In theCHAPTER TWENTY THREE Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal contraction)
Sit in siddha/siddha yoni asana or padmasana with the spine erect and the knees resting on the floor.
Place the palms on the knees. Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Exhale deeply and retain the breath outside.
Perform jalandhara bandha.
Then contract the abdominal muscles as far as possible inwards and upwards. This is the final position.
Hold this lock for as long as is comfortable.
Then slowly release the stomach muscles, followed by jalandhara bandha and inhale.
When the respiration is normal the process may be repeated.
Contra-indications: Not to be practised by persons suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, colitis, stomach or intestinal ulcer, hernia, glaucoma and raised
intracranial pressure. It should also be avoided by pregnant women.
Benefits: Uddiyana bandha stimulates the solar plexus which has many subtle influences on the distribution of energy throughout the body. It creates a suction pressure which reverses the flow of the sub-pranas, apana and prana, uniting them with samana and stimulating manipura chakra. Then there is an explosion of subtle force which travels upward through sushumna nadi.
Practice note: Practise only when the stomach and intestines are empty. Release the chin lock before breathing in.
Note: The word uddiyana literally means ‘to fly upwards’. In this bandha the diaphragm and abdomen are made to fly upward, locking the prana in the upper body and forcing the vital energy itself to take upward flight.
Maha Bandha (the great lock)
Sit in a meditation asana, preferably padmasana, siddhasana or siddha yoni asana with the hands on the knees and the spine straight.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Exhale slowly and completely.
Retain the breath outside.
Perform jalandhara bandha, then uddiyana bandha followed by moola bandha.
Hold the bandhas and the breath for as long as is comfortable.
Alternately the awareness may be centred on the three bandhas as they are retained.
Then release moola, uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas in this order.
Exhale a little more and then slowly inhale.
Exhale and inhale once or twice and repeat the practice.
Precautions: Maha bandha is a powerful combined practice. It should not be attempted until one has mastered the three bandhas individually and the preliminary stages of nadi shodhana pranayama.
Benefits: Maha bandha gives the benefits of all the three bandhas. It is a very powerful method used for stimulating the flow of psychic and spiritual energy, and for making the mind introverted in preparation for meditation.
Note: Maha bandha, or the great lock, is really the combination of moola bandha, jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha and bahir kumbhaka (external breath retention) as they are practised in the techniques of pranayama.
The control of vital and psychic energy is a matter of great concern to any practitioner of yoga, whether he be interested in it for therapeutic, health or spiritual purposes. The science of yoga is itself the science of life energy, and pranayama is the most direct method which has yet been found to adjust the energy flows within the human body.
Many people consider pranayama to be a physical practice of breath control, but this is not so. The main effects of pranayama manifests in the nervous system and in the subtle psychic energy body, and the control of breath is only the means of manipulating these finer processes. The breath is known as the ‘thread of life’, and depending on its actions the entire life process is refined, balanced, or else thrown out of proper order.
Pranayama serves as a basis for many types of meditation. It is used within the practices themselves; it prepares the aspirant’s body and mind for the safe and successful practice of meditation, and it serves as a system for introverting the mind prior to sitting for meditation. It is of the utmost importance. We sincerely suggest that all persons intent on attaining success in meditation should first master the techniques of pranayama. It will help them greatly. However, a warning must be given. Pranayama is very powerful. Persons with any physical imbalance should never attempt it without expert guidance. This goes especially for those who are aged or who have coronary
ailments. Additionally, if any irregular effects are noticed after one has started pranayama, then the practice should be immediately stopped and expert guidance sought. Furthermore, the techniques must be learned very slowly and gradually. Development of nadi shodhana is intended to take place over a long period of time. Never rush on to a new stage of practice until you have completely mastered those which precede it. If these suggestions are followed, the practice of pranayama will bring you many great benefits.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Basic breath control on inhalation (pooraka), inner retention (antar kumbhaka), exhalation (rechaka) and outer retention (bahiranga kumbhaka) are the most important prerequisites for the successful practice of pranayama sadhana. Progressively practise each of the following techniques of nadi shodhana until they can be done without any strain or shortness of breath being felt. If any difficulty is encountered during your practice, stop until you can gain the advice of a competent yoga teacher. Nadi shodhana, if practised properly and without strain, is the greatest of pranayamas for purifying the body and stilling the mind.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (psychic network purification)
Technique 1: Preparatory practice
Sit in any comfortable meditation asana, preferably siddhasana/siddha yoni asana or padmasana.
Close the eyes and become aware of the whole body.
Keep the head and spine straight.
Relax the whole body and close the eyes.
Now shift the attention to the natural breathing process taking place within the body.
Become aware of every inhalation and exhalation.
Adopt nasagra mudra with the right hand, placing the index and middle fingers on the eyebrow centre, and place the left hand on the knee in chin or jnana mudra.
Inhale through both nostrils.
Close the right nostril with the thumb.
Inhale and exhale slowly through the left nostril 5 times.
The rate of inhlation/exhalation should be normal.
Be aware of each breath.
After 5 breaths release the pressure of the thumb on the right nostril and press the left nostril with the ring finger, blocking the flow of air.
Inhale and exhale through the right nostril 5 times, keeping the respiration rate normal.
Lower the hand and breathe 5 times through both nostrils together.
This is one round.
Practise 5 rounds for a few minutes.
After practising for 15 days go on to technique 2.
Technique 2: Alternate nostril breathing
In this technique the duration of inhalation/exhalation is controlled.
Close the right nostril and breathe in through the left nostril. At the same time count mentally , “1, Om; 2, Om; 3, Om”, until the inhalation ends comfortably. This is the basic count.
Close the left nostril with the ring finger, relase the pressure of the thumb on the right nostril and while breathing out through the right nostril, simultaneously count, “1, Om; 2, Om; 3, Om”. The time for inhalation and exhalation should be equal.
Inhale through the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril, keeping the same count.
This is one round.
Practise 10 rounds.
Ratio and timing: After a few days increase the length of inhalation/exhalation by one count. Continue increasing by one count, without straining, until the count of 24:24 is reached. Do not force the breath beyond its natural capacity. If there is any discomfort reduce the count.
After perfecting this ratio, it may be changed to 1:2. For example, inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 8, up to the count of 12:24.
When this technique can be performed with complete ease move on to technique 3.
Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)
In this technique antar kumbhaka or internal breath retention is introduced.
Inhale through the left nostril for a count of 5, close both nostrils and retain the air in the lungs for a count of
The glottis may be slightly contracted to hold the air in the lungs.
Open the right nostril, inhale slightly and then exhale for a count of 5.
Inhale through the right nostril for a count of 5 and retain the breath for a count of 5 with both nostrils closed.
Open the left nostril, inhale slightly and then exhale for a count of 5.
This is one round.
Practise 10 rounds.
Ratio and timing: The maintenance of a strict ratio during inhalation, kumbhaka and exhalation is of the utmost importance. The ratio will change as the ability to hold the breath for longer periods of time develops. After mastering the ratio of 1:1:1, increase the ratio to 1:1:2. For example, inhale for a count of 5, perform internal kumbhaka for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 10. After some weeks of practice, when this ratio has been mastered, increase the ratio to 1:2:2. Inhale for a count of 5, do internal kumbhaka for a count of 10 and exhale for a count of 10.
After mastering this ratio, gradually increase the count by adding one unit to the inhalation, 2 units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will be 6:12:12. When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort, increase the count to 7:14:14. Gradually increase the count over a period of one or two years to 24:48:48. Thereafter, gradually increase the ratio
to 1:3:2, and then 1:4:2. Then move on to technique 4.
Technique 4: with Antar and Bahir Kumbhaka (internal and external retention)
In this technique bahir kumbhaka or outer breath retention is introduced.
Inhale through the left nostril, retain the breath inside as for technique 3, then exhale through the right nostril.
After exhalation, when the lungs are deflated as much as possible, close both nostrils and hold the breath out for the chosen count.
The glottis may be slightly contracted to hold the air out of the lungs.
Exhale slightly through the right nostril immediately before inhaling to release the lock on the lungs and the glottis.
Inhale slowly through the right nostril, retain the breath inside, then exhale through the left nostril.
Again hold the breath outside to the count, with both nostrils closed. This is one round. Practise 5 rounds.
Ratio and timing: The ratio should begin as 1:4:2:2 for inhalation, internal retention, exhalation and external retention. The duration of inhalation should be slowly increased from 5 to 6, then from 6 to 7 and so on, and the duration of exhalation and retention should be adjusted accordingly.
Advanced practice: Nadi shodhana may be practised in conjunction with jalandhara, moola and uddiyana bandhas. First practise jalandhara bandha with internal breath
retention only. Once perfected, combine jalandhara bandha with external breath retention. Then introduce moola bandha with jalandhara during internal, then external retention. When this has been mastered, apply uddiyana bandha on external retention only.
Duration: 5 to 10 rounds or 10 to 15 minutes daily.
Benefits: Nadi shodhana ensures physical health and mental vitality. It clears pranic blockages and balances ida and pingala nadis causing sushumna nadi to flow, which leads to deep states of meditation and spiritual awakening.
Practice note: Many sadhakas use a mantra such as Om Namah Shivaya or Gayatri repeated a certain number of times to count the duration of breath. This combines the benefits of japa with those of pranayama, and also makes the practice easier. Nadi shodhana is most effective if it is followed by a concentrated type of meditation practice such as antar trataka or chidakasha dharana.
Ujjayi Pranayama (the psychic breath)
Practise the simple form of khechari mudra.
Contract the glottis in the throat.
When breathing under these circumstances a very soft snoring sound should automatically come from the throat region. It is like the sound of a sleeping baby.
One should feel that one is breathing through the throat and not the nose.
This practice can be done for a long time and during almost all meditation techniques, the exception being meditation practices that require audible mantra repetition.