Sometimes a comment on a YTU blog post sparks a reply from the author. Other times, it starts a four-way dialog! That’s what happened when Joanna-Lynn McBain left a comment on Louis Jackson’s article “Building A Coregeous Embodymap, Part 3: Uddiyana Bandha.” Louis replied, and I pulled in fellow YTU Teachers Kristin Marvin, Dawn McCrory and Keith Wittenstein (selected because of their expertise with athletes) to give their responses. The dialog was too good to relegate to the Trash folder, and so with permission from all participants, it is presented here in two parts (watch for the second half Friday!)
Here’s Joanna-Lynn’s original question about uddiyana bandha:
“I tried this tonight on my living room floor and was not sure if I was sucking or vacuuming enough to fully get the effects of this movement. My other question would be how many times a week and for how long should one do this to see a noticeable improvement of stamina? I work with elite athletes and this would be a really good exercise for me to incorporate into my sessions with them. Thanks for this.”
Louis responded with the following:
Dear Ms. Joanna-Lynn:
I loved your question and I wanted to make sure I’m doing it justice. I’m cc’ing my friend Sarah Court who edits the blog to see if she can help further the dialogue, and point us to some other folks in hopes of expanding the dialogue and creating a concrete answer and practical program. While this is a bit out of my scope, however, I’ve shared my personal experience below for whatever it’s worth. Here we go…
I’m a yogi; and a Yoga Tuned Up Yogi at that. Compared to my fellow practitioners, I’m definitely ‘elite’ when it comes to strength, breath control, and stamina. But, as you know, our stamina is measured in a completely different way than other ‘elite’ athletes because of our conditioning. For example, my brother is a nationally ranked, professional triathlete. He can easily run a marathon at a six-minute per mile pace and is about to complete his fifth Iron Man. His cardiovascular health is tremendous. However, I brought him to one of the yoga classes that I regularly attend and he was huffing and puffing, sweating bullets, and breathing out of his mouth after the first 25 minutes. I was just getting warmed up. The challenging part hadn’t even started yet. In the course of a two-hour practice, I rarely breathe through my mouth (even at the most intense). However, I can’t run ONE six-minute mile. Likewise, if my brother and I were to sprint up and down an ice rink and do explosive movements for thirty minutes, I’m sure we’d drop like flies. And if one of your hockey players came to my class, he’d probably experience a similar fate as my brother. So, I can’t really answer this question of stamina. It’s relative to the way we are conditioned and trained. I don’t know enough to explain why this is so. Maybe you do?
That being said, I know that I have a tremendous amount of stamina above and beyond my fellow yogi colleagues after practicing uddiyanna bandha daily for the past year. When I say daily, I engage it a minimum of thirty times in the course of a ninety-minute practice. The holds range from 5-10 seconds and the ‘depth’ depends on the intensity of the posture which I’m holding, if I’m doing it in a transition between postures, my relationship to gravity, and where it comes in my sequence of poses. I liken this to when I lifted weights in college: the result for the targeted muscle would depend on how much weight, how many repetitions, the exercise itself, and where it was in the routine.
So, again, can’t really give you a solid prescription, Do X and the result will be Y.
However, I can say this. You can measure progress by the level of proprioception of the diaphragm itself. There are not many ways to feel the diaphragm directly, but you can feel where it is attached. Review where it is attached and make sure to palpate it on your athletes (if you haven’t already). The more you practice uddiyanna bandha, you’ll notice a change in the ability to intercept and FEEL the connections everywhere and the layers all around it. When the diaphragm stretches, the transverse, the internal intercostals, obliques and all the muscles around the spine must accommodate. The result will eventually be the ability to hold the ‘suction’ deeper and deeper as the ribcage expands and the abdominals passively stretch. Make sense?
I have some ideas about what you could offer your athletes but I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. What do you teach your athletes about posture and what’s a basic session look like? I’d love to share with my brother whatever it is that you come up with because he’s asked me similar questions about training.
Kristin Marvin chimed in next:
You have to figure out what they need most and what’s most appropriate for them.
If they have little awareness of their diaphragms, if they are anxious or overly excited before games, if they have a lot of groin issues, if they have core instability, if they have a hard time down regulating then do it lots to get them used to it. They can then do it themselves and really have the POWER of their breath, their nervous system, their true lung capacity, etc. BUT, if it’s just easier for them to use a ball on their bellies, so be it! Uddiyana bandha can take a while for people to get, so be patient. Perhaps your athletes will get it right away… and perhaps not.
You have to make sure you explain it properly to their level so it makes a difference to them. You can’t do an exercise out of the blue and say just do it, it’s good. Also, if you give them an exercise everyday, you had better do it everyday yourself to understand and truly appreciate the benefits. Context, context, context. Whatever sport it is, give examples based on mental, physical and emotional preparation and wellbeing of the athlete.
Is the athlete training to train? Is the athlete training to participate? Is the athlete training to compete? Is the athlete training to win? Make sure you bring the appropriate CONTEXT to your reasoning why YOU decide to do it X times a week.
Oh, but we’re not done yet. Friday’s post will bring two more responses!