How to do Uddiyana Bandha - Steps and Benefits of the Abdominal Lock in Yoga

Eager to expand your daily practice? Learn how to do Uddiyana bandha with step-by-step instructions and safety guidelines. We also get into the meaning, purpose, and benefits of the abdominal lock as per yoga texts.

Uddiyana bandha is one of the three primary bandhas in Hatha Yoga and one of the fundamental body locks in the kriyas of other schools of yoga. If you learn it right and practice it regularly, the abdomen lock can improve energy levels and wellbeing.

The abdomen lock holds a special place in Hatha Yoga. The abdomen is seen as a key junction that connects the lower and higher centers of the body. Called the 'seat of power,' it is the locus of the solar plexus disc or Manipura chakra.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) praises it generously, saying "Once mastered, liberation occurs spontaneously." [1] It calls Uddiyana bandha the lion that slays the elephant, meaning a person overcomes the fear of death and bondage created by it.

Beginners should start with the Throat Lock (Jalandhara Bandha), followed by the Root Lock (Mula Bandha), and finally, learn the abdomen lock. Additionally, learn Uddiyana bandha in two stages – first standing and later in a seated yoga posture.

Technique:

Uddiyana Bandha – Abdominal Lock

Pronounce:

उड्डियान - Uḍḍiyāna - oo-dee-ya-na

Difficult:

Advanced

Prepare with:

Yoga Poses (mentioned below)

Base Pose:

Standing or Sitting (Siddhasana, Padmasana)

Breath Retention:

​5 to 15 (build gradually)

Rounds:

​3 to 10

Between Rounds:

Rest for a few seconds, breathe normally

Expert Guidance:

Recommended

What is the Abdomen Lock in Yoga

Uddiyana Bandha, also called the abdominal lock, is one of the three primary bandhas (body locks) in yoga. It involves suspending the breath and lifting the diaphragm from the lower abdomen into the thorax in a specific standing or sitting yoga posture. You simultaneously pull the abdominal muscles back and up towards the spine.

Simply put, grip and pull the abdominal muscles towards the spine (tuck) and pull the dome of diaphragm higher into the thoracic cavity (lift).

Uddiyana bandha stretches the muscles and connective tissues, increasing the circulation of blood and prana in the region. In yoga, it is believed this abdominal grip forces life-energy currents to flow up the spine, towards the head.

Uddiyana Bandha Meaning

In Sanskrit, Uddiyana (उड्डियान) means 'upward-moving' or ‘fly upwards.’ Bandha means 'lock' or 'hold.' Thereby, Uddiyana Bandha is a yoga technique that helps life-energy fly upward. Thereof, it is also called the upward-flying lock in English.

According to the HYP, the abdominal lock forces prana up the spine. Chapter 3, Verse 55, says "Through it (Uddiyana bandha), ‘Prana’ the great bird flies up the central channel (Sushumna nadi); that is why it is called Uddiyana (upward flying).

"Uddiyana bandha acts on the junction between the chest and abdomen. It stretches the respiratory diaphragm at the base of the rib cage. Beginners should do it while standing as it is easier to control the abdominal muscles,” says yogi Hansraj Joshi.

“After you master it, try it in a seated posture. But combine it with other bandhas only after it is second nature. It can take a few weeks to perfect Uddiyana bandha. Be patient, respect your limits, and stop if you experience pain in the temples,” he adds.

Purpose and Uses

Uddiyana bandha is essential for healthy energy flow. It stimulates blood flow, massages the solar plexus, and improves efficiency of organs in the region. The bandha also releases tension and clears toxins in the digestive tract.

Do a few round of this bandha early in the day or at the start of yoga asana practice. It strengthens the fire in the navel leading to better digestion and absorption throughout the day. However, note that it should only be done on an empty stomach.

Additionally, the Uddiyana and its variations are also required to practice other yogic kriyas. By learning this bandha, you learn to create an abdominal vacuum, which is a fundamental aspect of Nauli Kriya, Basti, and Vajroli Mudra.

Here is a quick summary of some well-known uses of Uddiyana bandha in yoga:

  • activate the Solar Plexus Energy Center (Manipura Chakra).

  • Create a "seal" to control and alter the flow of prana.

  • Strengthen the core and improves breathing efficiency.

  • Various physical and health benefits (mentioned below).

  • Improve self-awareness and moves Kundalini up the spine.

Lastly, you can do Uddiyana bandha by itself or integrate it in a pranayama routine. It can be coupled with Mula or Jalandhara Bandha. However, if you do all three yoga locks simultaneously, it's called Maha Bandha – The Great Lock.

Uddiyana Bandha: Step-by-Step

Woman doing Uddiyana bandha in standing posture
Uddiyana Bandha in Standing Pose

Step One: Prepare

Start with chest and heart openers using a yoga wheel or use the following yoga postures to prepare for Uddiyana Bandha:

  • Head Stand (Sirsasana)

  • Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

  • Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • Bound Angle or Cobbler Pose (Baddha konasana)

  • Legs Up Against the Wall (Viparita Karani)

  • Any seated or standing forward bend

  • Hero Pose variations (Virasana family)

Next, stand with your feet at hip width. Bend the knees and lean forward while keeping the spine straight. Spread your fingers and grip your thighs, pressing down gently. Bending at the elbows, lower the chin as much as you can without discomfort.

Take a quick inhale and exhale in a burst. Expel all air from the lungs in a rush. If you don’t empty the lungs enough, you won’t be able to suitably lift the diaphragm later. From this point onwards you begin Uddiyana bandha.

Step Two: The Mock Inhale

Here, we do a mock or false inhale, also called inhaling without inhaling. That implies you don't inhale, even a little, after the exhalation in the previous step. Holding the breath out, tuck and lift the abdominal muscles and organs towards the spinal cord.

You hold this abdominal grip without inhaling for as long as you can.

In this step you can place the hands closer to the pelvic rim. Beginners should learn to stay relaxed instead of clenching. Also, do not hold the grip beyond your limit. Build your endurance gradully and watch out for strain in the heart and temples (head).

Step Three: Hold/Retain the Breath

Hold your breath for as long as comfortable. The grip-tuck--pull creates a vacuum effect that sucks back the upper abdominal muscles. It results in a concavity right under your rib cage, which is what we call the abdominal lock or Uddiyana bandha.

Note that you are holding your breath out (bahya kumbhaka) for the whole time i.e., steps 1 to 3. If you inhale, it will make it difficult to lift the abdominal muscles. However, it can take a few attempts to understand the intricacies of this process.

Step Four: Release Uddiyana Bandha

Slowly release the abdominal grip, raise the chin up and inhale gently without gasping. As the inhaled breath equalizes pressure inside the body, the chest will drop to release the abdomen forward to its normal position.

At this point, you have completed one round of Uddiyana Bandha.

Quick summary: In the correct standing posture, we exhaled heartily, lowered the chin, held the breath, tucked and lifted the abdominal muscles, held it for a few seconds, and released the lock as we return to base pose to inhale gently.

Time and Duration

You can do between 3 to 10 rounds of Uddiyana bandha early in the morning on an empty stomach. Beginners can hold the abdominal lock for five to ten seconds, as per their capacity. Take short breaks between rounds and breathe normally.

This video does a great job of demonstrating how to do Uddiyana bandha:

Benefits

1. Uddiyana bandha stretches the upper abdomen, lungs, and lumbar spine.

2. It stimulates the Solar Plexus or Manipura Chakra.

3. It gently heats and massages organs and glands in the abdominal region.

4. Uddiyana bandha strengthens the core muscles and heart

5. It stokes digestive fire to improve digestion, absorption, and elimination.

6. Uddiyana bandha also improves blood flow to the brain.

7. It prevents dizziness experienced while practicing pranayama.

8. Lastly, it unites lower and higher prana currents (Apana Vayu and Prana Vayu).

Precautions and Contraindications

Uddiyana bandha is contraindicated in hypertension, glaucoma, hernia, menstruation, stomach/intestinal ulcers, and pregnancy. Do not practice the abdominal lock if you are fatigued or recovering from an injury or illness.

Stop immediately if you experience pain or discomfort. Yoga bandhas are advanced techniques best learned under guidance. Consult a physician and yoga expert about safety guidelines if you are on heavy medication or have chronic health problems.

FAQs

What is the best time of the day to practice Uddiyana Bandha?

Practice the Uddiyana bandha early in the morning on an empty stomach and after emptying the bowels. It is invigorating and encourages prana to flow upwards. Therefore, this yoga bandha is the ideal way to activate your energy flow before yoga asana.

Who should not do Uddiyana bandha?

Which chakra does Uddiyana Bandha activate?

In Conclusion

We hope this beginner’s guide to the abdomen lock outlines the yoga technique and addresses your questions regarding Uddiyana bandha. As is our tradition, we sign off with links to relevant resources to expand your knowledge of yoga and pranayama.

Related Articles

  • How to do the Root Lock in Yoga (Mula Bandha) - Steps Benefits

  • How to do the Throat Lock in Yoga (Jalandhara Bandha) – Steps and Benefits

  • 8 Science-backed Benefits of Jalandhara Bandha – Steps and Benefits

Recommended Reading:

  1. Light on Pranayama by B K S Iyengar (on Amazon)

  2. Prana and Pranayama - Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (on Amazon)

  3. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati-

Sources:

  1. Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda.

  2. Translations of Sanskrit words from DDSA: The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary.