Kumbhaka Pranayama

Last Updated: July 27, 2017

Definition - What does Kumbhaka Pranayama mean?

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.

In kumbhaka pranayama, the breath may cease after an inhalation or exhalation and for a specified length of time. For beginners, kumbhaka does not need to be practiced with each breath. For example, the breath may be held after four breath cycles rather than as part of each breath cycle.

Yogapedia explains Kumbhaka Pranayama

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.

There are two other forms of kumbhaka pranayama that are practiced by only advanced yogis. Sahit kumbhaka is the cessation of breathing with inhalation or exhalation, but with neither specifically in mind. Kevali kumbhaka is the spontaneous cessation of breathing associated with the state of samadhi.

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