One of the traditional Hatha yoga Pranayama’s breathing exercises is Kumbhaka Pranayama. Kumbhaka is a Sanskrit word (kuhm-BAH-kah), which means pot. The pot is not just any ordinary pot but also the human torso portrayed as a pot with two interiors (one at the pelvis and one at the throat).
Antara and Bahya are the two types of Kumbhaka Pranayama that are practiced. Antara is a Sanskrit word (ahn-TAH-rah), which means interior, whereas Bahya is the Sanskrit word (BAH-yah) for outer. Therefore, these two retention techniques are practiced on the inhale and exhale, respectively.
According to Theos Bernard, the scholar-practitioner of yoga, Pranayama’s ultimate aim is to suspend breathing or cause the mind to swoon. Swami Vivekananda said that as per Patanjali, Pranayama’s real meaning is the cessation of breathing gradually, discontinuing inhalation and exhalation.
How to do Kumbhaka Pranayama?
At first, Kumbhaka Pranayam is practiced in a ratio of 1-1-2. So whatever you are inhaling Is for you; you hold your breath for the same amount and exhale the double amount of it. In stage two, you become comfortable, and the ratio becomes 1-2-2, then 1-3-2, and final step 1-4-2. It means that if you inhale for ten, you hold for 40 and exhale for 20.
Steps in Kumbhaka Pranayama
- Step 1: Sit in a meditation posture and feel comfortable as this is the first pose. You can even do the easy pose or Sukhasana. You can even sit on a chair if you are not comfortable in any of these postures. Check that your back is straight and that the neck, spine, and head are aligned. In Jnana Mudra, place you hands-on your both knees or, you can even place one hand on your abdomen and the other on the chest and close your eyes.
- Start with simple natural breathing and breath naturally through both of your nostrils. Breathing will help you to gain control of your breathing and also prepare your body for further practice.
- The internal retention is Antara kumbhaka. With a count of five, start by taking a deep breath. You can count in your mind or even use your fingers or a metronome to help you follow the count. After you have completed deep breathing and filling your lungs with fresh air, tuck your chin into the chest in Jalandhara Badha. Now close nose with thumb and ring finger and hold your breath up-to a count of five.
- Exhale through both nostrils and release hand and lift head. Exhalation should be done for double count ten, as in this example of ratio 1-1-2, and finally, repeat the whole exercise cycle for ten to fifteen minutes.
Benefits of Kumbhaka Pranayama
- Kumbhaka Pranayama strengthens the diaphragm while you hold the breath deeply.
- Due to deep inhalation, it is beneficial at increasing lung capacity.
- The Pranayama purifies the entire respiratory system, and it also cleanses the residual air or dead space air and alveolar air.
- In the brain, the Pranayama activates the respiratory center. The increase in the retention of carbon dioxide triggers the brain for better oxygen interchange and retention.
- The Pranayama increases oxygen retention and the amount of oxygen in the blood. It thus improves health, and the concentration enhances. When in retention, your body is yearning to take a breath; your body focuses on that which helps in strengthening the attention.
- It also helps the body relieves anxiety and stress and clears thoughts as well as enhances memory power.
- Pranayama also helps reduce strain on the circulatory system of the body.
- It settles the mind and the body and keeps the mind grounded, preparing it for meditation. Thus, it is an ideal pre-meditation Pranayama.
- Pranayama is also known to relieve complications like acidity, blockage, allergies, gastric problems, constipation, asthma, and reproductive organ problems.