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.
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?
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.
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 :).