Bahya is a Sanskrit word that means ‘outside’ or ‘external’ and pranayama (we already discussed here!) is all about breathing exercises of yoga.
In Bahya pranayama, you take a deep forceful inhalation followed by completely emptying your lungs. After exhalation, you need to hold your breath (out) for a few seconds and engage various bandhas (body locks). This exhalation and outside retention are what make this pranayama unique.
Breathe retention in yoga is called ‘Kumbhaka‘. Therefore this pranayama is also known as ‘Bahir kumbhaka‘ or ‘Bahir Pranayam‘ (Bahir means outside).
In addition to holding breathing out, three Bandhas are incorporated in Bahya Pranayama to increase the efficiency of the lungs and stimulate the respective organs system functioning.
By practising Bahya pranayama, you will be able to stimulate your abdominal organs and enhance the digestion and elimination process. It also improves your respiratory system and promotes mind-body balance. This pranayama is also known to cure imbalanced thyroid-related problems and reduce symptoms of diabetes as well.
How to Do Bahya Pranayama?
Practising Bahya pranayama will be extremely beneficial with an empty stomach. If you also practice Kapalbhati, practice this pranayama after it. Beginners can start by practising bahya pranayama for 5-7 minutes and gradually increase the breath retention duration.
- Sit in a cross-legged posture, preferred Sukhasana or Padmasana.
- Take a deep inhalation and then exhale, completely emptying your lungs.
- Hold your breath out and bring your attention to perform 3 Bandhas;
- If you have a stiff neck or any other issue, you do not have to pull down your chin. Keep your head straight and look forward.
- Hold your breath for 3-5 seconds along with these 3 body locks (together called Maha Bandha).
- Release these locks by breathing in deeply.
- Breath normally for a few seconds and repeat the process.
Advanced practitioners can incorporate the practice of Agnisar kriya along with Bahya Pranayama. For this, at the end of the 4th step, loosen up your abdominal muscles and churn them around the central abs. It’s considered very effective in stimulating the digestive fire.
The ideal ratio of breathing in Bahya pranayama is 1:2:3 i.e. if inhale is of 1 second, then exhalation should be for 2 seconds and finally, the breath should be held out for 3 seconds. Similarly, if inhale is doubled or tripled, then exhalation and breathe retention will be doubled or tripled also.
Bahya Pranayama Benefits
Bahya pranayama may seem to be only focused on breath retention however, it comes with various benefits. It not only improves digestion but also helps in countering ailments related to the organs present in this area. Your respiratory system also gets cleansed and it also helps in curing diabetes.
Controlling your breath also improves your concentration and further enhances mental clarity.
Let us have a look at some other benefits of bahya pranayama.
1. Stimulates and improves the digestive system
Bahya Pranayama consists of holding the breath out, squeezing the abdomen to the navel level, and lock it upward as much you can. This action in this Pranayama helps to improve the digestive system. As it increases the flexibility of the intestines, this will lead to better digestion.
Better digestion also prevents stomach problems such as acidity, gastric reflux, constipation, etc.
2. Prevents issues related to abdominal organs
The abdomen contains various organs such as the stomach, spleen, liver, kidney, uterus, etc. which perform their own unique function. Bahya Pranayama promotes a fresh supply of blood, which keeps them stimulated. This stimulation also encourages them to work at their optimum level. Thus, it will prevent issues such as hernia, urinary infection, etc.
3. Cleanses and improves respiratory system
Breathing techniques are connected with the respiratory system. Hence this breathing technique helps to improve the respiratory system. Pranayama contains deep breathing, that acts as cleansing agents for the respiratory glands, and with every inhale and exhale it cleans the blockages.
When we intend to empty the lungs in bahya pranayama by complete exhalation, it actually clears the lungs and saves a lot of energy from dissipating outside [efn_note] Effect of Short-Term Pranayama and Meditation on Cardiovascular Functions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3221193/ [/efn_note].
4. Reduces symptoms of diabetes
Practicing Bahya Pranayama can be beneficial for diabetic patients. You are contacting your abdominal muscles in Bahya Pranayama which also stimulates the pancreas, the insulin-secreting organ. Proper insulin secretion will automatically reduce symptoms of diabetes. Breath retention may also help in reducing blood sugar levels [efn_note] Effects of Bhramari Pranayama on health – A systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5755957/ [/efn_note].
5. Aids in Kundalini Awakening
Bahya pranayama is helpful in Kundalini awakening. On kundalini awakening, it gives rise to many spiritual and physical powers. Kundalini awakening gives sensations to the brain and that helps the brain to focus on the current moment. Your mind becomes calm and it prepares the mind for meditation.
6. Increases focus and concentration
Focusing on the current moment increases the level of concentration and also sharpens the memory. The locking of bandhas calms the nervous system and promotes better oxygen and blood circulation toward the brain. This helps in mental clarity, a focused mind, and giving you a calm demeanor.
7. Promotes mind-body balance
When we hold our breath and come in the bandha position there is no source of oxygen in the body for that time. Hence all the body parts that are working separately from the brain are now working together. In simple words, this Pranayama helps the brain and body to work in a synchronized manner.
Bahya Pranayama is most effective for the abdominal muscles. One part of this Pranayama is to squeeze the area from the belly upward after exhaling the breath. Hence it creates a vacuum in the stomach as there is no more air remaining inside. It makes blood inside the body fill the space that has been empty because of exhalation and retention of breath. So the blood is used to gather near the intestinal area and in this manner, it is an effective Pranayama for many abdominal diseases.
It works on reproductive parts as well. Bahya Pranayama cures problems related to urine and sperms. Also, after exhalation, holding breath out is the process of detoxification.
Bahya Pranayama and Kumbhaka
Bahya Pranayama is the part of one of three Kumbhakas;
- Antara Kumbhaka
- Bahya Kumbhaka
- Kevala Kumbhaka
Anatara Kumbhaka means retention of breath inside. In this breathing, we take a long and deep breath in while expanding the chest, and then hold this breath inside by locking at the throat (Jalandhar bandha).
An example of this breathing is Murcha Pranayama.
Bahya Kumbhaka is the opposite of the above. It’s similar to Bahya Pranayama in the process i.e. exhaling completely out, holding the breath, then applying 3 bandhas further to create a sense of emptiness in the body.
Kevala Kumbhaka is subtle breathing practice used in meditation. In simple words, it’s the transitional stage between inhalation and exhalation i.e. when we neither breathe in nor out. To maintain this stage of breathing firstly one needs to master the above two.
Kevala kumbhaka is very effective in stilling the mind’s chatter before meditation and so it’s called natural pranayama.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are a patient of high blood pressure or are suffering from heart disease and cervical colitis, you should refrain from performing bahya pranayama. Moreover, practitioners who have a history of asthma and migraine should also avoid this.
Women during pregnancy and menstrual cycle should also refrain from doing this pranayama as it creates pressure around the uterus and abdominal region.
Bahya Pranayam should be practised on an empty stomach. If you have eaten a meal, make sure you keep a 3-hour gap before you practice this pranayama. Also, empty your bowels if you are practising the bahya pranayama early in the morning.
Although there are no known side effects of bahya pranayama, however, it is better to prepare your lungs before performing this pranayama. You can practice rapid external breathing like Kapalbhati Pranayama or Bhastrika Pranayama to prepare your lungs.
There are 3 bandhas that are engaged during bahya pranayama, which are :
Muladhara Bandha or Root Lock – located in the pelvic floor muscles
Uddiyana Bandha – located from the abdominals up to the diaphragm
Jalandhara Bandha – located in the throat.