Pranayama Practice

Modern Ayurveda

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Here we will briefly discuss the technique of kevala kumbhaka. The Sanskrit word kevala means 'only', and kumbhaka means 'breath retention' or 'cessation'. The word kevala is directly connected with the word kaivalya meaning 'onlyness', but is another name for samadhi, nirvana or supreme enlightenment and union. Therefore kevala and kaivalya mean that experience which is beyond duality, beyond mere conceptions, beyond words. Any description of the experience immediately distorts it and can never adequately convey its essence. For this reason, the words kevala and kaivalya are used as a suitable nondescription of the indescribable.

Kevala kumbhaka is the spontaneous cessation of breath that occurs with the state of samadhi, attained through pranayama and the meditational methods of raja yoga. If kevala kumbhaka arises, then samadhi must also simultaneously occur. One goes with the other.

Other forms of kumbhaka (such as antar kumbhaka in nadi shodhana stage 3) are known collectively as sahita kumbhaka1. The word sahita means 'combined with something'. In other words, these other types of kumbhaka are combined with and brought about by other practices; they require effort to perform them and do not arise spontaneously; they are not directly related to samadhi. These kumbhakas are performed in order to induce the spontaneous occurrence of kevala kumbhaka, where one becomes perfectly receptive to the inflow of higher consciousness.

The bandhas (jalandhara, uddiyana and moola) are powerful techniques of inducing kev ala kumbhaka, especially ifthey are combined with pranayama practices2.


Having mastered the ratio given in the previous lesson (namely 1:6:4:1:6:4) you should now proceed to the next ratio which is 1:8:6:1:8:6 for inhalation: inner retention: exhalation: inhalation: inner retention: exhalation3.

Remember, if you have not yet mastered an earlier stage then persevere until you gain proficiency. Don't proceed to a more advanced stage prematurely. If possible tiy to increase the time that you practise pranayama daily, beyond what is prescribed in the suggested practice program. The more you practise, the more proficient you will become and the greater will be the results.

However, don't strain. You should slowly gain mastery over the breathing process.


1 Book I, Lesson 8, Topic 4

2 Jalandhara bandha: Book II, Lesson 14, Topic 3; uddiyana bandha: Book II, Lesson 18, Topic 3; moola bandha: Book II, Lesson 19, Topic 4

3 Book I, Lesson 10, Topic 5

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