the lower torso. Stay a few breaths with this extension, focusing on a chest breath, not a belly breath. You may feel a hollowing out of the low belly. Go with that!
Are you able to relax the glutes and quads a bit? Can you soften these muscles and give them a break? Do you feel heavy or light? Are you floating or sinking?
3. Return to a belly breath and notice the effect. Rise out of the pose and relax. Share below. :o)
This simple exercise is a great way to start to feel the effects of a gross engagement of mula and uddiyana bandhas. From that starting place, you’ll be able to refine the physical engagement of the bandhas and even allow them to flow with the strength of your practice.
The above video covers uddiyana bandha anatomy.
Great bandha resource book
Since I teach about the bandhas in many yoga teacher trainings—both our own and other teachers’—I have several great bandha resource books. Scientific Keys Vol 1 – The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga is my favorite because—although I could yammer away about the bandhas all day—it’s great to actually have a VISUAL reference for students. I’ve had my copy for years and LOVE IT. It’s the one I always return to. Please leave questions or comments below—we’d love to hear your experience with this experiment.
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