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Introduction to Kumbhaka Breath Retention Pranayama

Today we're going to talk about a pranayama exercise. I was first introduced pranayama, believe it or not in Tai Chi and Qi Gong, and learning how to breathe more deeply more rapidly. It was introduced to me as a way of increasing lung capacity, and also promoting relaxation, relieving stress.

I first began practicing by trying to make my inhalation and exhalation the same length. So for example, let's say we want to start out with the in breath of four. Breathing out to four. So you're trying to make the inhalation just as long and smooth as the exhalation. Now, with the yoga practice, it also throws in some little holds and pauses at the top and the bottom of the breath. Those are types of kumbhaka or breath retentions.

So let's say you inhale to a count of four. Hold it for four. Exhale for four. Hold it out for four. That essentially becomes a 16 count breath. So you just went from an eight count to a 16 count breath. So over time, you can maybe even do a one minute breath. So maybe 15 seconds in 15 seconds, 15 seconds out 15 seconds holding.

What this does is it helps to increase how we're able to metabolize what we call air. So air is a mixture of three elements, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When you're holding the breath in, you're essentially increasing the saturation of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. So you become more carbon dioxide resistant over time. So you may feel a little lightheaded and spacey initially when you first start practicing this, maybe you don't hold the breath as long initially, and that's okay. But as you increase your breath retention practice over time, you'll find that you're able to breathe more effortlessly, you have more lung capacity, and you have overall more ease and you feel better.

I like to say that with the breath goes the mind and the body follows. So maybe next time you're in a certain emotional state, notice how you're breathing.


Let's just take a few moments here together. Doing a short simple breathing exercise. Come to a comfortable cross legged seated position palms facing upwards with a thumb index finger together the other three fingers extended straight, this is called gyan mudra, a mudra of focus and concentration. The eyes can be gently relaxed closed, focused at the tip of the nose or focus at the space in between the eyebrows. That's called our drishti or nonmoving point of focus. Focusing the eyes and this way helps to stimulate the pituitary gland vibrating the optic nerves to promote that activation of Ajna or the sixth chakra.

Focusing on the breath, here now inhaling slowly and deeply to a count of four, exhaling out fully and completely to a count of four. Take five more rounds just like this on your own at your own pace.

Take a moment now just to notice the subtle shift and difference in both mind and body. Relax the neck, the shoulders, the face the job. Gently shift the hips. and again recenter yourself.

Now add those holds at the top and the bottoms of the breath or the khumba. So again as you inhale, breathe in to a count of four, pause and hold for four. Then exhale out to a count of four until you're completely empty and hold the breath out for a count of four. Repeat five more times on your own.

Again, notice the subtle shift and difference in the breath in the lungs, how you feel in your body. You can gradually increase the length of the breath from four to six to eight to 10, 12, 15 however long you can imagine and hold.

Bringing the hands together in a heart center and thanking yourself just for being present with your breath, your mind your body and noticing the connection between the breath the mind and the body. Thank you again for sharing. It's probably our breathing exercise practice with me. Namaste.


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Peace & Pineapples!

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