Your core is much more than the 6-pack we strive so hard (or not so hard) to get. There’s a layer of muscles behind that called your Transverse Abdominals. These muscles, along with your hip flexors, are deep core muscles that are needed to obtain that “effortless” float to and from the top of your mat or to press into a handstand. So if these muscles are so deep, how do we engage them?!?!? So glad you asked. In yoga, we use a little thing we call bandhas. Bandha literally translates to “lock” or to “hold”. Essentially, we engage a part of the body that allows for a deeper core engagement and where we lock, or hold, energy in and up. We have three bandhas in the body, but for the sake of core engagement, I am only going to discuss two: Uddiyana and Mula Bandha.
Mula Bandha is located at the base of your pelvis, the perineum. Stay with me here! You engage this area by lifting the muscles of the pelvic floor, the same muscles you would engage if you had to stop yourself from peeing. Now, let’s go back to the TVA (transverse abdominals). Your TVA muscles connect to your pelvis. When you engage Mula bandha, you can effectively and efficiently engage your TVA. So even if you don’t believe in energy lifting up through the body, engage Mula bandha for the sheer fact that it allows you to engage those deep core muscles. And ladies, that’s just the yoga benefits. Trust me, there are more benefits outside of yoga that we can discuss later. Call me! ;)
Uddiyana Bandha AKA Upward Flying (how cool is that?!?!) is located in between your pubic bone and belly button. Engaging Uddiyana bandha doesn’t mean tightening. It’s a lifting IN and UP. Think about trying to pull your belly up into your ribcage. This bandha allows the energy to lift up with much more force/strength than Mula bandha.
There should be a light engagement throughout your practice, however to fully practice, begin standing with your feet a little farther than hip distance apart and take your hands to your knees.…
- Inhale fully through the nose.
- Exhale strongly through the mouth or nose.
- Close the mouth (Do not breathe in)
- Suck the belly and all it’s contents towards the back. (The belly will look hollow and concave.)
- Hold for as long as you can. (Breath retention)
- When you're ready, release your belly back to it’s natural state.
- Inhale and come back to standing.
This fullest expression of Uddiyana bandha should only be practiced on an empty stomach. Try it with a full belly and you’ll quickly realize why.