Abhyantara Kumbhaka

Definition - What does Abhyantara Kumbhaka mean?

Abhyantara kumbhaka is one of the four stages of the yogic breathing exercise known as pranayama. It is the mindful holding of the breath after inhalation. The term comes from the Sanskrit, abhyantara, meaning “internal,” and kumbhaka, meaning “breath retention.” It is sometimes also called antar kumbhaka.

The purpose of abhyantara kumbhaka is to help bring the body's energy system into harmony. As part of pranayama, abhyantara kumbhaka is used in conjunction with meditation and some yoga asanas.

Yogapedia explains Abhyantara Kumbhaka

There are two main types of kumbhaka, the other being bahya kumbhaka, which is the holding of breath when the exhalation is complete and the lungs are emptied. Kumbhaka is believed to increase heat in the body and, in doing so, provide a range of physical and mental health benefits.

The four stages of pranayama, in order, are:

  1. Puraka – a single smooth inhalation
  2. Abhyantara kumbhaka – the mindful holding of the breath after inhalation
  3. Rechaka – a single smooth exhalation
  4. Bahya kumbhaka – the mindful holding of the breath after exhalation

Many diseases are thought to be caused by disturbances within the pranic energy system in the body and mind. Each stage of pranayama is believed to enhance both physical awareness and introspection. It is also thought to be therapeutic for respiratory problems, particularly asthma, and to increase vitality and energy.

Two additional types of kumbhaka are 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 on par with the state of samadhi (the final stage of spiritual union with the Divine).

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