How numerous of us have been informed to engage our bandhas, or internal locks, for our entire yoga practice? First of all, it does not look like anybody has the ability to genuinely sustain these imaginary muscle contractions the entire time they are on the mat, but second of all, is this even a biomechanically smart task to ask us to do? Most people don’t in fact agreement the right musculature when they try to engage their bandhas, however even if they did, are we actually enhancing our core by tightening our muscles in an approximate, non-stop method? Or are we instead interfering with our body’s integrated vibrant system of core stability?


In the yoga world, the bandhas are normally called muscle tightenings of the pelvic floor (mula bandha) and lower belly (uddiyana bandha) that we are suggested to hold throughout our whole practice, releasing them just as we reach savasana, our last relaxation present. (Pilates and some other activity systems teach a similar internal lock approach sometimes called abdominal “bracing” or “hollowing”.) The factors normally given for making use of the bandhas by doing this are to connect to our much deeper core, to protect our spinal column, and to feel a sense of “lightness” in our poses (specifically those difficult arm balances!)


Yogis typically contract the wrong musculature when they try to engage uddiyana bandha. Rather of firing the transverse abdominus (TvA), the abdominal muscle that really supports our core and is the correct muscle of uddiyana bandha, most yogis unknowingly contract their rectus abdominus, which is our most shallow “six-pack” muscle and doesn’t provide us any core stabilization benefits at all.

Transverse Abdominus.

Let us take a short look at the distinction in between these two vital muscles. When the rectus abdominus contracts, it rounds your spinal column (spine flexion) and/or tucks your hips (posterior tilt). As I explained in my ‘Core Strength Fiction & Facts’ post, we made use of to think that tucking our hips indicated that we were utilizing our deep core and protecting our spine, but we now know that this belief is biomechanically incorrect, although the majority of yoga courses and even some schools of Pilates still have not caught up to this brand-new word on the street.

The Rectus Abdominus.

In contrast to the rectus abdominus, which enjoys to tuck your pelvis, the TvA does not move your hips or your rib cage at all when it contracts – it merely and magically compresses your abdomen inward like an amazing built-in corset. Due to the way pressures work, this lead to a lengthening of the spinal column and a decompression of the intervertebral discs (those guys that prefer to protrude and herniate on us when we do not treat them well). So when your TvA is working in coordination with the other muscles of your deep core, your spine will thank you due to the fact that it’s supported and protected.

But due to non-optimal breathing patterns and and poor posture habits (along with the aforementioned outdated belief that we ought to all tuck our pelves to protect our back), many people’s TvA isn’t functioning well in their body, and as an outcome their superficial rectus abdominus becomes substantially more dominant. 9 breaks of 10, even if we know about the distinction in between these two muscles and are specifically attempting to switch on our TvA, we end up unknowingly utilizing our rectus abdominus instead. Crazy but real!


The more we understand about how our own muscles are currently functioning, the more mindfulness we will grow in our body. Before we test whether our rectus likes to control our TvA, let us ensure we understand the best ways to correctly turn on our TvA in the first location.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands around your side waists. Take a complete inhale breath, and then breathe out and pull your belly button directly inward towards your spinal column. If the TvA engaged correctly, you’ll feel your side waists underneath your hands compress inward towards your spinal column and your pelvis and rib cage will certainly not have actually changed position at all. (Bear in mind – if your hips tucked, you didn’t fire your TvA – make good sense?)

How did it go? Did it feel like getting up a muscle that you mightn’t have been making use of much before?

Now let us test whether our rectus prefers to take control of throughout a really easy activity where our TvA must be working. Lie on your back once again with knees bent and feet on the floor with your hips and rib cage in neutral. Move your shirt up towards your ribs so that your abdomen is visible. In order to effectively view what your tummy is doing, either have a mirror together with of you or make use of the camera on your phone or computer. (It will not work if you lift your head and take a look at your abdominal areas directly with your eyes.)

Take an inhale, and on your exhale draw your lower belly straight inward toward your spine to engage your TvA, then lift your left foot off the floor until the heel is in line with your knee. Hold right here and observe your abdominal areas. If it looks like this (fairly flat), you’re successfully utilizing your TvA to stabilize your spinal column – excellent job!


But if your abdomen appears like this, with your belly inflating towards the sky into a shape a few of my Restorative Exercise Expert close friends like to call the “bread loaf” (heh heh), your rectus abdominus has actually taken over and you’ve lost your core stability. Don’t move onto the next step if you were baking bread in this first workout.


If your TvA passed this initial step, attempt the exercise once more, however this time, raise both feet off the floor till your heels are in line with the knees. Did your belly continue to be flat and compressed inward, or did your spinal column move toward an arch and did your belly swell up like rising bread dough? If you saw the bread loaf here, your TvA isn’t strong enough to stabilize your spine in this shape, and you ought to not do this exercise or any “core work” that’s more powerful than this till your TvA is able to adequately deal with these loads.


When we are doing “core work” in yoga, Pilates, or any other movement program, it’s important that our TvA is working for us if we’ve an interest in the lasting structural wellness of our body. Sadly, a lot of core exercise there’s rather strong in nature, and if our TvA is weak or not functioning well (as you might’ve just uncovered is the case with yours), it can not fulfill the demand that such core work places on it.


Now that we are clear on how uddiyana bandha works, we’ve to address this troublesome idea that we must be holding a fixed, steady engagement of our bandhas throughout our whole yoga practice. Our core is designed to be a dynamic system which reacts to our varying motions with an increase or reduction of engagement as required, normally. If we knowingly “tighten our core” all practice long (or even all day long as lots of, numerous of us do), we’re overriding our body’s natural reflex-driven feedback to activity and this will effectively deteriorate our core with time.

Instead of “perma-gripping” our bandhas, we need to learn to unwind our non-stop hold over these muscles so that they can operate in their natural incorporated way with the rest of our core stabilization system. And afterwards at key moments of extra effort during our practice (like holding a strong arm balance, lifting up into a backbend, or jumping back into chaturanga) or similar vital moments during throughout daily life (like picking up a grocery bag or putting your youngster in her car seat), we ought to include in a clear and polished bandha engagement to assist enhance our neuromuscular connection to our deep core.

One of the fundamental goals of yoga is to bring back flow and health to the body, and learning to work with the natural function of the core rather of overriding it’s a big step toward that objective. Offering this biomechanical insight into the bandhas and the workings of our core belongs to a continued effort to keep the living tradition of yoga updated and appropriate with the best information we’ve readily available today. As constantly, don’t hesitate to let me know if you’ve any questions or remarks!