August 11, 2022

Beginner’s Guide to Uddiyana Bandha: Steps, Benefits and Contraindications

If you’ve already explored the most popular layers of yoga – asana, pranayama and meditation – it’s the right time to enter the powerful world of Uddiyana Bandha. As you deepen your yoga practice, mastering energy locks like Uddiyana Bandha becomes crucial in harnessing and directing your energy.

This ancient technique, often translated as the ‘upward flying lock’, offers a unique blend of physical strength, mental focus, and spiritual insights. A pivotal technique in the path of yoga, Uddiyana Bandha stands as a gateway to understanding and controlling the flow of prana.

Uddiyana Bandha is a gateway to understanding and controlling the flow of prana in the body

In this guide, we’ll explore the steps, benefits, and profound impacts of Uddiyana Bandha. We’ll provide you with the tools to elevate your practice and experience the profound transformation it can bring to your mind, body, and spirit.

If this is the first bandha you’re approaching, an introduction is necessary to understand how these energy locks work. Let’s begin!

What is a Bandha? Understanding Nadis and Locks

To understand the meaning of bandhas and their purpose, you first need to understand the yogic concept of energy. According to ancient scriptures, the body is a vessel of prana, or life force energy, which flows through thousands of energy channels.

The main channel, called Sushumna Nadi, is located along the spine. By forcing energy into this central channel and directing it upwards, we can experience higher states of consciousness. This expansion of energy and consciousness is the main goal of the Hatha Yoga Tradition.

By forcing energy into Sushumna Nadi and directing it upwards, we can experience higher states of consciousness

By practicing yoga postures, you can loosen and remove obstructions in your energy body, thus freeing the flow of prana. However, if you want to consciously control, shape, and expand your internal energy, you need to master the practice of bandhas.

The three Bandhas in Hatha Yoga (Introduction)

The word Bandha can be translated both as a “lock” or “bond” of energy. There are three Bandhas in the Hatha Yoga Tradition. Together, they form Maha Bandha, the great lock. Once you mastered all of them you can combine their effects. We wrote beginner-friendly posts for each bandha, check them out!

  • Mula Bandha (Root Lock) involves contracting the pelvic floor muscles, creating a foundation for energy ascension. It enhances stability, focus, and a deeper inner awareness.
  • Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock) is the practice of drawing the abdomen in and up, facilitating pranic flow upwards. This bandha boosts digestion, strengthens core muscles, and energizes the mind. Keep reading to learn more!
  • Jalandhara Bandha (Throat Lock) entails lowering the chin to the chest, regulating energy flow in the neck and head areas. It calms the mind, enhances thyroid function, and improves respiratory efficiency.
Maha Bandha represents the culmination of mastery over the body's vital energy locks

When practiced correctly, bandhas collect and restrain energy in specific areas of the body. They also work to connect and consolidate the two different qualities of energy. That is, Prana, the life force energy, and Apana, the energy that flows out of the body for cleansing.

If both of these qualities are blended together, we induce a state of calmness and neutrality that allows the energy to flow into the central channel and rise upwards – from the lower to the higher energy centers (called chakras).

What is Uddiyana Bandha? Discover the Meaning and Purpose of the Abdominal Lock

Uddiyana Bandha, also referred to as the abdominal lock, involves a subtle yet powerful engagement of the abdominal muscles, creating a gentle lift that resonates through the body’s energy systems. This practice works as a bridge between the physical and subtle realms, helping in the awakening of internal energies.

More in detail, Uddiyana Bandha focuses on the area between the navel and spine. Here, the diaphragm forms a muscular and energetic barrier, which can be engaged when practicing this energy lock. The functions below the barrier are unconscious and reactive, while the functions that occur above it are more conscious and flexible.

What is Uddiyana Bandha? Discover the Meaning and Purpose of the Abdominal Lock

In this context, what is the purpose of Uddiyana Bandha? By crossing this mind-body barrier, this lock allows practitioners to send the energy of the lower chakras “flying upwards” through a process of refinement and sublimation. This upward movement may lead practitioners towards heightened states of consciousness and inner clarity.

More in detail, this action directs energy into higher energy centers, activating them: Anahata Chakra (Heart Chakra), Vishuddha Chakra (Throat Chakra), Ajna Chakra (Third Eye Chakra), and Sahastrara Chakra (Crown Chakra). In Sanskrit, uddiyana means “upward flying”, which accurately describes the effects of this practice.

Step-By-Step Guide To Mastering Uddiyana Bandha

Practicing Uddiyana Bandha requires some technique, patience, and attentiveness, especially the first few times. It’s recommended to perform this on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning.

Step-By-Step Guide To Mastering Uddiyana Bandha

Below is a step-by-step guide:

Starting position

  1. Stand with the knees slightly bent (as in skiing) and the feet wider than hip-distance.
  2. Place the hands on the thighs above the knees, with the fingers facing inwards.
  3. The body is bent slightly forward so that the weight of the torso is supported on the hands.

Exhalation

  1. First, inhale deeply through the nose.
  2. Exhale completely (through the mouth or nose) while bending forward at the hips with knees and elbows bent.
  3. Contract the abdominal muscles in order to push as much air as possible out of the lungs.

Void Retention

  1. Holding the void retention (without letting any air enter the lungs), completely relax the abdomen and bring the body back to its initial position.
  2. Perform a “false inhalation”. This means that no air is drawn in, but the ribcage is expanded as in a normal inhalation. This action sucks the abdominal muscles and organs up into the thorax and hollows out the belly.
  3. If you experience any unpleasant pressure in the throat, tuck the chin towards the chest. Many yogis recommend Jalandhara Bandha (the contraction and locking of the throat area) to be performed during Uddiyana Bandha. 
  4. Hold the void retention for as long as feels comfortable. Always be careful not to hold the retention too long, so that a sudden and chaotic inhalation becomes necessary due to the intense shortage of air. For beginners, a few seconds are enough. With practice, you can gradually increase the duration of the void retention. 
  5. When finishing, first release the abdomen before inhaling.

Inhalation

  1. With awareness, relax the diaphragm which will come down and bring the abdomen back to its normal position. 
  2. Then, inhale through the nose, letting the air gently enter the lungs. Never breathe in without first releasing the seal of the diaphragm – taking in air while holding Uddiyana Bandha is very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous, as its violent entrance into the lungs can affect the fine alveolar membranes.
  3. After inhaling, hold your breath (full retention) for around 20 seconds or as long as feels comfortable to further acknowledge the specific effects of this technique.

Always practice Uddiyana Bandha mindfully, paying attention to your body’s signals. It’s essential not to strain or force the breath or the lock. Over time, as you become more comfortable with the technique, you can explore deeper aspects of Uddiyana Bandha in your yoga practice.

Online Studio's 30 Day Yoga Challenge features a video explanation of this Uddiyana Bandha

If you prefer to have visual cues on how to perform Uddiyana Bandha, join Online Studio’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge. Led by experienced yoga teacher Astrid Van Zon, Day 20 features a detailed and easy-to-understand video explanation of this powerful technique.

Physical and Energetic Benefits of Uddiyana Bandha

Uddiyana Bandha offers a multitude of benefits that extend across both physical and energetic dimensions. Physically, this technique is a powerhouse for core strengthening. By engaging and lifting the abdominal muscles, it tones the diaphragm and abdominal wall, enhancing core stability and postural support.

The lock stimulates blood circulation in the abdomen. This activates the digestive organs, leading to improved digestion and aiding in the detoxification process. The practice is known to massage and invigorate the internal organs, promoting better functioning of the stomach, liver, spleen, and pancreas, and potentially alleviating various digestive disorders.

On the energetic front, Uddiyana Bandha is a powerful generator of life force. Along with Mula Bandha, the root lock, it moves our energy and awareness to the higher realms of the heart chakra and beyond. It is a highly energizing practice that unlocks our potential of self-healing and nurturance.

Uddiyana Bandha offers a multitude of benefits that extend across both physical and energetic dimensions

More in detail, by directing energy upwards through the Sushumna Nadi, it facilitates the awakening and ascension of Kundalini energy. Over time, this may lead to heightened states of awareness and spiritual development.

Additionally, Uddiyana Bandha activates the solar plexus chakra, which is associated with personal power and self-confidence. This activation can lead to a stronger sense of self and a heightened ability to manifest one’s intentions.

In the realm of meditation, this bandha aids in deepening concentration and fostering a state of inner stillness, making it an invaluable practice for those seeking a deeper spiritual connection in their yoga journey.

This upward movement of energy can have a profound impact on the practitioner, fostering a sense of inner peace, mental clarity, and emotional balance. With regular practice, Uddiyana Bandha becomes a key element in harmonizing the body’s physical health with its energetic potential, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life experience.

Integrating Uddiyana Bandha into Yoga Poses

Apart from the full Uddiyana Bandha technique, practiced on its own or in combination with the other two bandhas, yogis also utilize a gentle version of Uddiyana Bandha in their asana practice.

Instead of hollowing out the belly completely, the low belly is gently drawn toward the spine. This action helps stabilize the body and is thus mostly used in balancing postures or when moving between poses.

So, if you’ve ever wondered how your yoga teacher can float through their Sun Salutations or gracefully lift up into Handstand or Crow Pose, you now know that they are probably using Uddiyana Bandha (in combination with Mula Bandha).

A great pose to explore the bandhas is Downward Facing Dog as it allows for engaging all three bandhas

A great pose to explore the bandhas is Downward Facing Dog. Its shape encourages a natural engagement of all three bandhas. Reaching the tailbone to the sky engages and lifts the pelvic floor muscles (Mula Bandha). Moreover, the belly is automatically drawn in (Uddiyana Bandha) and the chin tucked toward the chest (Jalandhara Bandha).

If you are struggling to feel and engage your abdominal lock, try moving between Tabletop and Downward Facing Dog:

  1. Start on all fours, in Tabletop Position. Inhale deeply through the nose.
  2. On the exhalation, lift your hips into Downward Facing Dog. Focus on the sensation of your belly pulling in toward the spine.
  3. As you inhale, return to Tabletop. Allow your abdomen to relax and expand.
  4. Exhale fully and lift into Downward Facing Dog. Try to push all air out of your lungs.
  5. Hold the void retention for a few seconds, feeling the contraction of your abdomen. 
  6. Repeat this sequence a few times, then come to rest in Child’s Pose.
Marmas & Bandhas on Online Studio offers a dynamic Hatha-Vinyasa Yoga class with an emphasis on bandhas and alignment

Looking for a Hatha-Vinyasa Yoga class with a special emphasis on bandhas and alignment? Check out Marmas & Bandhas on Online Studio for a dynamic, intense, and deep Asana practice.

Integrating Uddiyana Bandha into Meditation

Incorporating Uddiyana Bandha into meditation practice can profoundly enhance the depth of absorption. Uddiyana Bandha, by its nature, fosters a heightened state of internal awareness, making it an invaluable tool for deepening meditation.

When integrated into meditation, this bandha helps in stabilizing the mind and focusing inward, facilitating a journey into deeper states of consciousness. As a matter of fact, the void Uddiyana Bandha creates in the stomach often mirrors the void in the mind, helping in clearing up thoughts.

You can practice the full Uddiyana Bandha method in a standing position to prepare yourself for sitting meditation practice. Or, you can also perform it while sitting in a comfortable meditation posture, for instance, with your legs crossed, while sitting on a cushion.

 Uddiyana Bandha can also be performed while sitting in a comfortable meditation posture

Uddiyana Bandha helps in creating a sense of inner spaciousness, setting a conducive environment for meditation. Additionally, this practice aids in activating the Ajna Chakra, or the third eye, which is associated with intuition and insight.

By regularly incorporating Uddiyana Bandha into your meditation routine, over time you can experience a more profound sense of mental clarity and an enhanced connection with your inner self.

By the way, if you’re longing for a Meditation retreat in a paradise tropical island, check out One Yoga’s weekly retreats in Koh Phangan. With a unique blend of silent Meditation and gentle yoga, they will help you establish a solid meditation practice. Our teachers will be happy to give you more information about how to integrate bandhas, too.

Tips and Contraindications of Uddiyana Bandha

There are a few important things to remember when beginning the practice of Uddiyana Bandha. Here are some tips and words of cautions.

  • First of all, perform it only on an empty stomach, never after a meal. The best time to practice is early in the morning, with empty stomach and bowels.
  • Keep in mind that bandhas should never be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy due to their strong physical and energetic effects.
  • Other contraindications for Uddiyana Bandha are high blood pressure, hiatal hernia, and ulcers.
  • Overstraining or holding the breath for too long can lead to discomfort or dizziness. If you experience these feelings, just resume normal breathing until the side effects subside.
  • A common mistake is failing to fully exhale before engaging the abdominal lock, which is essential for creating the necessary vacuum effect.
  • Avoid tensing up other parts of the body, like the face or shoulders. This can detract from the effectiveness of the practice. It is important to maintain a relaxed posture, with the focus solely on the abdominal area.
  • Finally, you need to determine how much Uddiyana Bandha is beneficial for your individual constitution. If you experience irregular menstrual cycles or irregularities in elimination, or if you tend to feel “spacey” and “ungrounded” , practicing too much Uddiyana Bandha might be counterproductive. In fact, it will move energy upwards when you need it to move downward in order to stay grounded, embodied, and regulated.
Tips and Contraindications of Uddiyana Bandha

In general, it is recommended that beginners practice Uddiyana Bandha under the supervision and guidance of an experienced teacher.

Final Thoughts

Embarking on the path of Uddiyana Bandha is more than learning a technique. It’s embracing a holistic approach to your yoga practice that stretches beyond asana. This profound practice is a key that unlocks a deeper dimension of yoga, harmonizing the physical with the ethereal, and the mind with the body.

This energy lock can be considered a meditation in motion, a dance of breath and energy that guides you towards inner tranquility and strength. As you integrate Uddiyana Bandha into your daily routine, observe the subtle yet profound changes it brings.

Uddiyana Bandha energy lock can be considered a meditation in motion

You may find your meditation deepening, your asanas strengthening, and your mind clearing. Uddiyana Bandhais a testament to yoga’s transformative power, capable of elevating your practice from a mere physical exercise to a deeply spiritual experience.

In your journey with Uddiyana Bandha, patience and persistence are your allies. Treat your practice as a sacred space for growth and self-discovery. Each breath and movement is a step towards a more centered and mindful self.

May your exploration of Uddiyana Bandha enrich not only your yoga practice but also your journey through life, filling each moment with greater awareness, balance, and peace.