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Improve Digestion with Agnisara Kriya


agnisara01

In today’s post, I am going to talk about a pranayama technique which involves both breath retention (kumbhaka) and application of the locks (bandhas). The technique, called Agnisara, is excellent for stoking the digestive fire (jatharagni) in the system which brings many benefits at various levels (see all the benefits below).

In the traditional Hatha Yoga system given in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP), there are six cleansing routines (Shad-kriyas) described. One of these techniques is "Dhauti" which is used to cleanse the intestinal and colon system. Even though the practice of Agnisara is not specifically mentioned in the HYP, another ancient Hatha Yoga text called the Gherand Samhita  includes Agnisara as one of the many "dhauti" kriyas mentioned therein.

The word Agnisara is a composite of two words – "agni" which means "fire" and "sara" which means "essence". The essential nature of fire is attributed to the digestive system.

Step-by-step

  1. Come to a standing position on your mat with the feet about 12-16 inches apart.
  2. Bend the knees slightly and place the hands on the knees. Try to keep the elbows straight.
  3. Exhale completely, eliminating all the air from the lungs. Hold the breath out.
  4. Apply Uddiyana Bandha (navel lock) by sucking the abdominal muscles in, pulling the navel back toward the spine.
  5. Lower the chin to the chest to apply Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock).
  6. Now soften the muscles of the abdomen and, without breathing (holding the breath out), start moving them in and out at a rapid pace. Try to maintain a smooth speed of movement making sure that the movement is not restricted due to speed.
  7. In the beginning stages of the practice, you may find it hard to keep the rhythm smooth. With practice, however, both the duration of retention and the smoothness of the movement will improve.
  8. Continue this movement as long as you can hold the breath out comfortably. Make sure not to strain your breath.
  9. When you need to inhale, release both the navel lock and the chin lock, and while inhaling come up to a standing position. Continue with a few natural breaths until the breathing gets back to normal.
  10. Repeat steps 2 to 9 three more times. If at any time you feel tired, light-headed or uncomfortable in any manner, you should immediately stop the practice and relax.

Benefits

  • Activates and energizes the Manipura chakra, the seat of fire in the Pranic body
  • Increased circulation to abdominal muscles, tissues and organs, pelvic muscles
  • Improved elimination of toxins and waste
  • The fire of the Agnisara Kriya stimulates digestion and metabolism which allows optimum assimilation of nutrients from food intake.
  • Reduces problems with gas in the stomach and even helps with hyperacidity.
  • Removes excess belly fat from around the abdomen
  • Stimulates the five pranasa, especially the Samana which helps increase energy and elevate mood. 
  • Alleviates depression, dullness and lethargy
  • Helps reduce weight and tones the walls of the abdomen
  • Kidneys as well as the small and large intestines are activated and cleansed.
  • Helps strengthen the lower back.

Contraindications

Practice Agnisara on an empty stomach, preferably early in the morning.

Avoid Agnisara practice in the following circumstances:

  • Do not practice Agni Sara if you are pregnant; however, you should get back to this practice after childbirth to strengthen the weakened core muscles
  • If you are suffering from heart, nervous system, or respiratory ailments
  • If you have glaucoma, hiatal hernia, or ulcers of the stomach or intestine.
  • If you have had a recent abdominal or spinal surgery

Does your pranayama practice include Agnisara? Please provide your feedback in the comments section below.

24 comments to Improve Digestion with Agnisara Kriya

  • vinod sharma

    is agnisara not recommended for hiatus hernia patient

    • Yes, indeed, Vinod, I would not recommend practicing Agnisaara when you have hiatal hernia. Practice of Agnisaara can further damage the already week diaphragm and also weaken the lining of the stomach.

  • ravinder

    sir mere nabhi bar bar tal jati he or muje bowl release karne ke liye bhi medicine leni padte he kya me ye kriya kr sakta hu

  • Naresh

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734640/

    then how come he practiced this technique to get rid of gerd. Please clarify

    • Hi Naresh, could you please elaborate on your question? The article that you are referring to seems to indicate that kapalabhati and agni saara are beneficial for GERD. Please restate your questions. Thanks .

  • Arvind

    Suffering from Acid reflux as a result of which there is sore throat and cough in the throat. Sound becomes shaky at times due to acid reflux.
    Can Agnisar Kriya help?

    • In my opinion Agnisaar possibly cannot hurt your situation. So it is worth trying. The other practice you may want to try is Laghu Shankhaprakshalana. All the best.

  • Shailesh

    Sir, one article on net suggested that kapalbhati and agnisaar kriya helped in treating GERD and hiatal Hernia.

    • Hi Shailesh, I have no direct experience with these conditions. Since these two practices help massage the internal organs very effectively, they could certainly be helpful in managing GERD and hiatal hernia.

  • Raj

    Hi,

    I have some skin problem.So to remove toxins from my stomach i am doing Kunjal Kriya(drink water in empty stomach and vomit). i have been doing this for the last 2 months on daily basis. Now my question is;

    1. every time I do this, the last 400 ML of water that i remove from my stomach is yellowish in colour and tastes more bitter. is it a normal symptom?
    2. is practising this on daily basis is a good idea? if not are there any side affects?

    • Hello Raj,
      Getting water which is yellowish in color after Kunjal Kriya is quite normal. No need to worry about it. Also, if it feels alright, doing a daily practice can not do any harm. On the other hand, my personal feeling is that having done it once a day for a month, you can revert to once or twice a week. If needed, you can go back to daily practice for another month or so. Just my personal opinion, not based on any scriptural reference.

  • Mraj

    I am 30 years old and have suffered from Allergic bronchitis and gerd all my life .I am not sure which is the source of the other problem.My doc says gerd feeds bronchitis and vice versa.I am very disciplined with my diet and have active lifestyle(badminton,running,suryanamaskaara) .I have noticed over doing suryanamskaara aggrevates my condition.But i keep getting this problem once in 2 months(when weather changes ).It gets bad during december/Jan though .I have been practicing mudre pranayama for over a year and it helps definetly .What can i do to improve my condition.What yogasanas should i practice .I used to use inhalers but from last 10 years i have been on homeopathy medication and stopped inhalers.From last few months i have been trying ayurveda

    • Hello Mukund,
      It seems to me that you are already taking care of yourself with your diet and exercise program. The only thing I can suggest is to add the spinal twist (ardha-matsyendrasana) and the boat pose to your routine. As for pranayama, you may like to add kapalabhati, bhastrika and agni sara to your routine. Some relaxation and meditation will add to the effectiveness of your practice.

  • Rahul Chatterjee

    Hi,previously I m a patient of mitral valve regurgitating.and five years before I have been operated and my mitral valve has been changed with metallic valve. Can I practice agnisara.

    • Hello Rahul,
      I have no direct experience dealing with anyone with your condition. My feeling, though, is that any practice that can put extra pressure on your heart should be approached cautiously. This includes agni-sara, bhastrika and kapalabhati. Since your surgery was five years ago, it may be OK to try some gentle rounds first. I suggest consultation with some local yoga teacher who can guide you.

  • Atul

    Subhash, While doing agnisar, Do we press on knees downwards with arms or they are just resting lightly on knees/thighs without putting your body load on knees/thighs? Reason I am asking because when if I press down on knees/things with straightened arms. My body automatically goes into uddiyana bandha without even trying.

    • Hello Atul,
      To practice Agnisar, you have to go into uddiyana bandha first. So, I see no harm in pressing with the palms while doing the practice.

  • tova

    hello, should i avoid kriya all throughout the pregnancy? it is part of my daily practice and i found out just yesterday i am pragnant. 5th week
    thank you

  • Swar

    Can I practice agnisara if I am suffering from chronic dysentry ? Will it trigger my problem or relieve it ?

  • Angelique

    I practiced agni sara today (7 weeks pregnant), did I hurt my baby?

    • Hi Angelique,
      At 7 weeks, you probably didn’t hurt your baby. However, I would recommend that you suspend the practice of agni sara during pregnancy.