What is Uddiyana Bandha and Why Practice It?
When we learn asanas in our training courses, we often learn multiple ways to practice any given posture as it depends on the intention of the pose, where we are in our practice, any injuries we might be taking care of, etc. For example, in Bhujangasana, we might stay low to the ground and focus on building strength, or we might push up a little higher and focus on a stretch for the front side of the body. In Paschimottanasana, we might take a more yin approach, focusing more on the hamstring stretch, rounding the back, and relaxing into the posture. Alternatively, we might want to concentrate more evenly on noticing the strength building in the back and core along with the hamstring stretch.
The same is true for Uddiyana Bandha or core lock. We can undoubtedly practice it as a robust engagement, hollowing out the belly. We can also practice a light engagement to help us develop strength and stability during many of our postures. This is a much lighter sensation, and it is what we are covering in today’s lesson. Engaging a softer core lock helps stabilize the body and protect the back. It encourages proper alignment and posture.
In the video, note my use of the term “hip flexors.” In this context, I mean not only the iliopsoas (which we often think of as the “only” hip flexors). I also mean the synergist muscles that assist, such as the sartorius and rectus femoris.
Energetically, Uddiyana Bandha fans the digestive fire or Agni, which is heavily concentrated at the Manipura chakra, encouraging balance in the 3rd chakra and helping purify the nadis or subtle energy. We know from our previous posting of Mula Bandha that our tradition teaches that we encourage vayu and prana flow through our bandhas. Thirmoolar references Prana-Vayu abiding as Kundalini in Muladhara. He shared this with us in the Tirumantiram, verse 424
424: The Fire Spreads to the Seas Also
From aloft the cloud laden mountains
The benign river Ganga;
Into the earth the waters seeped
In directions eight,
Emptying itself eventually Into the deep pit that is the Ocean,
That Constant sings the praise of Lord
With Chant of “Aum” —
That Ocean too the fire gulped in fury
Dr. B. Natarajan’s commentary on this verse is below:
The Descent of Grace
The grace of Bindu descended from the cloud clad mountains
Pervaded the universe, and all the quarters
Entered in Pranava [Prana Vayu} and abides as Kundalini in Muladhara
(Note: Prana-Vayu is situated in the heart, and its energy pervades the chest region. Prana-Vayu translates as “forward moving air,” and its flow is inwards and upward. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs the reception of all things: food, air, senses, and thoughts. This Vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs and feeds into the four other main vayus.)