Bandhas are energy or pranic locks that contain the prana in the torso and eventually concentrate it into the three main energy channels - nadis, and finally, into the central channel - sushumna nadi. Uddiyana means upward flying. In Hatha Yoga, a bandha is an action which seals or constricts a portion of the body. A partial vacuum in the chest cavity causes the abdominal and reproductive organs to be drawn deeper into the body. Uddiyana bandha is only performed on an exhale retention.
On a completely empty stomach, uddiyana bandha is pleasurable and invigorating. It is the safest form of breath retention because it creates a vacuum in the chest instead of additional pressure. The vacuum in the chest also improves circulation to the abdominal organs because it draws blood from the abdominal cavity into the chest and back to the heart. Decreased pressure in the capillary beds and veins of the abdominal organs will facilitate more blood flow through those organs as well as more efficient fluid exchange with their tissues.
Uddiyana bandha is the only practice in hatha yoga that stretches the respiratory diaphragm, which spans the junction between the chest and abdomen and attaches to the base of the rib cage and lumbar spine. Exhaling as much as possible will push the dome of the diaphragm to the highest possible position that can be accomplished with the abdominal muscles. Performing uddiyana bandha at that time pulls the dome of the diaphragm from above to an even higher position, stretching its muscle fibres and connective tissue. Practiced regularly, uddiyana bandha will enable you to exhale more completely and breathe more comfortably and efficiently.
Uddiyana bandha can alleviate stress and mental restlessness and bring about inner harmony and balance.
Subtle Body Benefits
Uddiyana bandha is one of the most important practices in hatha yoga. The abdomen is the seat of power in the body and the location of manipura chakra. The abdominal lift in uddiyana bandha transfers this powerful pranic energy to higher centres—to the heart chakra and upper extremities so that it dawns on you to lovingly give of your work and talents to the world; to vishuddhi chakra and ajna chakra, the head and neck to empower your sense of direction, leadership and discriminating wisdom - the ability to determine what to give up and what to take up; and ultimately to sahaswrara chakra and the final goal beyond the realm of body and mind. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika glows in praise of uddiyana bandha: “It is the lion which conquers the elephant, death. Of all the bandhas, uddiyana is the best. Once it is mastered, liberation occurs spontaneously.”
Learning to properly engage and use uddiyana bandha is a key component of harnessing all the prana into the central channel - this is the pranic manifestation of the highest state of samadhi. It is only from this highest state that we can truly understand our purpose in this life - to care for each and every living creature as though our own child. With this motivation, every time we engage jalandhara bandha, we are bringing ourselves closer to this highest state of liberation.
Stand with your knees slightly bent and brace your hands against your thighs.
Exhale completely. Notice that exhalation produces an inward pressing movement of the chest and abdomen. You can pretend to be blowing up a balloon as much as possible with one breath.
Do a false inhalation using your chest, locking your glottis at the back of your throat and restraining air from entering your lungs, and at the same time relax your abdomen. If you get confused about how to prevent air from entering your lungs, you can try to inhale (without inhaling) while blocking your mouth and nose with your hands. You should feel your chest lift.
Holding the breath, try harder to inhale while keeping your abdomen relaxed. Your upper abdomen will hollow inward underneath your rib cage. This is uddiyana bandha.
Relax your false inhalation by letting your chest and abdominal organs drop and your abdomen release forward.
If you have difficulty relaxing your abdominal muscles try this modified cat stretch. Rest on your knees and forearms and drop your head down against your hands. This pitches your abdominal organs forward and toward your chest. Now exhale as much as possible and hold your breath. Notice that it is unnatural to hold the abdominal muscles tightly in this posture, and that the abdominal lift occurs naturally and gracefully.
Then, holding your breath and keeping the feeling of rib cage lift and abdominal relaxation, slowly lift your head and shoulders, carefully come up on your hands, and then ever so delicately come into a kneeling position. Coming up without tightening your abdominal muscles may require some practice.
To release come back to an upright position, release bandhas from the bottom up (first mulabandha, then uddiyana bandha, then jalandhara bandha) and inhale.
Tips From Deep Retreat
The best time for practice is first thing in the morning, with completely empty stomach, bladder and preferably after a bowel movement.
If you hold your breath at your glottis on the exhalation, it will be more comfortable to drop your chin toward or into the little hollow just above your sternum. This is jalandhara bandha, the chin lock.
Exhale completely, totally, absolutely!
Make sure you aren’t drawing in any air at all when you do your false inhalation.
Relax your abdomen completely as you do the false inhalation. If you keep your abs tight, the abdominal organs and abdominal wall cannot be drawn in and up.
Often we succeed in relaxing the abdominal muscles momentarily, and then get confused and try to aid the inward movement with an active contraction.
Distinguish between sucking in with the abdominal muscles, which you’ve already done during the preliminary exhalation, and allowing the abdominal wall to be drawn in passively by the vacuum in the chest.
Uddiyana bandha is always easiest to perform after one or two inversions like headstand and shoulder stand.
Relax, relax, relax!
Only practice uddiyana bandha on an exhale retention, never after inhaling. Don’t practice uddiyana bandha if you have high blood pressure, hiatal hernia, ulcers, or are pregnant or menstruating. Jalandhara Bandha, which is performed with Uddiyana Bandha, is contraindicated in high blood pressure and heart disease.