In Hatha yoga, the bandhas are ‘body locks,’ or areas of the body that are isolated and constricted in some way in order to unlock benefits.
There are three major individual bandhas: jalandhara bandha (the constriction of the throat), uddiyana bandha (the compression of the belly) and mula bandha (the contraction of the pelvic floor). Maha bandha is the body lock that combines all three of these major bandhas into one big contraction.
Each of these bandhas has its own unique benefits and involves targeted use of the breath, but uddiyana bandha can often be the most difficult to visualize and utilize correctly. When done properly, however, it can be one of the most powerful.
What is Uddiyana Bandha?
Uddiyana bandha involves the contraction of the abdomen up and into the rib cage, so it is important to only practice this on an empty stomach—working on this bandha after a meal can result in stomach pain and/or nausea and is not good for digestion.
Practiced on an empty stomach, however, uddiyana bandha facilitates better circulation through the abdomen’s large organs, as well as more efficient fluid exchange between these organs and their surrounding tissues.
Outside of the physiological benefits, activating your uddiyana bandha can be very energizing and refreshing, a kind of ‘reset button’ for your breathing and digestion.
Here's How to Start Engaging Your Uddiyana Bandha
- Stand with your back against a wall and your feet a few inches away from the wall, hip-width apart. Curl your torso so that your back is curved (as it is in Cat Pose) and bend your knees so that you can rest your hands on the tops of your thighs for support. Your tailbone is still touching the wall.
- In this position, take a deep inhale through your nose and exhale quickly and powerfully. Exhale all the way until the very end of your breath—this stretches your diagram to its most expanded position.
- At the end of your exhale, pull your belly in as if you are trying to bring your navel to touch your spine. Once you have pulled in as much as you can, begin to pull up like you are trying to keep your navel as far back as possible while also pulling it up into your rib cage. It can help to visualize a string pulling your navel back toward the wall while another string then pulls your navel up toward your heart center. Some people describe this action as taking a ‘mock inhale’—performing the motion that your belly goes through when you inhale while not actually taking any air in through the nose or mouth.
- Keep your belly like this while taking no further breaths—this is called breath retention.
- When you can no longer hold your breath, bring your belly back down and out to its natural, relaxed position, gently and with control. Only after doing this should you inhale—again, do this gently and with control, trying not to gasp.
Benefits of Uddiyana Bandha Practice
After practicing your uddiyana bandha several times in this position, you can try it standing up against the wall with your hands on your hips. You may find that it takes more concentration to practice this bandha with a straight back, and it can be even more challenging in a seated pose.
Practicing this bandha first thing in the morning can be invigorating and can help prepare your abdomen for its work of digesting your food and keeping you upright. It can also help you take deeper breaths throughout the day, keeping you calm, centered and focused.
Practicing using your bandhas is also a great way to interact with your body in a mindful way, making you focus your concentration inward and connect with how your insides feel—something we don’t often consciously consider.
So take a minute and say hi to your insides—they’ll thank you for it and you’ll have a happy belly all day long.