iii) Uḍḍiyāna bandha
The bandha-s and mudra-s that are being discussed here should be practiced in empty stomach. Similarly, Mūla bandha, aśvini mudra and vajroli mudra should be practiced only after excretion and urination.
Uḍḍiyāna means flying up. Uḍḍiyāna bandha is contracting abdominal muscles, so that, prāṇa moves up the spine towards higher chakras instead of moving to the lower chakras. During this practice diaphragm moves up pushing prāṇa towards anāhata and higher chakras. This bandha is to be learnt in two stages; first by standing and next by sitting.
Stand erect by keeping a distance of about 12 inches between the feet; comfortable standing position is more important than religiously following any prescribed distance between the feet. Spine should be erect and this can be ensured by standing comfortably and confidently in standing posture. Do a few rounds of normal breathing in this posture.
Now slightly bend the body forward by bending the knees and with stretched palms hold the middle portion of both the thighs; right palm on right thigh and left palm on left thigh as shown in the picture. Bend marginally at the elbows to enable forward bending. Bend forward as much as possible, so that chin comes very close to kūrma nāḍi as discussed in jālandhara bandha in the previous part. While bending forward, expel all the air within. If the entire air is not expelled inhale one more time, maintaining the above posture. When settled in this posture, push all the air within by contracting the abdomen. Now the lungs are without air. Continue to remain in this position, which is known, bāhya kumbhaka, contract the abdomen by pushing the abdominal area towards the spine and lift the abdominal portion towards thoracic area. Before contracting, one has to ensure that his chest is pushed forward and shoulders are marginally raised. These movements are needed to facilitate the movement of diaphragm upwards. Any wrong action could cause serious damage to abdominal organs. Though, it may appear simple, while practicing this, adequate care should be taken. By continuing the contraction, one has to move up his palms gradually towards the pelvic region and up. Gradually move to normal position, chin still in contact with the chest. Now release the abdominal contraction, lift the chin and inhale. All these three actions should be in succession and in the same order. It is important that one should not release jālandhara bandha without releasing uḍḍiyāna bandha. Now let us understand this step by step.
1. Stand erect with one foot gap between the feet.
2. Do a few rounds of normal breathing (normal breathing means only yogic breathing).
3. Now bend the head forward and press the opened up palms on mid thighs. Bend elbows to accommodate forward bending as shown in the above image. While bending forward, all the air within the lungs should be expelled by exhaling with force. There should be no retention of air in the lungs. This is known as bāhya kumbhaka.
4. Do jālandhara bandha, as discussed in the previous part. Chin should be in touch with kūrma nāḍi (do not over do this part. If one is not able to touch kūrma nāḍi with chin, it is not a problem. On the contrary, if pressure is applied to touch kūrma nāḍi with chin, this could end up in serious neck related problems). The red mark in the image is kūrma nāḍi.
5. Now contract the abdomen towards the spine and simultaneously lift the abdomen up, by pushing the diaphragm towards thoracic region. Push the chest forward and slightly lift the shoulders to accommodate the diaphragm (Diaphragm is a muscular portion that separates abdominal and thoracic regions. It’s up and down movement expands and contracts the lungs respectively). The relevant image is available in part two of this series. At this stage, the abdomen remains contracted, palms in mid thighs, jālandhara bandha in place. Now the reverse begins. In yoga practice, if a forward movement is done, same amount of backward movement is also done to balance the energy flow. Typically this means that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is one of the fundamental principles of yoga.
6. While continuing with jālandhara bandha and uḍḍiyāna bandha, move the palms slowly towards the pelvic region and come back to normal standing posture.
7. Release abdominal contraction (uḍḍiyāna bandha). While releasing uḍḍiyāna bandha, jālandhara bandha continues. Now the abdominal contraction is fully released. Now release jālandhara bandha and bring back the head to its normal position.
8. Now inhale slowly.
This completes one round. The whole movement should happen in few seconds, say in 30 to 40 seconds, in quick succession (1 to 8). This bandha helps in removing blocks in suṣumna (not granthi-s) and also activates maṇipūraka chakra. Uḍḍiyāna bandha also activates solar plexus (maṇipūraka chakra) which is one of the important centres for energy distribution in the body, emotional and mental balance.
b) Uḍḍiyāna bandha in sitting position:
After attaining mastery in the standing position, uḍḍiyāna bandha in sitting position should be practiced. There are no major variations, except the following.
1. Sit in a comfortable posture with one of the heels pressing perineum, as described in mūla bandha in the previous part. Spine should be erect and palms should touch the knees as explained in mūla bandha.
2. Inhale and exhale with force. Inhalation and exhalation should be only through nostrils, except otherwise specified. Do not inhale again. Remain in bāhya kumbhaka.
3. Raise the shoulders by straightening the elbows, apply pressure on the thighs with palms, and do jālandhara bandha. At this stage, spine in the thoracic region will be fully stretched.
4. Now contract the abdominal muscles (uḍḍiyāna bandha). Remain in this posture for about 10 to 15 seconds.
5. Now release uḍḍiyāna bandha, bring down the shoulders to normal position and finally release jālandhara bandha and inhale slowly. This is one round.
iv) Śāmbhavī mudra:
This is a mudra related to eyes. There is another mudra very closely associated with śāmbhavī mudra and this is known as nāsāgra dṛṣṭi (nāsikāgra means tip of the nose). Since both are needed while practicing kuṇḍalinī meditation, we need to understand both the mudras.
a) Śāmbhavī mudra: (with open eyes)
Śāmbhavī is derived from the word Śambhu or Śiva. Śāmbhava refers to worshipper of Śiva. Śāmbhavī means the Consort of Śiva, Parāśakti. Therefore, this mudra is related to both Śiva and Śakti. By properly using this mudra, kuṇḍalinī can be moved towards sahasrāra, where Śiva and Śakti unite.
This mudra is related to eye balls and can be practiced along with meditation. Overdoing this mudra could cause damage to retinal nerves. In the first stage, śāmbhavī mudra should be practiced with eyes open and after attaining perfection, this should be practiced with closed eyes. If this is practiced with eyes closed, pineal gland, which is known as gland of divinity, can be activated comfortably.
1. One has to take his/her normal meditative posture.
2. Close the eyes and take a couple of deep breaths (yogic breathing or diaphragm breathing or abdominal breathing refer to the same type breathing – contraction and expansion of abdomen, discussed in uḍḍiyāna bandha). Before beginning any yogic exercise such as mudra-s and bandha-s, it is advisable to practice deep breathing exercises in order to relax both body and mind. While doing deep breathing, close eyes lightly.
3. Now, open the eyes and focus on a particular point. In the initial stages, keep the right index finger just opposite to the nose by stretching the right hand to the maximum extent. Now look at the tip of the right index finger. In other words, focus both the eye balls on the tip of the finger.
4. Now move up the index finger and while moving the index finger upwards, continue to look at the tip of the index finger. Index finger can be lifted up to 12” from its original position. Without moving the neck, continue to fix gaze at the tip of the finger. The important factors are that head should not be moved up and down and there should be no tension in facial nerves and muscles. If the head is not kept straight, the ascension of kuṇḍalinī will face resistance in higher chakras. But, while practicing this, there are bound to be frowns in the forehead and tensions in facial nerves and muscles. This is to be avoided carefully. Similarly, if the index finger is moved upwards more than a foot there could be twin issues. One, head is bound to move upwards and secondly, there could be enormous strain on optical nerves. Therefore, it is extremely important to consciously avoid these twin issues.
5. Moving up the eyeballs and bringing back to the normal position is one round and in a session, maximum of only five rounds can be practiced.
6. After attaining perfection in the above practice, one can proceed to practice this with closed eyes.
b) Śāmbhavī mudra: (with closed eyes)
Same procedure as explained above is to be adopted. Please look at the image below.
You will find two spots one in red color and another is in green color. Red color is the pineal gland, the gland of divinity. The one in green color is pituitary gland, which is known as the master of all glands which also oversees the functions of pineal gland. Spiritual gland is only the pineal gland and not the pituitary gland. Since the pituitary gland is the master of all endocrine glands, pituitary gland is often misconstrued as the spiritual gland. Now using the same procedure explained above, one should try to look at the pineal gland which is situated deep inside the frontal bone (forehead area; frontal bone is a bony structure forming the anterior part of the cranium within which frontal lobes of the brain are placed). The pineal gland is called third eye and it responds to light. When both the eye balls are focused internally on the pineal gland, light energy is produced in the pineal gland, as a result of which pineal gland is well activated. Activation of the pineal gland can be experienced through mild pressure at the base of the spine and tingling sensation in the nape of the neck and this sensation will be more pronounced if the groove in the nape of neck is massaged, which could lead to bouts of goose bumps. If anything goes wrong with kuṇḍalinī ascension above viśuddhi chakra, massaging this groove with oil could heal the syndrome.
While practicing śāmbhavī mudra with closed eyes, one should start focusing internally exactly behind the central point of the eyebrows (externally, this point is known as interciliary space); this central point is in the mid position between pituitary and pineal gland, within the frontal bone. First one has to concentrate on this point and gradually lift the focus on the pineal gland for some time and again towards sahasrāra. Under normal conditions, one should not practice more than five rounds. Over a period of time, concentration on pineal gland will produce immense energy within the skull and this energy can be directed towards sahasrāra by manipulating breath. This will be useful to move the kuṇḍalinī towards sahasrāra when it reaches ājñācakra. This part will be discussed in practice section, which will come up after this part.
c) Nāsāgra dṛṣṭi:
Nāsāgra means tip of the nose (just above the lips. Tip of the nose is often confused with the beginning point of the nose from interciliary space. This explanation will be useful in differentiating the different points of concentration in the practical section.) and dṛṣṭi means sight. Looking at the tip of the nose is known as nāsāgra dṛṣṭi.
Sit in normal meditative posture and focus both eye balls on the tip of the nose. First, this can be practiced by keeping the eyes open and later, this can be closed with closed eyes. There are no rounds involved as there is no movement of eye balls involved, except to focus on the tip of the nose. This also helps in making kuṇḍalinī ascend towards higher chakras, when aligned with breath. This will be discussed further in practical section.
v) Agocara mudra or Agocarī mudra:
Agocara means imperceptible to senses. This is explained as nāsāgra mudra.
vi) Khecarī mudra:
This is one of the most important mudra-s. Khecara means flying in the air. It is also known as lambikā yoga, where lambin means hanging down, referring to the soft palate in the jaw. Haṭhayoga Pradīpaka (III. 6 and 7) says, that jālandhara bandha, mūla bandha, uḍḍiyāna bandha and khecarī mudra are known as mudradaśakaṁ (मुद्रदशकं) meaning 10 mudra-s and with other six mudra-s, they destroy old age and death. It is also said that these mudras are taught by Śiva. It is further said that these ten mudra-s confer supernatural powers. Khecarī mudra is also explained in Yoga CūḍāmaṇiUpaniṣad (52). There are two types of khecarī mudra; one as per Rāja yoga and other Hatha yoga. What is being discussed here belongs to Rāja yoga.
This mudra is about rolling the tongue backwards and touching the hanging soft palate with the tip of the tongue. Sit in normal meditative posture. Fold the tongue backwards and try to touch the soft palate. Breathing can be normal yogic breathing. Continue the contact between the tip of the tongue and the soft palate as long as possible. To begin with, 10 to 20 seconds would be ideal and the duration of this connection can be increased over a period of time. This mudra can be used during the initial stages of any meditative practice.
Sometimes, during advanced stages of kuṇḍalinī meditation (when kuṇḍalinī is in ājñācakra and above), one can feel the flow of nectar from the skull towards soft palate. Flow of nectar will be more pronounced while practicing khecarī mudra. This nectar is known as Sudhā or amṛtavarṣini and is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 106, Sudhāsārābhi-varṣinī and Saundaryalaharī (verse10). In Śri Cakra navāvaraṇa pūjā, viśeṣa arghya is worshiped as Sudhā Devi.
Yoga CūḍāmaṇiUpaniṣad (53, 54 and 55) explains in detail the benefits accruing out of khecarī mudra. It says, “Disease, death, sleep, hunger, thirst, etc do not disturb him. He is no more attached to karmas (this means that further accrual of karmas is stopped).”
But, in due course, the flow of nectar should be arrested by practicing mahā mudra. If amṛtavarṣini is allowed to flow down, it gets transformed into procreative fluids. Ambrosia is generated from candra maṇḍala, which exists in sahasrāra and drips down towards sūrya maṇḍala which exists at maṇipūraka cakra, where digestive fire jaṭharāgni also exists. Hence, one should also learn to reverse the flow of nectar back to sahasrāra.
vii) Mahā mudra and Mahā bandha:
Mahā mudra and mahā bandha are two different aspects. Mahā bandha is synchronising three bandha-s jālandhara, mūla and uḍḍiyāna bandha-s. Whereas, mahā mudra is practiced to arrest the flow of nectar from sahasrāra through throat chakra to maṇipūraka cakra, by reversing its flow at throat chakra itself. Hence, Mahā mudra and mahā bandha are to be understood and practiced separately.
a) Mahā bandha:
Mahā bandha is synchronising three bandha-s - jālandhara, mūla and uḍḍiyāna bandha-s. Sit in normal meditative posture. After a few rounds of normal yogic breathing, exhale with force the entire air in the lungs. Now get into bāhya kumbhaka, which means no inhalation should be done. First do jālandhara bandha followed by uḍḍiyāna bandha and finally mūla bandha. Stay with these three bandha-s and bāhya kumbhaka as long as possible. Ideal time would be about 30 seconds. It is important that all the three bandha-s are to be done in quick succession, say within 3 to 5 seconds or even less. Start from the neck, proceed to the abdomen and end at perineum. While releasing the bandha-s, release mūla bandha first, followed by uḍḍiyāna bandha and finally release jālandhara bandha and inhale slowly. Releasing bandha-s should also be in quick succession. All other precautions as explained under relevant bandha-s should be strictly adhered to.
b) Mahā mudra:
This is practiced with stretching left and right legs separately. Sit in normal and comfortable meditative posture. First, press the perineum with the heel of the left foot (mūla bandha) and stretch the right foot forward. Now inhale and hold the breath (antara kumbhaka). Bend forward and hold the toes of the right foot with both hands. Now follow the details given below.
1) After doing mūla bandha with the left foot, do khecarī mudra and continue to remain in khecarī mudra till one round is completed. Fix consciousness at mūlādhāra.
2) Do jālandhara bandha (throat lock) and śāmbhavī mudra in quick succession.
3) Then release śāmbhavī mudra first, followed by jālandhara bandha and finally mūla bandha and exhale very slowly.
4) Follow the same procedure with the other leg. Press the perineum with the heel of the right foot and stretch the left foot forward. Rest remains the same.
Mahā mudra helps in making the kuṇḍalinī ascend through suṣumna by blocking iḍa and piṅgala nāḍi-s.
Plan for practice:
1. Practice and remain in mahā bandha for about 30 seconds. Mahā bandha can be practiced for the maximum of ten times. Total time taken for actual practice could be around six minutes. Rest of the time can be used for normal breathing (normal breathing between any two rounds).
2. Do khecarī mudra for about five times and this should be followed by agocarī mudra. After practicing these mudra-s with eyes open, it would be ideal to practice these two mudra-s with closed eyes. Each of these mudra-s can be practiced ten times in advanced stages. This could take another six minutes. One round involves ordinary position of the eye balls, mudra and again back to ordinary position.
3. Mahā bandha and mudra-s should be practiced twice a day for fifteen minutes for each session. In addition to this nāḍi śodhana prāṇāyāma should also be practiced as per the chart given in part 3 of this series. First prāṇāyāma should be practiced followed by mahā bandha and mudra-s. Nāḍi śodhana prāṇāyāma could take about another ten minutes. In the morning session, it would be ideal to practice early in the morning. Evening session can be practiced when sun is about to set or after sun set. When sun is at its peak, no practice should be done.
4. After practicing the above prāṇāyāma, mahā bandha and mudra-s normal meditation should be practiced at least for fifteen minutes during each session. At this stage of practice, we need to practice prāṇāyāma, mahā bandha mudra-s and meditation for forty five minutes twice a day. This practice should be followed continuously for a period of two months without fail. Practicing kuṇḍalinī meditation could take about another forty five minutes per session. Thus we may have to practice 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the evening in empty stomach. However, this time will be considerably reduced when one attains perfection
This completes the preliminaries of kuṇḍalinī meditation. From the next part onwards, chakra meditation will be taken up for discussion along with activating kuṇḍalinī.