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!
Read part 2 of this post here.
SOS: Save Your Body From Rib Thrusting
I can not agree more that practicing on our own bodies over a length of time can be the greatest gift to our students. Not to mention context!…Isn’t that what it’s all about? That can change everything!
I can’t wait to read part 2…and add this breath practice back into my day.
I try to impress on my clients in yoga that there are many ways to work the breath. Let the stomach expand, don’t let it expand, expand stomach and ribs, breathe through the mouth, breathe only through the nose, move the ribs one way, move them another way, change the pace . . . more options with a supple system. I have not been teaching UB specifically, however, but after my YTU training this weekend, I am going to now!
The repetitiveness of context is so important. In training we are focusing on it like mad and as most people don’t know where or what the Diaphragm is, understanding that without it you can’t breathe, workout, walk, eat, and survive will turn them onto it. This post also reminds me to actually do uddiyana bandha, and that it can be done multiple times a day every day and is safe wonderful to know. As far as context goes too, teaching how interconnected all the muscles and fascia of the body are and how each part affects another is probably super relatable for an athlete (especially runners where breath is essential).
Thanks for sharing this interaction. I am officially making a commitment to adding UB into my daily practice.
I’ve been practicing uddiyana bandha for years; luckily I learned it during my first YTT. I had not idea that it increased endurance, other than through my anecdotal experience. But I attributed it to sun salutations and lots of deep breathing. New layers of uddiyana!
Well, the first thing I have to say is that this really makes me want to begin practicing and mastering uddiyana bandha. We haven’t covered it yet in Level 1 and I’m hoping that we do. I’ve had chronic chest pain for the last 6 years, which I know is a muskuloskeletal issue (as opposed to a something related to how well my heart is functioning), and I’ve been suspecting lately that it’s impart because I’m not breathing very efficiently. So the idea of learning this and practicing this, is very exciting to me. On another note, I love that the responses here aren’t hard and fast. If they were, I think those answers would probably be doing the question-asker more harm than good. Finally, this is a concept that Jill has been hammering into our heads during our training: the introduction of NOVEL STIMULUS, will yet again serve to outline “blind, deaf and dump spots” and force our bodies to learn to adapt to this novel stimulus in a new way, resulting in increased and usually better overall muskuloskeletal performance.
Uddiyana Bandha looks so different in each individual, I used to be able to get quite a deep depression in my gut, nothing like Jill’s, but to the point I could grasp my lower ribs with my hands. Now with the modest amount of core work I do, I don’t see the same depression even after coregeous ball work, but the feeling in my ribs and diaphragm is similar. My point is the physical appearance of the pose does not indicate the effort and stretch the diaphragm is experiencing. So with athletes with strong cores even if you soften them up and get the abdominal wall flexible they may not have the space due to the muscle bulk to suck their navels anywhere close to their spines, they may not look like they are in the pose but indeed they are. Don’t let them think it has to look like the pictures or even your demo, to be beneficial for them.
A truly thought provoking blog and I’m looking forward to learning more about uddiyana bandha tomorrow in my yoga tune up teacher training as it was sadly not emphasized when I did my 200 hour teacher training.
Great chiming in from different perspectives. Especially interested as both the diaphragm and uddiyana bhanda have been things I have been researching further into.
Is this bhanda engagable in virtually any posture? Now that I am realizing its potential and need to practice it more, I don’t want to use it at an inappropriate time and hurt something.
Great discussion and it is one of the many reasons I love the teachers of YTU. Uddiyanna bandha has been one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given by Jill. Thank you Sarah for not relegating this dialog to the Trash folder.
There is so much variation on how receptive different people are going to be to this work and how carefully or quickly we as teachers can move in and give it to them. I like the suggestion of the range of perhaps just starting with a ball and building up to practising uddihyana bandha daily. Thanks!
This blog brings up an interesting point. What is the context? Why are doing this? How will it benefit someone and in what aspects? What applies to different modalities? Why is it different? The image of an athlete that is running a 6 minute mile and struggling in a yoga class is food for thought. It makes me want to figure out why. Different conditioning, yes, but is it the nervous system being taxed by the different information of movement? The change in the relationship to gravity. How adaptable are we to different stresses?
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Woot! Woot! I love when I have a question churning around in my brain and voila there is the answer!! I just recently came out of the Level 1 Yoga Tune Up Teacher Training and although I have practiced uddiyana bandha in previous yoga classes with my teacher, Amanda Tripp I never felt like I ‘got’ or ‘understood’ the core engagement until 3 days ago!! Another ah-ha moment! Now, of course I want to do it all the time and with the knowledge of building my proprioception and internal bodymapping I am even more excited. It is something I hope to one day incorporate into my classes but not until I first spend a little time with it. Now on too Part 2. Thanks!!
These are in-depth responses to the question of when and how often to engage uddiyana bhanda. This has historically been a difficult pose for me because my throat shuts and I feel like I’m suffocating. The more I do it, however, the easier it gets–and the more I feel the deeply satisfying suction that stretches the diaphragm. Thanks for sharing. On to Part 2.
When I read this post, immediately afterwards I went back and read “Building a Coregeous EmbodyMap, Part 3…” so I could completely understand everything being discussed in its totality. Then everything made much more sense, because the exercise he was discussing regrading the stretching of the diaphragm was the exact exercise we did in Teacher Training today. I agree that the idea of stretching the diaphragm has been a difficult idea to grasp until today. I’ve been a singer my entire life, and although I know how to use my diaphragm extremely well, and since I’ve been practicing yoga, the use of my diaphragm and breath control has only improved and increased, stretching it is an entirely different concept. The exercise we did today, finally felt like a stretch, and is something I would use for myself, yoga students, and singing students.
Thank you for sharing this with the world! Many questions I have asked myself and answers from a top panel!
Excuse me while I get on my coregeous ball…;)