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Thoracic Flexibility: Uddiyana Bandha, Nauli and Freediving

July 20, 2014 | Emil Lars

Bandha means lock in yogic philosophy.  Performing certain locks directs the flow of energy in the body.  It is said that the UddiyanaFrontpractice of Uddiyana Bandha allows you to control your breath.  Control of the breath controls the consciousness.  This is why when we do our breathe-up as freedivers, we’re able to slow down our heart rate and relax our body and mind.

In freediving, we understand that the lower your residual volume is (the volume of air remaining in the lungs after a maximal exhalation), the better you’re able to handle depth and the better you’re able to equalize.  In SSI Level 2 & 3 lecture, you learn that by simply reducing your residual volume, you’re able to go deeper before experiencing equalization issues.

In Uddiyana Bandha, the lower abdomen is contracted by  pulling it inward and upward.  This stretches your diaphragmUddiyanaSide upward.  Over time, the practice of Uddiyana Bandha will lower your residual volume.  Your diaphragm, thoracic cavity, and your equalization will be able to withstand more pressure which means more depth.

If you need another reason why do Uddiyana Bandha, it is taught in yogic philosophy that this practice will make you young.  This is primarily the reason why I do it everyday.  And I think it works.

Freedivers usually perform Uddiyana Bandha with certain thoracic stretching routines to deepen the stretch.  Thoracic flexibility is key to a safe and comfortable freedive.  This is covered in our Level 2 course.

You might have seen freedivers do weird movements with their belly while doing Uddiyana Bandha.  This is called Nauli.  Nauli massages your internal organs acting as an internal cleansing and purification technique.  It is said in yogic texts, and quite the obvious, that Nauli keeps the gastro-intestinal and alimentary system balanced and functioning smoothly.  In freediving, the additional movement stretches the diaphragm and thoracic area even more.  It also gives the impression among your freediving peers that you’re working hard on becoming the best freediver that you can be.

NauliSo how do you do Uddiyana Bandha?  Inhale deeply through the nose, then exhale fully through the mouth as you touch your chin to chest.  With empty lungs, pull your abdomen inward and upward.  Hold.  Before inhaling, relax your abdomen.  Inhale through the nose with control.  Rest a bit before doing another round.  Gradually increase the repetition and the length of hold.  Work on lifting up the diaphragm and relaxing  during practice.  It’s best to practice early in the morning on empty stomach.

How about Nauli?  Standing with feet about two feet apart, palms resting on bent knees, and while holding Uddiyana Bandha, contract the sides of your abdomen.  This will tense the middle section of your abdomen.  Similar to learning Frenzel equalization, this will require some practice, but you will eventually get it.  I promise.  After a few sessions, you’re going to want to start rolling your abdomen from side to side.  This can be done by pressing on alternate hands.  No worries, it’s only impossible in the beginning.

NauliRoll

Good luck and happy freediving!

Disclaimer:  Freediving can be dangerous if practiced without proper knowledge and education.  They should be practiced with a qualified instructor.  Attend a formal freediving course.  And do attend a proper yoga class, it’s good for you!

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