When Joanna-Lynn McBain posted a question to Louis Jackson‘s article about uddiyana bandha, she never expected the response she got! Not only Louis, but Kristin Marvin, Dawn McCrory and Keith Wittenstein all provided their expertise to answer her. Louis and Kristin’s responses are in Part 1 of this article. Here in Part 2, Dawn and Keith weigh in.
To review, here’s Joanna-Lynn’s original question:
“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.”
Dr Dawn’s response:
Kristin has done a ‘Marvinlous’ job [as seen in Part 1 of this article] at outlining the need for context that must drive how often the practice of diaphragmatic stretch is performed. Remember, it is a stretch of muscular and fascial tissues and can be seen as such when prescribing doses. It certainly will not hurt to stretch everyday! For some athletes this will be maintenance of tissues and for many others it will be therapeutic dosages of extensibility and respiratory capacity improvements. I do believe it is uber-important to begin the dialog with manual palpation and manipulation along the costal border and Coregeous ball rolling across the thoraco-abdominal region to create a little pliability and awaken the proprioceptors of the region, just as we would any other regional topography.
Dosing should always be athlete specific for best practice and greatest benefit. If an athlete has limited time and very tight hamstrings/glutes, time well spent here addressing tightness and potential underlying weakness as well as postural faults takes precedence (developing injury resistance) over adding stamina with large doses of diaphragmatic pliability exercises. That said, any and all athletes will benefit from regular sessions addressing the diaphragm and related tissues (don’t forget QL and psoas along with TA, IO).
This may seem like hedging the question but like Kristin said, frequency really does depend on many factors. Remember to build in time for tissue exploration with both manual and Coregeous ball manipulation prior to stretching. IMO it takes a good 10 minute block of time to palpate, roll (Coregeous ball thorax and abdomen, alpha for QL and psoas), and then perform a few stretches to get the most benefit, especially with athletes who are new to the conversation (most!).
I look forward to hearing from Keith as well.
Keith Wittenstein’s wisdom:
First, let us not just assume that uddiyana bandha in and of itself will result in better performance for hockey players or athletes in general. Improved performance in athletes hinges on myriad factors. Remember when Lance Armstrong ran the NYC Marathon? People hypothesized that since he was possibly the most dominant endurance athlete in the world, he would crush the marathon. Long story short: he did not. Having a great set of lungs in and of itself does not ensure success in all athletic endeavors. Focusing on the breath mechanics does not ensure success in anaerobic endeavors.
That being said, there are numerous benefits to doing uddiyana bandha and other pranayamas to improve the breath and heal the soft tissues related to breathing. Athletes should do these things because it’s good for them regardless of performance.
However, improved performance requires teaching the athlete the skill of breathing, the skill of posture, the skill of position, the skill of pain management and the skills of their sport. The more you can tie in breathing and posture mechanics to their sports skills, the better they will be. However, without that it is often luck that determines whether these separate skills will coalesce into something more.
Here’s the rub: In order to “sell” it to athletes you have to sell them on the performance gain from doing it. So in order to do that, you really have to connect the dots. What about uddiyana bandha will improve performance directly? Can you actually demonstrate a difference? Test/retest?
I have been able to demonstrate improved pain management through breathing/diaphragm exercises also improved posture and shoulder positioning through breathing/diaphragm exercises. I have been able to demonstrate immediate strength gains from better breathing mechanics. That “sells” athletes on these things pretty quickly. Since you probably aren’t doing these classes on ice, you need to tie the breathing exercises to other more “accepted” correlates of athletic performance: strength, balance, flexibility, pain, positioning, etc.
Hope this helps.
And finally, I couldn’t resist including Joanna-Lynn’s response to all the attention her question received:
Wow Wow Wow,
I am absolutely floored at the level of support I am getting from so many of you. It brings tears to my eyes to think that you would take the time out of your day to write back to little old me in Ottawa to help me better understand the power of breath and incorporating it into my sessions with these extraordinary athletes.
For this I thank you and have read, re-read and then when I was done reading them I read them again LOL. I have taken it all in and have summarized the various e-mails into one short paragraph:
Uddiyana bandha can be used for my athletes however there are multiple factors involved into whether or not they will even benefit depending on where they are in their own practice and personal development. I must take into consideration EACH player and their level of fitness and stamina. It is not a simple equation and there is no clear cut answer as to the number of times one should do this to notice an improvement because not one person is the same on so many diff levels of strength, mental maturity, level of stamina they already have. Essentially if and when the summer draws to a close and I feel as though they are in a place of security with me and what I have taught them thus far and the strides they have gained in the gym while doing their strength training then and only then will the be OPENED to allowing me to show them this breath technique. NOT only that but I also will be OPENED and ready as I will have gained their trust and they mine.
Hope that makes sense? Because it really does to me.
In closing, I again must say at how well supported I am and know beyond the shadow of a doubt I am in good hands with my new fellow Yoga Tune Up® practitioners. For this I am grateful.
Thanks very very much
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Wonderful follow-up from such knowledgeable experts. Thank you!
I enjoy moving forward remembering that everyone is unique, and what works for someone, may not show the same results for another. But results are the name of the game…If you can’t prove it, skip it (at least with clients).
Thanks for sharing these quite thorough and illuminating insights. I find it very motivating to think of uddiyana bandha as conditioning for the diaphragm, and am now inspired to try to incorporate it more into my classes and my own practice!
I love this quote from Dr. Dawn, “Remember, it is a stretch of muscular and fascial tissues and can be seen as such when prescribing doses”. This is an easy one for me to forget. I come from an athletic background, so sometimes things that seem minimal or slow are challenging for me to wrap my head around. Because of my background, I automatically find it harder to see value in things that don’t make you immediately drip with sweat. But, it’s a mindset that I’ve worked and continue to work VERY hard to change and so when Dr. Dawn points out that you have to remind yourself that uddiyana bandha is much more than breathing, it’s also internal movement (and a bunch of other things that I”m not going to mention here), I find that to be very helpful. For some reason when you can visualize what’s going on inside of you, as opposed to just “practicing breathing”, which makes the practice of breathing sound so minimal in many sense. But that picture that’s painted when you say breathing is stretching muscular tissue and fascia in at your abdomen, diaphragm and intercostals, that is really helpful to me and I’m sure even more helpful to athletes who may have a similar mindset to the one I had.
I absolutely loved reading this open discussion and hearing voices of many different Tune-Up teachers speaking about the diaphragm side by side.
I found these two parts really interesting and so so informative hearing the different responses.
I loved reading this two part post and the interaction between all of you intelligent yogis. I am writing my muscle paper on the diaphragm and I just keep getting more and more excited about teaching people how to be more connected to their breath and techniques to help massage, stretch and strengthen this amazing muscle in our body. However it is very true that people have to be ready and open to try Uddihyana Bhanda to really see and feel the benefits. Thank you for the reminder too that if we truly want our students to understand the true benefits as a teacher I to need to be doing the same regime as them. Love all the support out there in the YTU world.
So much information in these posts and comments! Fantastic resource…thanks!
Dude. This is one of a MILLION reasons why I LOVE being a part of the YTU community. I wish there were more of these documented multi-way conversations/questions/responses. This is why I LOVE LOVE LOVE the YTU Teachers FB page and try to check in with it daily. Thank you, Sarah, for keeping this intact for posterity! xo
I love the idea of althletes physically allowing the abdominal breathing muscles to recover as well as down regulate the nervous system. We know that some yoga poses are not right for everyone all the time or can be overdone. Can Uddiyana bandha be done too often…can the diaphragm get over-stretched?
UUdyana has been a source of awakening in me, in classical pilates it is all about the sucking in and up and closing down the rib cage so much that you never stretch the deep fascia that is waiting to be intimate with us.
I remember the first time I actually breathed abdominally. I felt a wave of emotion come over me that was unexpected. It is I feel an intimate breath to teach in a way, can be vulnerable and sometimes better to be taught one on one. At-least for me who is still learning and feeling my way through breath.
thanks for posting this, both for the YTU info about Uddihyana Bandha, which is great, and for the aliveness and interconnectedness of the blog – it is a bit like the diaphram!
Great conclusion to this blog. A reminder to focus on what the most immediate and important issue. Why are we doing this, what will it benefit. It also makes me think about how sometimes we have to test things out to see if there are results.
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Since I am not teaching athletes and have not envisioned this for my future the best part of this article for me was seeing the support of the YTU community in action!! I have been hearing about it throughout my teacher training and to be privy to that support via people I don’t know is reassuring for the questions I am certain will arise for me in the future. It is really great to know that this is a community of enthusiastic and caring like-minded individuals. Thanks for that!!
Two more great responses to the question about Uddiyana Bandha. I really appreciate Dr. Dawn’s input about preparing the region before engaging uddiyana bandha by manual palpation and manipulation along the costal border. Next time I do the pose I will be sure to take her advice. Thanks!