A couple blogs back I broke down how to Mula Bandha quite simply so that you could start or continue to use this root lock in your asana practice. Engaging Mula Bandha, however, is only 1 of the 3 major body and energetic locks we use during asana to elevate our practice. So this week I’d like to break down the other two main bandhas: Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara bandha.
Let’s move from the Mula Bandha, located at the base of the spine, up to the abdomen where Uddiyana Bandha is located. The Sanskrit word Uddiyana means to fly up or rise up. Thus, Uddiyana Bandha is the flying up lock. As with all three bandhas, you are learning to control your energy flow. In this particular case, you are raising your energy upwards and inwards through the use of your abdominal organs, diaphragm and stomach.
I already explained how Mula Bandha is used to help you float in and out poses during practice. This lock is in and of itself effective, but paired with Uddiyana Bandha, you can take your practice to yet another level. Together, these two bandhas create much more energetic and physical power. Think about how large of an area and how many muscles you use to lift your stomach, diaphragm and abdominal organs! It make sense then that any element of the practice that requires upward and downward motion would be easier to perform using both these locks in unison.
It is important I interject here for a moment to briefly explain Jalandhara Bandha because you will need to use this lock when practicing the Uddiyana Bandha technique.
Jalandhara Bandha is the throat or chin lock. Unlike Mula and Uddiyana Bandha, it is rarely used on its own. Rather, it is used in combination with different breathing exercises. During asana, it is used with both or one of the other two energetic locks.
How to Jalandhara Bandha
- Sit up straight, in a comfortable pose, shoulders down and back, and hands resting on knees.
- Inhale deeply, bow your head and tuck your chin towards your neck while lifting the sternum slightly.
- Retain the breath for as long as possible.
- While retaining, continue to tuck the chin to lengthen the neck, drop the shoulders and open the chest.
- To exit this lock, lift the chin and then exhale.
Once you have some experience with Jalandhara Bandha, you can then practice it with Uddiyana Bandha.
How To Uddiyana Bandha
- Stand up tall, feet at least 3 feet apart.
- Bend your knees and place your hands on the tops of your thighs and look toward your navel.
- Inhale deeply through your nose. Then exhale forcibly so that you engage you all your abdominal muscles and lift the stomach towards the spine.
- See if you can relax your muscles.
- Perform a “mock inhalation.” This means you do NOT inhale, but you continue to lift the belly to the spine as if you were inhaling. Go as deep as you can.
- Now engage Jalandhara Bandha.
- Hold this for 10-15 seconds. When you are ready to exit, slowly relax your abdominals and inhale deeply. Repeat 3-10 times with a few normal breaths in between.
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but it is not recommended that you eat food within 3 hours of your Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Hatha practice. There are many reasons for this, and one of those reasons is that when activating Uddiyana Bandha, it should be done on an empty stomach.
Asana practice is not meant to be a struggle. Over time, with sadhana, you will become more proficient in your ability to control Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara Bandha simultaneously. With more control comes more ease in the practice. The purpose of these locks are to help you begin to master a seamless flow between movements, lessening the force needed to get in and out of the poses. Stick with it and you will see how your proficiency for these energetic locks will start to improve your practice.