Recently in my Friday morning classes at Time For Yoga, we have been working with Uddiyana bandha Kriya. This is a cleansing exercise used to tone, stimulate and regenerate the abdominal viscera and the gastrointestinal system. It is to be practiced on an empty stomach and not during menstruation. Once guided by a teacher on how to perform the technique safely and effectively, it can be integrated into your morning rituals, just like brushing your teeth! The practice of Uddiyana Bandha Kriya teaches us how to coordinate the bandha with the breath so that it eventually becomes a natural reflex in the body.
A little more on Uddiyana
Sanskrit to English translation
Uddiyana = upward flight/climb
Bandha = locking/blocking
Uddiyana Bandha is often translated as "upward flying lock". It is an important part of Hatha Yoga practice.
Outside from Uddiyana Bandha Kryia(the cleansing technique), the bandha can be used in a less intense way to support our Hatha Vinyasa practice. Uddiyana Bandha is achieved by gently drawing the lower abdominal area inwards in coordination with the breath. From an anatomical viewpoint, the transverse abdominal muscles will be activated. In the beginning, when working with the bandha most people will overemphasise the physical action and engage the entire abdominal area. This makes the experience in the abdomen obvious, which is necessary when learning how to coordinate the action in the body to achieve Uddiyana. Over time and with practice, we work on refining the bandha. It is less about engaging the abdominal area, and more about allow the deep transverse muscles, pelvic floor and diaphragm to coordinate and move with the breath. This will begin to happen like a natural reflex in the body, allowing for powerful movement. Rather than focusing on the obvious physical sensations in the body, the practitioner begins to move into the more subtle experience of the deep and gentle movement of the breath, and maybe even energy. Uddiyana Bandha gives lightness to the practice and helps create space in the body.
Energetically, Uddiyana bandha draws prana (energy) out from it’s foundation in the Muladhara (root) Chakra, and up through the spine into the Anahata (heart) Chakra, which is located in the middle of the chest around the thoracic spine. This ascending energy is called Prana Vayu. Anahata chakra is of the air element, which has to do with mobility - our ability to move freely, lightly and effortlessly.
In practice, we use uddiyana bandha with mula bandha (root lock), which is the coordination of the pelvic floor muscles. Mula bandha draws energy toward the lower end of the spine, into the Muladhara (root) Chakra. This descending energy is called Apana Vayu. Muladhara Chakra is of the earth element, which has to do with stability - our ability to be grounded and move from a place of stillness.
The two bandhas work together to direct energy like the the opposing poles of a battery. The Tantra describes the whole cosmos as a dance between the two opposing forces. Prana and Apana, inhalation and exhalation, expansion and contraction, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, yang and yin, destroying and procreating, etc...
The practice of Hatha Yoga symbolises this dance of opposites. Ha means sun, Tha means moon. Hatha can be understood as meaning opposing forces, Yoga means to yoke, unite, connect. Without Apana Vayu moving properly in the body, connecting us to the grounding of the muladhara chakra; Prana Vayu will not work effectively, and the air element of the anahata chakra will lack the power of stability behind it.
In Hatha Yoga practice, we work to balance the opposing forces within our-self, so that we can move towards internal harmony and physical health. It is both the practice and the goal within itself.