Kumbhaka pranayama is a type of yogic breathing exercise in which the breath is retained or stopped. The term comes from the Sanskrit, kumbha, meaning “pot” or “vessel”; prana, which refers to life force energy; and ayama, which means “control.” Kumbhaka pranayama, therefore, is the control of prana through retention of the breath.
Kumbhaka pranayama is categorized based on when the breath is held. The two main types that most yogis may practice are:
- Antara (inner) kumbhaka, which is the holding of air in the lungs after an inhalation. Typically during pranayama, more air than normal is inhaled, filling the lungs.
- Bahya (outer) kumbhaka, which is the cessation of breathing following an exhalation. Typically during pranayama, the yogi exhales more completely than normal, emptying the lungs.
Starting position :
- Do preliminary conditioning in Sukhasana or any other meditative posture.
- If not possible to sit on the floor, sit on a firm chair with an erect backrest.
- Keep the body above the waist straight and the spine erect. Keep eyes closed.
Sequence of steps for Kumbhaka Pranayama:
- Make a short exhalation and then start inhaling – slowly and rhythmically in one long and unbroken inspiration.
- Continue inhaling until a sense of fullness is experienced in the chest.
- Retain the inhaled air for a period of 10 seconds (preferably double the period of inspiration).
- Ensure: No exaggerated movement of the abdomen.
- While sitting spine, head and neck is maintained erect.
- Ensure facial muscles relaxed and nose is unconstricted.
- Inhalation is slow and rhythmic – long, unbroken and without jerks.
- Now exhale as naturally as possible – gradually, avoiding jerky or hasty movements.
- Take few normal breaths and relax.