The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka during Āsana……


An extract from, and link to a post from Anthony Grim Hall’s extensive Blog site.

“The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) during Asana.”
– Guest post by Mick Lawton

“For well over a year I’ve wondered why Krishnmachrya’s breath retentions that are mentioned in Yoga Makaranda are not employed by the Ashtanga community.

It seemed odd that Pattahbi Jois did not mention breath retention when he wrote Yoga Mala. (Although, he kind of makes reference to breath retention when writing about Kukkutasana – he tells us to perform Nauli – which can only be effectively performed during rechaka Kumbhaka).
I was troubled by the fact that “this rather significant” part of Krishnamacharya’s method had just fallen by the wayside. How could this be?

It was about this time that I became aware (through Anthony Hall’s extremely informative blog) that Srivatsa Ramaswami also advocated Kumbhaka in certain Asana.
Considering that Srivatsa Ramaswami was a student of Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, I started to think it very odd that these breath retentions were generally being overlooked in other traditions that recognised Krishnamacharya as their primary teacher.

I decided that I would conduct an experiment to see if there were any benefits/disadvantages to employing Kumbhaka during Asana.”

I would add a further personal musing to Mick Lawton’s observations:

Not just the Aṣṭāñga Community as Mick wonders.

I would suggest that the “viniyoga” community appears to be increasingly moving towards becoming the “miniyoga” community.

Why? Because I feel more and more that the ‘therapeutic’ and ‘constitutional’ practice ‘styles’ originally developed and employed for very specific life situations, such as life phases of recovery or health maintenance, are becoming as if the default for all levels and capacity of student.

The observation that the viniyoga of Yoga is now taught primarily within generalised group classes is a strong contributing factor. The lack of student specific on-going supervision is another factor. As are the increasingly generic career based teacher training methods populating the market place, increasingly ‘supported’ with remote learning vehicles. Plus, of course, the lack of an on-going and personalised developmental Sādhana map for the student and especially the teacher as a student.

It also appears that there is an increasing problem in that once the student ‘becomes’ a teacher their personal lessons (often an obligatory course requirement) take second place and with it, their continuing exploration of developmental aspects of Āsana, Prāṇāyāma, and Mudrā, such as the personalised application of Kumbhaka.

All of this is coupled with the ‘modern’ perception of the role of Yoga and especially group class application in Western Society. Yoga is a weekly or biweekly escape, or exercise, or serenity session, or work out sweater, etc., where little around home practice as a developing Sādhana transposes (excuse pun) from class to home.

These are all now being seen as the ‘norm’ for teachers to work from within this increasingly homogenous application (viniyoga) of Yoga .

I close with an extract from a previous post earlier this month around the application (or lack of it) of Kumbhaka:

“These days though, it seems that there is not much place for or interest in the use of Kumbhaka
and breathing practices, if used at all, appear to be mainly Cikitsā or about recovery,
or at best Rakṣaṇa or constitutional, rather than Śikṣaṇa and developmental.”

And a personal quote:

“Explore the Antar Kumbhaka with a soft holding.
Explore the Bahya Kumbhaka with a firm surrender.”

Along with one from my teacher, from his teacher:

“According to Krishnamacharya,
one who has not mastered the Bahya Kumbhaka
has not mastered the breath.”

Thanks to Anthony for his Blog and his follow up post stimulated by:
“The previous post, a case study on the suggested healing benefits of kumbhaka, brought requests for examples of how kumbhaka might be incorporated in our āsana practice.”

(Thus) “An example of Krishnamacharya’s employment of kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) in Marīcyāsana A.”

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