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 SamhitaÂ 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.
- Come to a standing position on your mat with the feet about 12-16 inches apart.
- Bend the knees slightly and place the hands on the knees. Try to keep the elbows straight.
- Exhale completely, eliminating all the air from the lungs. Hold the breath out.
- Apply Uddiyana Bandha (navel lock) by sucking the abdominal muscles in, pulling the navel back toward the spine.
- Lower the chin to the chest to apply Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock).
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue this movement as long as you can hold the breath out comfortably. Make sure not to strain your breath.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.