Morning Yoga Rituals

Start your day on a positive note with morning yoga rituals. They are a great way to keep your abdominals toned and optimise internal organ functionality.  It is best to practice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

A few weeks ago a group of 14 of us started out on a 7 day mindfulness cleanse and as part of this challenge we started each day with our morning rituals, as below:

1/ Warm shower with a cold burst just before getting out.

2/ Dry skin brushing to stimulate bloody circulation and get rid of dead skin cells.

3/ Oil body in the shower and dab dry.

4/ Uddiyana Bandhas (on an empty stomach and not during your moon cycle).

5/ A warm drink of apple cider vinegar and tsp honey if needed or freshly squeezed lemon in warm water.

6/ Meditation.

The morning ritual I would like to introduce to you is Uddiyana Bandhas which is a great exercise to maintain optimum bowel function and healthy internal organs.  I first came across these exercises when I picked up my first yoga book back in 1991 while backpacking through Africa.  During my travels I pretty much wore the book out but have been practicing ever since.

What are Uddiyana bandhas?

morning yoga rituals

uddiyana bandhas

Uddiyana bandha is considered one of the three classical bandha asanas and is not only practiced to strengthen and tone abdominal muscles, but also to practice meditative, controlled breathing and to energize the body. In Sanskrit, uddiyana means “upward” and bandha means “lock”.

When we practice this exercise we apply 3 locks – Maha bandha or “Great lock”.  These consist of:

1/ Mula bandha – root lock. “Even an old person becomes young by constantly practicing Mula Bandha” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

2/ Uddiyana bandha – upward abdominal lock.

3/ Jalandra bandha – throat lock.

Why do we apply these locks?

In brief, when we apply mulabandha (root lock) we are contracting our pelvic floor muscles, perinium and drawing pranic energy upwards towards our dantien (core energy centre).

Practicing uddiyana bandhas is the safest form of breath retention because it creates a vacuum in the chest instead of additional pressure. The vacuum in the chest also improves circulation to the abdominal organs because it draws blood from the abdominal cavity into the chest and back to the heart. Decreased pressure in the capillary beds and veins of the abdominal organs will facilitate more blood flow through those organs as well as more efficient fluid exchange with their tissues keeping them healthy and working optimally.

Exhaling as much as possible will push the dome of the diaphragm to the highest possible position that can be accomplished with the abdominal muscles. Performing uddiyana bandha at that time pulls the dome of the diaphragm from above to an even higher position, stretching its muscle fibers and connective tissue.

Jalandra bandha – throat lock. This needs to be engaged after the sequential order of Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha to ensure there is no pressure going into the head. The muscles of the front of the neck (sternocleidomastoid and scalenes) draw the chin towards the lifted superior portion of the sternum stimulating the thyroid. One of the main physiological benefits of engaging the throat lock is the stimulation of the thyroid which balances the regulation of hormones responsible for efficient metabolism.


morning yoga rituals


here are several variations that can be practiced once the initial uddiyana (flapping) becomes easy.

Nauli kriya (Kriyas are cleansing techniques used to purify the body and mind which ultimately open the pathways of the body, the nadis, the energy body, the mind, and the heart. The purpose of kriya is to eliminate any blockages which prevent the proper absorption of pranic energy into the human organism) is when the rectus abdominis muscles are alternately isolated and rolled from side to side.  And lastly we can begin to isolate each side of the rectus abdominis, as the video shows.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice of uddiyana bandhas, beware this video might put you off :).

Namaste Julie.


About Julie Stephens

I started my yoga journey approximately 30 years ago and after many years of travelling around the world I decided I was ready to commit myself to becoming a yoga teacher. The draw card for me was/is more of the spiritual aspect as I have always been curious about the bigger picture, meditating and finding contentment. The physical side was an added bonus. In the late 90s, I was living on the Gold Coast in Australia and practising regularly at the Gold Coast Yoga Centre. In 2000, I started my yoga teacher training apprenticeship – at that time it didn’t have an end to it. I was basically told that I would be finished my training when they saw that I was ready. This took 18 months of practising six days a week, 30 hours a week. There were no excuses for missing the training and if I didn’t turn up, I would have been expelled from the program. With hindsight, this was one of the most important lessons I learnt, as it gave me the dedication to continue my six-day-a-week practice no matter what the circumstances were and I can tell you, there were many interesting situations where I would be practising amongst the local people in Mongolia, China, The Tibetan plateau, Nepal, India etc, on trains, planes, airport disabled toilets because they were big… anyway, my point being, is that I had to maintain this combination of devotional practice and study which has allowed me to gain a much deeper knowledge and understanding of the amazing art and science of yoga. Since I qualified I have owned a yoga studio on the Gold Coast, taught in Korea, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia, Bali and of course New Zealand, which is where I am now based. For me this has been the perfect balance of doing what I love, teaching yoga and travelling. I am blessed to have trained with a lot of great inspirational teachers along this journey, such as Erich Schiffman, Donna Farhi, Seane Corn, Shiva Rea, Rodney Yee, Ana Forest, David and Sharon, the founders of Jivamukti, Andrey Lappa from Universal Yoga, Nicky Knoff (Iyengar), John Friend (Anusara), David Soul Ray, Lance Schuler, Clive Sheridan and of course my teachers: Kameron Story, Mark Togni and Suzanne Grey from whom I learnt the Ashtanga Primary and Second series, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative Yoga, meditation and pranayama. The style of yoga I predominantly teach is Vinyasa Flow, which leads you through a flowing series of postures with an emphasis on the breath. Options are given and the yoga class is structured so that each pose prepares the student for the next. Everybody can do my yoga from a beginner level, pre-natal, general through to advanced. In the beginner and pre-natal yoga classes the emphasis is on the foundations of yoga with the correct use of props ie; blankets, blocks, straps and bolsters, to enable the student to practise safely. I also teach Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga. I offer beginners’ classes and yoga therapy. The class environment is positive and fun, so you can feel at ease and comfortable to practice at your own level, after all it is ultimately about your own self exploration. As a yoga teacher I feel truly honoured and privileged to be able to share such an ancient practice – one that offers not only great physical benefits, but ultimately allows us to be mindful, happy and content.

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