It is important to distinguish Bettina’s Uddiyana, which lifts the respiratory diaphragm way up into the ribcage, from the other Uddiyana, which is a miniature version of Bettina’s.
Bettina’s Uddiyana is sometimes referred to as Uddiyana Bandha Kriya. It is one of the six kriyas, and involves retracting the entire abdomen (lower and upper belly) while on an exhale retention. We do not do this Uddiyana with asana.
The mini version takes place entirely below the navel during the motion of inhaling and does not lift the diaphragm. More specifically, after exhaling and toning the pelvic floor, you inhale while slightly drawing back your abdomen just in front of the sacrum, immediately above the pelvic floor. Mini Uddiyana, which you would normally call into action with Mula Bandha, causes the psoas muscles to relax. (Mini Uddiyana is what we want during asana.)
In Sanskrit jathara means belly or abdomen, and agni means fire. Gastric juice might be considered the fire of the stomach. In the compound agnisara, the word jathara is dropped but is to be taken as understood. Sara means the essence or the very best part. Agnisara is said to optimize the potency of the gastric juices.
While maintaining Uddiyana and pressing his hands into his thighs, Yuha gives a downward and forward stroke to the rectus abdominis, just above the pubic bone. Contracting the recti and pushing them forward, he isolates the recti from the other muscles. This is Nauli-Madhyama or Middle Nauli.
If we could slow down this video, you’d be able to see that Yuha holds the middle position for a second, then he applies more pressure on the right thigh with the right hand, giving a greater bend to the right side of his body. At the same time, he relaxes the left side. This keeps the right rectus contracted, rolling it further to the right while left remains inactive.
He goes back to the middle position before pressing on the left thigh with the left hand while relaxing the right side of his body. The rectus rolls to the left. Repeating these actions quickly, right-middle-left, right-middle-left, over and over, gives the appearance of churning the abdominals.
After churning five times one way, he churns the other way, thus performing Nauli kriya.
Slowing down to a more controlled “churn” produces different effects. For me a nice slow nauli heightens the sensations in my abdominal viscera, activating my enteric brain and sharpening my intuitive skills. Try to observe your abdomen, and note how you feel before and after the practice.
In a seated position, with hands on knees, Paul shows us one round of Agni Sara. He begins by bringing his abdomen to a relaxed neutral position. Then he isolates his lower abdomen and slowly draws it back while exhaling without raising his diaphragm or upper abdomen. With lungs completely empty, and without allowing air to flow back in, he vigorously pumps the abdomen forward. (A beginner may find it helpful to pinch the nose to stop the air from flowing in.)
The diaphragm and abdomen are fully relaxed and passive, and therefore able to balloon out to “maximum.” He draws back the lower abdomen, bringing navel to spine, then immediately pumps again, repeating the action fully as many times as is comfortable without inhaling. Finally, he releases and inhales with control, completing one round. Typically, he might do six rounds in one session.
Agni means fire. This powerful cleansing practice stokes the inner digestive fire.
In pranayama practice, “the human consciousness begins to be internalized and supersensuous perceptions begin to be possible. Worlds subtler and still subtler begin to be opened up in proportion to the consciousness itself getting more and more refined, till at last the individual consciousness merges into the cosmic and the individual becomes one with the infinite.” From the Kaivalyadham brochure Pranayama Practice and Teaching.
Sitting in Simhasana, with legs crossed at ankles, and heels brought under the perineum, Sami demonstrates Simha Mudra (Lion Mudra). With hands on knees and fingers fully splayed, he thrusts out his tongue, touching it to his chin. Head stays down, chin to chest; and gaze lifts to a point between the eyebrows.
This preparatory practice opens the muscles of the neck and pharyngeal wall, breaking down any fibrous adhesions that may have developed in its faschia, thereby promoting relaxed, smoother breathing.