Take Your Yoga Practice to the Next Level with Antara Kumbhaka and Bahya Kumbhaka

In this post: Kumbhaka is a style of yogic breathing where you take a long pause either at the end of your inhale (Antara Kumbhaka) or at the end of your exhale (Bahya Kumbhaka).

antara-kumbhaka-bahya-kumbhaka

antara-kumbhaka-bahya-kumbhakaI hadn’t ever heard of Antara Kumbhaka and Bahya Kumbhaka before I started researching different yogic breathing techniques.

However, once I read how to practice these two breathing styles, I realized I’ve been practicing them for quite some time. Without calling these yogic breathing styles by these names, my yoga teacher had been teaching this breathwork and encouraging us to build our skill and endurance.

You may be surprised to find that you, too, have been practicing a style of Kumbhaka breathing! Here are the specifics on how to correctly practice these two breathing techniques.

What Is Kumbhaka Breathing?

Simply put, Kumbhaka is taking a long pause either at the end of your inhale or at the end of your exhale. If you are practicing Antara Kumbhaka, the more basic breathing practice, you pause at the end of your inhale. For Bahya Kumbhaka, you pause at the end of your exhale.

Benefits of Kumbhaka

Much like other types of yogic breathing, there are many benefits of Kumbhaka breathing. These benefits include:

  • increased relaxation,
  • decreased stress,
  • improved respiratory health,
  • elimination of toxins,
  • body purification,
  • increased physical and mental energy,
  • improved concentration, and
  • increased focus and stillness in the mind.

Antara Kumbhaka

In Antara Kumbhaka, you hold your breath after your inhale is completed.

  1. Begin in a comfortable seated position such as Sukhasana.
  2. Engage Mula Bandha (your root lock) and Jalandhara Bandha (your throat lock). Engaging these locks will help contain your energy work from your breathing within your body. Honestly, though, if you’re just beginning breath work, don’t worry about your bandhas right now. Pay attention to your breath pattern and, as that becomes easier, begin engaging your bandhas.
  3. Start using ujjayi breathing by inhaling and exhaling through the nose.
  4. After several warm-up breaths, exhale fully.
  5. Inhale and think of filling the lower abdomen up to the top of the lungs. Take your largest inhale and, at the top of the inhale, pause for two or three seconds.
  6. Fully exhale. Make sure to take your time so that you exhale completely.

Over several months, work on gradually increasing the length of your pause until you are holding for 16 seconds. Once you reach this point, move on to the slightly more advanced Bahya Kumbhaka.

Antara Kumbhaka For the Visual Learners…

I created a quick how-to video for all the visual learners. 

Bahya Kumbhaka

In Bahya Kumbhaka, you hold your breath after your exhale is completed.

  1. Begin in a comfortable seated position such as Sukhasana.
  2. Engage Mula Bandha (your root lock),  Uddiyana Bandha (your abdominal lock), and Jalandhara Bandha (your throat lock). When all three locks are engaged, Maha Bandha (the great lock) is achieved. Engaging these locks will help contain your energy work from your breathing within your body. Honestly, though, if you’re just beginning breath work, don’t worry about your bandhas right now. Pay attention to your breath pattern and, as that becomes easier, begin engaging your bandhas.
  3. Start using ujjayi breathing by inhaling and exhaling through the nose.
  4. After several warm-up breaths, exhale fully.
  5. Take a nice, deep inhale and pause for a moment at the top of the inhale.
  6. Exhale slowly and steadily. Feel the air leave the bottom of your lungs, then the middle, then the top. When you feel like your lungs are empty, try to exhale a little more.
  7. Hold here for two or three seconds.

As you exhale, try to make it last longer than your inhale. Also, work on gradually increasing the length of your pause until you are holding for 16 seconds. It might take several months for you to reach this goal.

Bahya Kumbhaka for the Visual Learners…

Here’s a quick how-to video for all the visual learners out there.

Additional Kumbhaka

According to yogapedia.com, there are other kinds of Kumbhaka.

“There are two additional types of kumbhaka practiced by the most advanced yogis: sahaja (or sahitkumbhaka, which is holding the breath with neither inhalation nor exhalation in mind; and kevalakumbhaka, which does not require inhalation or exhalation and is considered the final stage of union, or samadhi.”

How to Choose the Kumbhaka Best for You

No matter your skill level, there is an appropriate level of Kumbhaka for your practice. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with Antara Kumbhaka. When you can hold your breath for 16 seconds, take that as your cue to begin practicing Bahya Kumbhaka.

If you want to to get more ideas to keep you healthy and pain-free, sign up for access to my Free Resources Library. Plus, you’ll get weekly emails with all my tips and tricks to keep you happy and healthy.

Do you have any other tips for practicing Kumbhaka breathing? Please let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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