By: Emil Lars
Bandha means “lock” in yogic philosophy. Performing certain locks directs the flow of energy in the body. It is said that the practice of Uddiyana Bandha allows one to control the breath. Controlling the breath controls the consciousness. This explains why it is important to perform proper breathe-up (relaxation breaths) before a freedive to help slow down the heart rate and to calm the body and the mind.
In freediving, the lower the residual volume (the volume of air remaining in the lungs after a maximal exhalation), the better we can handle the increasing pressure during descent. By reducing the residual volume through flexibility training, we can go deeper before experiencing equalization issues.
In Uddiyana Bandha, the lower abdomen is contracted by pulling it inward and upward. This motion stretches your diaphragm upward. Over time, the practice of Uddiyana Bandha lowers the residual volume. Thoracic flexibility is key to a safer, deeper, and more comfortable freedive.
In freediving training, Uddiyana Bandha is usually performed in combination with stretching routines that target the thoracic area.
You also might have observed freedivers perform wave-like side-to-side motions of the abdomen while doing Uddiyana Bandha. This is called Nauli. Nauli massages the internal organs and acts as an internal cleansing and purification technique. Nauli keeps the gastro-intestinal and alimentary system balanced and functioning smoothly. In freediving, Nauli helps stretch the diaphragm even further.
So how do you perform Uddiyana Bandha? Inhale deeply through the nose, then exhale fully through the mouth as you touch the chin to the chest. With empty lungs, and while keeping the throat shut, pull your abdomen inward and upward. Hold for a few seconds. Before inhaling, relax the abdomen. Inhale through the nose with control. Rest a bit before doing another round. Gradually increase the repetition and the length of the hold. Work on lifting the diaphragm and relaxing during practice. It is best to practice early in the morning with an empty stomach.
How about Nauli? Standing with the legs about two feet apart, palms resting on bent knees, and while holding an Uddiyana Bandha (diaphragm inward and upward), contract the sides of the abdomen. This will tense the middle section of your tummy. Start rolling the abdomen from side to side by pressing on alternate hands. It may be tricky at first, but you will get a feel for it after some practice. Over time, you’ll have enough abdominal control to roll it without having to press on the hands. Practice, practice, practice, and you will eventually get it.
Freediving and breath-holding can be dangerous if practiced without proper knowledge and education. They should be practiced with a trained buddy or a qualified instructor. Attend a formal freediving course. And do attend a proper yoga class, it’s good for you!