Like the Ujjayi breath the Abandha breath actively draws attention to what is already happening in the way of coordinated movement between all of the diaphragms that occurs during the breathing process. The Ujayi breath emphasizes the contraction portion of the work that diaphragms do while breathing and the Abandha breath draws attention to and emphasizes the release of these diaphragms.
Exposure to what I call the Abandha breath came in a vocal class I was exploring back in 2014. I wanted to understand the inclusion of sounding, outside of chanting, as an avenue to explore and release unwanted tension in both body and mind. Fides Krucker, a 30 year veteran of voice exploration, a professor at Humber college, and a long time yoga practitioner, had her students engage in a sighing exercises at the beginning of our sessions. She calls the technique the “The Voga Breath‘ A combination of what she knows from her own yoga practice and the techniques used in singing. Theinhale went as follows:
Release the tongue and under the tongue so that the jaw relaxes and the mouth falls open. Really open, “inappropriately wide” The air tends to ‘fall’ into the body here without much effort.
Encourage through conscious effort the natural movement of the thoracic diaphragm. As we inhale the belly is aloud to protrude. A forced (gentle) distention. (This is commonly referred to as the diaphragmatic breath (pranayama) in Hatha practice.
When the diaphragm at the ribs is moving freely there is a vacuum created and air will rush into the lungs - no need to suck it in with unnecessary force.
*Often when people attempt to draw in a bigger than normal breath they add tension to the muscles that support breathing that inevitably restricts the movement of their ribs and therefore restricts just how grand the inhale is. Inhaling in the Voga way ensures that the muscles in and around the breathing apparatus stay relaxed so that the ribs are able to move.
While the air comes in we drop our attention down to the pelvic floor and we soften the diaphragm there.
When we are full and the pelvic floor feels relaxed; then we let the breath out in a primal, uncontrolled sigh.
This exercise is the opposite of bandha work that we execute in both our traditional pranayama and asana practices. When working with the diaphragms of the body we are engaging and releasing them, sometimes fast sometimes slow sometimes with pauses etc. But here in the Abandha breath we are focusing primarily on learning to soften these containers so that the whole fascial matrix flows with the breath. The contraction and the release of each of these diaphramic centers happens with each breath but here the expansion/release is conscious and exaggerated to ensure a unified and balanced breathing experience.
Contracting the bandhas too vigorously can lead to strain in the soft tissues that surround these muscles and also lead to an over recruitment of these muscle groups leading to a weakening of the diaphragms and diminishing their capacity to function properly. They loose their elasticity and therefore their life energy to respond accordingly to changes in tension in and around their bodies. For example - Pelvic Floor syndrome occurs when the pelvic diaphragm is too tight — creating a type of atrophy through the pelvic floor muscles. Incontinence is often the result.