Bandhas: Uddiyana Bandha

Uddiyana bandha is a very beneficial practice and an integral part of kriya yoga. Therefore, it must be perfected before undertaking the more advanced practice of kriya yoga.

Uddiyana bandha looks difficult, especially if you have never seen it demonstrated before. However, it is much simpler to do than it looks. But it must be done correctly.

Definition

The Sanskrit word uddiyana means ‘to raise up’ or ‘to fly upwards’. The word bandha means to hold’, ‘tighten’ or ‘lock’. This practice is so called because the physical lock applied to the body causes the diaphragm to rise towards the chest. Another reason for the name is that the lock helps to direct prana into sushumna nadi so that it flows upwards to sahasrara. Sushumna nadi is the subtle pranic pathway within the spine which passes through the main psychic centres (chakras). The awakening of these centres implies a progressive expansion of awareness, until the cosmic awareness (sahasrara) is attained. This is why uddiyana bandha is useful for helping to expand awareness. For this purpose, it is systematically combined with specific pranayama practices.

Scriptural references

Uddiyana bandha is mentioned in a large number of scriptures. These include the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Gherand Samhita and the Baraha, Yoga Sikha, Yoga Kundalini, Dhyana Bindu, Yoga Tattva and Chudamani Upanishads. We don’t intend to give all of the quotations from these texts for they are very similar. We will merely give a few examples. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives the most detail: “That lock which causes the prana to fly up the sushumna is called uddiyana by all yogis.”

(3:55) “The practice to be described causes the bird (of prana) to fly upwards after taking a period of rest.” (3:56) In other words, the latent prana is directed into the sushumna.

“Drawing the abdomen backwards and upwards in the navel region is called uddiyana. It is the lion which challenges the elephant of death.” (3:57) That is, the practice helps to transcend normal states of awareness so that one gains insight into the nature of existence and mortality and the purpose of life.

“The practice of uddiyana bandha described by yogis is very easy to do. Regular practice makes even an old man youthful.” (3:58) Uddiyana bandha revitalizes the whole body and can help to lead to states of meditation that can make even an old man feel young.

In the Baraha Upanishad it says: “The breath follows life in the same way that a shadow follows an object. Uddiyana is the practice that makes the ever restless breath fly upwards …” “To practise uddiyana seriously, the diet should be good and taken in small quantities.” This last statement is particularly important if uddiyana is combined with regular and intense practices of pranayama.

We could give many more pages of quotations but we have given enough to show the importance and traditional method of doing uddiyana bandha.

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