Suspending the Breath

Holding the breath (or breath retention) might seem counterintuitive to bringing more life force into your body; but in fact, suspending the breath brings you into a state of more flow. 

Benefits of Suspending the Breath

When practicing breath retention, you are gradually reconditioning the nervous system. It allows for centering and training in the use of good judgement under pressure. On a suspended breath, you can experience shuniya—zero. Shuniya is a deep stillness into which you can plant a seed to create a new rhythm or pattern of being. In shuniya, the kundalini flows.

In the hatha yoga lineage, suspending the breath is called kumbhaka, and is said to increase overall respiration and carbon dioxide in the body, which has endless benefits, including:

  • Increases blood to the brain and heart (vasodilation)
  • Allows more air to enter the lungs (bronchodilation)
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Reduces the need and craving for heavy, processed, and acidic foods
  • Improves longevity
  • Promotes brain tissue regeneration
  • Induces an anti-inflammatory effect
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Strengthens the diaphragm
  • Protects brain cells
  • Reduces stress and anxiety

How to Practice

When practicing breath retention, it’s important to do so safely. If you feel dizzy, stop and try later. When holding the breath, it’s important to keep the face, shoulders, stomach and entire body relaxed as much as possible.

Breath Retention on Inhale

  1. Inhale deeply.
  2. Bring your attention to the clavicle and upper ribs. Lift the upper ribs slightly and fix them in place.
  3. Relax the soldiers, throat and face.
  4. Pull the chin in.
  5. Become still and calm.
  6. If you feel the urge to exhale, inhale a tiny bit instead.


Breath Retention on Exhale

  1. Start with a complete exhale.
  2. Pull the naval point back toward the spine.
  3. Lift the lower chest and diaphragm.
  4. Let the upper ribs relax and compress.
  5. Do not bend the spine and ribs when exhaling completely — this would interrupt the action of the diaphragm.
  6. Pull the chin in.
  7. Become still and calm.
  8. If the muscles start a reflux to inhale, consciously exhale a little more. This can extend the length of suspension significantly without any strain or struggle.

3HO International

3HO International

3HO is a nonprofit with a mission to inspire everyone everywhere to realize their full potential through the uplifting experience of Kundalini Yoga.