Bahya Kumbhaka

Last Updated: July 27, 2017

Definition - What does Bahya Kumbhaka mean?

Bahya kumbhaka is a type of pranayama. Bahya is a Sanskrit word that means “outside” and kumbhaka means "breath retention." During this breathing exercise, the breath is held for several seconds after the exhalation is complete. Bahya kumbhaka is used in conjunction with meditation, asanas and bandhas.

There are two main types of kumbhaka: bahya kumbhaka and antar kumbhaka. Antar kumbhaka is the holding of breath when the inhalation is complete and the lungs are full. Both types of kumbhaka increase heat in the body and provide a range of physical and mental health benefits.

Yogapedia explains Bahya Kumbhaka

Before performing bahya kumbhaka, the exhale should be complete with the yogi expelling more air than normal from the lungs. Likewise, before antar kumbhaka, the inhale should take in slightly more air than normal to completely fill the lungs. It is encouraged to begin by mastering antar kumbhaka first, then bahya kumbhaka, by holding the breath out for just one or two seconds, building up to 16 seconds over several months.

Many diseases are thought to be caused by disturbances in the pranic system of the body and mind. Pranayama helps bring this energy system back into harmony. Practicing bahya and antar kumbhaka is believed to help prevent and treat a wide variety of ailments, from skin disorders to diabetes as well as offer the following benefits:

  • Helps purify the body
  • Boosts physical and mental energy
  • Improves concentration
  • Clears and stills the mind

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

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