Welcome to Ashtanga Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 5

Finding Bandhas

15 min - Tutorial


Dylan demystifies the bandhas, or internal energetic locks, sharing the fundamental techniques and subtleties of Uddiyana Kriya and demonstrating how it can be integrated in your Ashtanga practice.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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A big part of your journey into Ashtanga will be looking for and discovering the Bandhas. So the Bandhas are really central to our breathing system in Ashtanga and like any kind of traditional yoga the breath is the key to our practice. So use any breath that comes comfortably and naturally to you at first, feel free, don't hold the breath but with time we'll be able to explore a very specific breathing technique built around internal energy locks or Bandha in Sanskrit. So the Bandhas are too, Mula Bandha the root lock at the very base of the pelvic floor and Uddiyana Bandha the upward flying lock which will direct breath upwards and give you that wonderful inspiring and lifting feeling throughout your entire practice, throughout your entire breath cycle. So please feel free to join me here on the floor we'll do a few simple exercises together seated make yourself comfortable so if you want to sit on a cushion or if you're more comfortable in a chair you're most welcome to sit there as well.

Find yourself in a nice neutral position with the spine long and notice the grounding through the sitting bones your tailbone might slightly point downwards towards the mat but make sure you're not slouching or slumping try to keep the chest a little lifted so you feel a lift and a length through the spine. Take deep full breaths as they come naturally using any breath that's familiar to you you may already hear the whispering noise rolling out the back of the throat or you may just be breathing normally and regularly as you're accustomed to but let's try to take a specific technique to lengthen the breath. So here as you exhale find yourself exhaling more completely pushing out extra breath pushing out extra breath exhaling more than you normally do and then try to keep some lock as you inhale and again focusing on the exhale exaggerating the art of exhalation coming to the range your normal comfortable range and then pushing out so that you feel like you pushed all the breath out completely exhaling and maybe you notice some muscles get recruited in the lower abdomen you may feel a drawing in of the area in between the hips keeping that drawing in try to inhale even with the belly strong and again going through the breath cycle just taking your time finding that you can exhale a little more than you're used to. Find the engagements in lower abdomen the udiyana bandha region drawing in and up and keeping it drawing in even as you inhale just take a few more breaths really accentuating your exhale and now as you continue that practice refine the way that you're holding your mouth your mouth position will be important as best you can take the tip of your tongue and just rest it behind your upper teeth your upper teeth and your lower teeth stay separate from one another so your jaw is slightly open but the lips are closed into a very soft hint of a smile. So keeping the tongue behind the upper teeth and keeping that hint of a smile on the lips should help you to find that whispering noise you may be able to feel inside your mouth at the top of your mouth and all the way to the back the soft palate domes upwards pointing towards the skull and if you can find that light lift inside the back top of your mouth you may be able to more clearly hear the whispering noise avoiding hearing the noise at the nostrils trying to hear that noise actually at the back of the throat or even if it feels like it's vibrating in the chest then you can really start to refine and measure the breath and again remember every exhale completes you find the light lift and drawing inwards and continue that action with the belly strong as breath floods the upper chest we'll look at a more complete expression of Uddiyana Bandha sometimes called Uddiyana Kriya here take a nice full inhale and then exhale completely push all the breath out and see if you can hold the breath out as you scoop the belly back to the spine like this do a few more as you notice the vacuum seal sensation is quite deep it can draw the belly really back towards the spine but as well the Bandha stays light and it's not like doing a crunch or sit up deeply engaging the muscles instead there's a soft and gentle lift that helps the breath be encouraged to flow upwards I'll do one more demonstration or you can do one with me if you like exhaling completely this can be found from seated or can be really easily discovered once we do some standing exercises so please join me standing on your mat so this can be a really effective way to find a deep engagement of Uddiyana and with that said there's some contraindications you should not take this practice on and go so deeply if you're menstruating right now you want to allow the natural downward flow and if there's any chance that you're pregnant please don't pull in the abdomen so strongly so don't do this next bit with me if you're menstruating or any chance you're pregnant if you've had food already today you may be aware of its presence as you draw the belly in deeply but that'll be okay you won't hurt yourself you just might be aware of what you had for breakfast so what we'll do here is I will talk you through this deep technique of Uddiyana Kriya one time and then I'll demonstrate it once in silence so you can hear my breath and watch exactly how it works but please wait listen to the talk through and watch the demo and then we'll do a few together so to begin I will keep my feet a hips distance apart you'll take a nice long full inhale and standing and then as you exhale bend the knees put your palms into the middle thigh or back up towards the hips I'll do but you might be more comfortable towards the knees keep rounding the spine still exhaling you'll tuck the chin and push all the breath out just as you did in seated and then empty of breath you will lengthen the spine lengthen the legs lengthen the arms not breathing you'll scoop the belly deeply under and then not breathing you will come up empty of breath slightly squeeze the area between the hips and then inhale to feel that lift so that's what I'll do just now great so now we'll try one together take a nice long full inhale in your standing position and then exhaling fold forward bend your knees round your spine and push all the breath out the palms could be on the thighs or up near the hips empty of breath tuck the abdomen under and scoop as you lengthen the arms lengthen the spine lengthen the legs come on up not breathing and then once you're up squeeze the belly and inhale and again exhale fold forward push all the breath out scoop the belly lengthen the arms and legs not breathing empty of breath scoop under and come up still empty and then squeezing the belly inhale up good do one more pushing all the breath out scooping under coming up and inhale great so with time you may feel that there's a ability to keep the belly somewhat strong even as you breathe so though you've explored having a deep deep deep udiyana kriya sensation the belly really diving towards the spine empty of breath try to keep the light remembrance of that even during an inhalation remember every exhalation feels that it empties the lungs completely the belly stays drawing in even as you inhale and you feel the chest lift you feel the collarbones broaden and you feel the upper back lengthening lifting the back top of the head through your entire breathing cycle so come to samastitihi with the feet together at the top of the mat and we'll explore how this might work in the very very very modified sun salutation which is just taking ekam back to samastitihi exhale completely the belly drawing in inhale feel the lift feel the shoulders rolling back and down as the hands rise see the thumbs and exhale to samastitihi exhaling completely feel the belly drawing in and again inhale exhale trying to keep the belly drawing back see the thumbs and exhale samastitihi one more inhale up and exhaling finding the grounding in the belly the grounding through the feet and we'll do a sun salutation a vinyasa back down to the seated position inhaling keeping the lift letting the arms respond to the lift of breath as they rise and we exhale folding forward again feeling the belly moving towards the spine trini inhale still with the belly scooped head up then chatwari exhaling stepping or jumping to chaturanga here it's especially important that you feel the belly strong udhyana guiding the belly to the spine and then keep that sensation of a strong belly as you punch an inhale to upward facing dog then shot exhale downward facing dog the navel the belly button moving to the spine and that guiding the hips up to the back corner of the room and then sapta inhale stepping or jumping your way to dandasana the neutral pose of seated the legs elongated at the front of the mat and take one deep full breath here and now find yourself in any comfortable cross-legged position whatever is comfortable for you lotus half lotus again sitting on a chair is fine do find a way that you can sit you're welcome to be in a cushion or a block whatever feels good but find a way to sit where you can feel both sitting bones and how they ground upon the mat again that may be encouraging the tailbone to look downwards a little and that can encourage a strong belly sensation as well and as you take a few deep full breaths here be aware of the grounding through right and left sitting bone and become aware of the area in between the sitting bones that's the home site of mula bandha and the area between the sitting bones that's the home site of mula bandha you may even feel that at the end of an exhalation you could feel like you're pulling the sitting bones together to really help find that engagement between them as there's a rise and a lift so in that way you find that the bandhas begin at the very base of the pelvic floor and that stacked just above that udiyana bandha the rising up of the abdomen lifts the breath and you might even feel like there's some slight remembrance of jalandara bandha just by keeping the mouth in that position and feeling the doming up of the soft palate that you can hear the sound of breath at the very base of the throat as you practice any and all aspects of those you may find those three bandhas upward lifting stacked above one another keeping the spine nice and long and trying to stay with an even smooth full deep breath exhale and plant your hands down onto the mat and with your next inhale see if you can lift the pelvis up off the mat keeping the bandhas intact and breathing all the while maybe you can lift one foot up or both feet up off the mat if you're comfortable in full padmasana you may be lifting there still breathing don't hold your breath to lift up or you could be in simple crossed legs alternating which foot comes up and take one more full deep breath and exhale come back to seated so that's utpluti the upward lift it's how we end our traditional ashkanga practice but there's so much insight there into how you can begin each and every breath you can apply all these bandhas and all these techniques through your sun salutations of course we'll take a few breaths here back in the sitting position place your right hand onto your belly your left hand somewhere on the ribs exhale completely feel the right hand moving towards the spine and try to feel that there's a softness but that the right hand stays moving towards the spine as you inhale feeling that the left hand responds to that dynamic breath by lifting and spreading the rib cage and take a few breaths here feeling the act of the deep engagement of the bandhas as it shapes the breath which shapes the physical body and please remember that this yoga practice is completely accessible and available to you so even these deep and and subtle interesting concepts are completely available for you to integrate through your daily practice and i hope that that's of use to you as you continue forward into your journey into ashkanga


Kate M
2 people like this.
I like to focus on the way these bandhas (mula, uddhiyana, jalandhara) are present in "normal" breathing. We might choose to exaggerate these actions, but they are, actually, entirely natural.
Dylan Bernstein
Yeah! Thanks Kate , there's a bit of debate in terms of pedagogy. Should we teach bandha at all?! Or should they just naturally occur without an over focus? I suppose like all debates, the middle way is probably best.
Kate M
3 people like this.
My personal experience is that a "too tight" focus on breathing techniques, and bandha, seems to "mess up" that natural flow of energy and breath... I like to use adho mukha svanasa to teach mula and uddhiyana bandhas because they just naturally manifest there... I agree with you - the middle way! As I get older, what is less intrusive, and more gentle, seems to make more sense : )
Katarina V
1 person likes this.
Thank you once more, Dylan for a very good practice and tutorial. Look forward to following my own development.
Susan J
2 people like this.
I really like the pranayama explanations. Well demonstrated too.
Tracy C
1 person likes this.
Thanks so much for this.... did the last three videos in a row. Very fun,,, I loved the sense of expansiveness and felt that my energy filled the entire room... Big cheers!!And Big Smile to you....
Dylan Bernstein
Tracy C What a wonderful testimonial! So glad that the tutorials and practices are working together to expand your awareness of prana! Big cheers, blessings and a huge smile to you! D
Janet F
I love your teaching.
Sarah K
1 person likes this.
I’m really enjoying your class. But I wanted to ask if you could please revisit the way you address menstruation. It’s probably more of an individual preference these days than any real issue with blood flow. Traditional yogis did not have as much access to medical science as we do now. And I think it’s ok to update the language to encourage women to practice if they are feeling up to it because it can be quite helpful actually. 

Thank you again for your teachings. 
Elizabeth M
Dear Sarah K - We love your viewpoint on practicing Uddiyana Kriya during menstruation, and agree that these practices can be approached on a more person-by-person basis. As Dylan mentions, the general teaching has been to avoid it. But some individuals might find relief from menstrual cramps through the practice of Uddiyana Kriya. The invitation is always to listen to ones own body, and do what feels right. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to refresh our viewpoints on these practices. We are really grateful you are here 🙏 
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