Kumbhaka Pranayama: Breathwork for Longevity

kumbhaka

Kumbhaka Pranayama is a conscious breathing exercise that is great for improving and maintaining heart and brain health. It is also said to increase your longevity.

In Sanskrit, Kumbhaka means Breath Retention. There are two types of Kumbhaka used in SOMA Breath:

Sahita

Where the breath is held intentionally. SOMA Breath uses Antara Kumbhaka, where you hold your breath with your lungs full of air, and Nisshesha Rechaka Kumbhaka, which is holding your breath after exhaling, beyond the comfort zone.

Kevala

Kevala Kumbhaka is more like a respiratory stillness where you don’t have to make any conscious effort to hold your breath. Your breath can just pause by itself, without any feeling of needing to breathe in or out. It is a magical state to be in.

How Does Kumbhaka Pranayama Increase Longevity?

Heart Health

If you have been experiencing any heart disease symptoms, or if you have had heart issues in the past, practicing Kumbhaka Pranayama can have a profound effect on your overall heart health.

One of the ways Kumbhaka Pranayama improves your heart health is through the release of stem cells within the body. When your blood oxygen levels are low enough, stem cells are able to circulate around your body without getting damaged. They move throughout the body to the places where they are most needed.

Kumbhaka causes vasodilation, which improves circulation and assists in the growth of new blood vessels in the heart. This then produces more capillaries between your veins and arteries. Your heart is strengthened and it can pump blood more effectively, improving your overall health.

Brain Health

The brain uses much more oxygen than other bodily organs, so a good oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange is really important for the brain to be able to function properly.

Kumbhaka Pranayama significantly improves blood flow throughout the body, especially in the brain. This allows for a much more efficient oxygen exchange.

This increases cognitive functioning, memory, and even has the potential to awaken dormant parts of the brain.

Longevity/Anti-Ageing

May activate stem cells into circulation for regenerating cells in your body (Carreras et al., 2009Gharib et al., 2010Serebrovskaya et al., 2011Shree & Bhonde, 2016).

Endurance

Improves fitness and stamina as you produce more red blood cells, new blood vessels, and increase blood flow to your organs.

Rapid Targeted Healing

Combined with additional visualisation exercises you can invoke a healing response in your body for quicker healing times. This is also very useful if you have a cut or graze on your skin.

Multiple health benefits of Nisshesha Rechaka Kumbhaka are discussed by Dr. Prakash Malshe (Malshe, 2011; Malshe, 2017).

How To Do Kumbhaka Pranayama

  1. Do this technique in the morning on an empty stomach.
  2. Sit comfortably with your back straight in an upright position. Or, lie down on a flat stable surface.
  3. Place the pulse oximeter on your finger tip if you are using one.
  4. Inhale fully through your nose, filling up your lungs completely with air. To breathe in deeper, imagine you are breathing into your back. Your lungs are actually closer to the back of your body than the front. As you inhale, your abdomen should rise first, and then your chest.
  5. Once you have inhaled fully, it is as simple as letting go of all tension and exhaling with no force at all. Let natural pressure empty your lungs.
  6. When you have exhaled, breathe in fully again, with no force. Create a continuous and connected rhythmical breathing pattern.
  7. Do 20-30 repetitions until you feel tingly or light headed. You will see your SpO₂ rise up to 99% or even 100% signalling that you are fully saturated with oxygen.
  8. On the final exhalation, breathe out as much as possible. By making a hissing sound you can completely remove all the air from your lungs. It may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it as you practice.
  9. Hold your breath with absolutely no air in your lungs for as long as you possibly can.

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