Kumbhaka has many benefits which if it Is practiced with caution, persistence and patience under the guidance of an experienced teacher has many benefits.
Breath retention creates a build-up of carbon dioxide which causes cerebral vasodilation. The main function of cerebral vasodilation is to increase blood supply to parts of the body in need. Cerebral vasodilation is the widening of the blood vessels, due to smooth muscle relaxing. One of the benefits of cerebral vasodilation is reduced blood pressure. Carbon dioxide is also essential for good health.
PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
Slowing the breath to six per minute while focusing the breath in the belly will soothe the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects most of the bodies vital organs and has fibres connected to the sympathetic nervous system. Under stress the vagus nerve becomes agitated which causes the respiratory and heart rate to increase along with the sympathetic nervous system (fight & flight). Controlling the breath encourages the rest and relax nervous system (parasympathetic)
The mind is fired by Prana, so more breaths means more activity in the mind (chitta). Controlling the breath and eventually suspending it means the mind becomes calmer paving the way for Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana.
HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA ON PRANAYAMA
Chapter 4 on Pranayama
1: Having established in the practice of asana, a yogi, who is self-restrained and consumes wholesome and moderate food, should undertake the regular practice of pranayama, as instructed by the guru.
Practice of pranayama comprises three phases
- Rechaka – exhale
- Puruka – inhale
- Kumbhaka – retention
Kumbhaka is of two kinds
- Sahita kumbhaka – the means
- Kevala kumbhdaka – the goal
- Kevala Kumbhaka is suggested for Dhyana (Cudamani Upanishad)
When Kumbhaka is accompanied by Puruka and Rechaka it is called Sanita Kumbhaka.
One should continue practicing Sahita until one attains Kevala
- Sahita Kumbhaka is the means to achieve Kevala Kumbhaka.
- Kevala Kumbhaka is a spontaneous retention, which the yogi holds at will
Retention of breath with great ease irrespective of inhalation or exhalation is called Kevala Kumbhaka
When one masters Kevala Kumbhaka, irrespective of inhalation or exhalation nothing remains unachievable for him in the three worlds
- 1. Three worlds or Triloka refers to the gross world, heaven and atmosphere
- 2. Other sources talk of 14 worlds, with 7 higher planes above the earth and 7 lower planes below the earth. The 7 higher are said to be linked to be linked to the Chakras. The earth is the lowest of the7 higher realms and is represented by Mulhadhara chakra.
- Make the mind objectless by retaining the breath after exhalation. This practice also brings about a state of Raja yoga (Dhyana or meditation)
- The practice of Kumbhaka brings arousal of Kundalini, which leads to free passage of Prana into Shushumna so one attains success in Hatha Yoga.