by julee snyder
Let’s begin by warming the relationship of the abdominals and the breath. Come to rest on your back and place your hands on your belly. As you inhale, feel how the belly softly rises into your hands. And as you exhale, feel how it falls. This is the belly breath. After a few rounds of the belly breath, begin to actively engage the abdominals in towards your spine as you exhale by using the transverse abdominus, that muscle that wraps around your midsection like a corset. This should allow you to squeeze out any last bit of breath. As you inhale, release the abdominals and allow the belly breath. Continue a few rounds like this and then rest.
If you are new to the practice, stop there and practice that much for a few days. When you are ready, you’ll move to the next phase. Continue as before. Inhale, allow the belly to rise. Exhale, engage the abdominals to squeeze the breath out. Then hold the breath out while you lift both the pelvic diaphragm, engaging mula bandha, and the thoracic diaphragm. This is uddiyana bandha. Slowly release and allow yourself a couple of natural easy breaths before repeating. After a few rounds, stop there and resume the practice another day.
As with any of these practices, they can be strong muscular actions or more energetic. After you have practiced as above for a period of time, start to take the practice into sitting. Find a comfortable sitting position. As you inhale, feel the length of your spine. As you exhale, allow your spine to round into a C-curve position using the abdominals to squeeze the last bit of breath out. Inhale, and sit tall again. On your next round, begin your C-curve from a lift of the mula bandha, but continue to engage the abdominals to squeeze the air out. Inhale, sit tall and breath normally again. On your next exhale, repeat the rounding of the spine while engaging mula bandha and the abdominals. Hold the breath out and add your uddiyana bandha, with a lift and hollowing of the belly up into the diaphragm. Notice the closing of the glottis. Release the glottis and the diaphragm as you sit tall and allow the breath to flow in. Breathe normally for a few rounds, and repeat.
With this practice, less is more. Practice over time to reap the benefits. Begin to notice places in your everyday life and daily practice where you find a spontaneous engagement of the bandhas. Play with it in cat pose, downdog, inversions, arm balances, and more. Feel free to share your findings here.