In the previous article on Mula Bandha we looked at how the Bandhas are energetic locks, which can be viewed from a Western anatomical viewpoint as the activation of certain muscles to support the lifting and toning of the body. Bandhas also have energetic subtle qualities; by engaging these locks we can begin to control or retain Prana. In this article we look at the next Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha.
The Bandhas support us in lifting ourselves up against the downward magnetic force of gravity. It is Uddiyana Bandha where the upward lift against gravity can be seen most clearly. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Uddiyana (upward flying) is so called by the Yogis because, by its practice, the Prana flies up the Sushumna Nadi. Sushumna Nadi is the central channel that correlates with the central nervous system housed in the spinal column.
Of all the Bandhas, Uddiyana is the best, for by its activation liberation comes spontaneously” - Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Physical qualities of Uddiyana Bandha
Uddiyana Bandha is your “Upward Flying Lock”. On a physiological level Uddiyana Bandha is the active engagement of the abdominal muscles. Taught simply and effectively as “draw your navel in towards your spine and up towards your ribcage”, practising Uddiyana Bandha both tones and creates space for the abdominal organs as the diaphragm is drawn upwards under the ribcage. This toning increases the efficiency and productivity of the diaphragm muscle. The numerous benefits of engaging Uddiyana Bandha are not for the organs of the abdominal cavity alone; increasing the range of motion of the diaphragm also ensures that Dukkha (stagnant energy/stale air) that remains in the lung sacs is massaged up and out.
In addition to supporting, toning and lifting our insides, engaging Uddiyana Bandha allows us yogis to be the superheroes that we are - activating Uddiyana Bandha enables us to fly!
Engaged at the bottom of an exhale (when abdominal muscles are most effectively engaged) Uddiyana Bandha encourages an upward physical lift from the inside out. Floating from Half Standing Forward Fold and landing lightly into Chaturanga Dandasana, flying upwards from Downward Facing Dog and finding an easeful landing into Bakasana, and pressing with grace up into Handstand all require the practice and mastering of both Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha.
It is quite obvious when a yogi is muscling their way into inversions versus allowing the Pranic flow to be directed inward and upward via the bandhas. It is in the muscling through poses without the support of breath and Bandha activation that we find many root causes of on-the-mat injuries.
Energetic qualities of Uddiyana Bandha
Uddiyana Bandha, Shakti Kundalini and the Chakras
Energetically, Uddiyana Bandha (with the continuous support of Mula Bandha) propels the already awakened Shakti Kundalini energy up through the Sushumna Nadi affecting change in the fourth and fifth chakras:
- Anahata (heart chakra) keywords: love, compassion, kindness
- Vishuddha (throat chakra) key words: truth in communication, listening to the truth of others
Uddiyana Bandha encourages the evolution of one’s Self from a limited self-centered reality into one that is love based.