"I have a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease. As a result I am in the fortunate position that I get extensive blood and medical checks performed on an almost weekly basis. Without going into huge medical details, the tests include full blood test, inflammatory markers, kidney and liver fiction, blood pressure, blood sugars............, the list is endless". Ideal for a case study.
"As someone who has a genetic disease there are times when I can flow through Primary and Intermediate without ever questioning the sequence. However, during times of active disease I have to modify and question the sequences, often changing things to best serve the therapeutic repair of my body."
During periods of 'healing' Mick adopts "more of a Vinyasa Krama method of practice. Much more in line with Srivatsa Ranaswami".
For well over a year I've wondered why Krishnmachrya's breath retentions that are mentioned in Yoga Makaranda are not employed by the Ashtanga community.
It seemed odd that Pattahbi Jois did not mention breath retention when he wrote Yoga Mala. (Although, he kind of makes reference to breath retention when writing about Kukkutasana - he tells us to perform Nauli - which can only be effectively performed during rechaka Kumbhaka).
I was troubled by the fact that "this rather significant" part of Krishnamacharya's method had just fallen by the wayside. How could this be?
It was about this time that I became aware (through Anthony Hall's extremely informative blog) that Srivatsa Ramaswami also advocated Kumbhaka in certain Asana.
Considering that Srivatsa Ramaswami was a student of Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, I started to think it very odd that these breath retentions were generally being overlooked in other traditions that recognised Krishnamacharya as their primary teacher.
I decided that I would conduct an experiment to see if there were any benefits / disadvantages to employing Kumbhaka during Asana.
I have a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease. As a result I am in the fortunate position that I get extensive blood and medical checks performed on an almost weekly basis. Without going into huge medical details, the tests include full blood test, inflammatory markers, kidney and liver fiction, blood pressure, blood sugars............, the list is endless.
I decided that I was in the very fortunate position to run my own experiment. I decided that I would spend 2 months practising with Kumbhaka and then 2 months practising without Kumbhaka. This process was repeated three times across the course of the year. I was then able to compare my medical results while practising Kumbhaka to my medical results while not practising Kumbhaka.
I deliberately did not pull together the data until after the first year was up. I didn't want to see any patterns emerging early on that might then influence the future results in some way.
The Results (charts to come)
These results only suggest early trends and only time will tell if these trends continue. For me to build up a very accurate picture I will need to gather considerably more data. I need to gather data for periods when I'm "well" and for periods when my disease is most active. I also need to take into account any variation in medication that would potentially skew the results. This I have attempted to do in the process of analysing the data.
During the periods when I employed Kumbhaka during asana practice I generally enjoyed an improved state of health. This was reflected in my blood tests that showed lower CRP, lower SAA and lower cytokine markers for inflammation.
Generally speaking, all my markers for inflammation were lower during the periods I employed Kumbhaka during my asana practice.
This effect was further enhanced if I employed pranayama within 10 mins of Asana practice.
The period when my inflammatory markers were at their lowest was when I employed Kumbhaka during asana and then immediately followed the asana practice with 20 mins of pranayama.
I also advocate a slow, deep inhalation and exhalation.
I also noticed that after a flair up of my disease I healed faster during the periods I incorporated Kumbhaka into my asana practice than when I didn't.
I have come to the conclusion that I heal much faster if I employ Kumbhaka during asana. (about twice as fast).
I have stunned orthopaedic surgeons by the speed I have healed after surgery.
Just in case your wondering - for the periods when I wasn't employing Kumbhaka during asana, I still employed breath retention during my pranayama practice. However, the benefits to health were not as noticeable to the periods when I employed retentions in both asana and pranayama.
Intrigued by these findings, I started to think why? Why is breath retention having such a profound effect on my health?
I decided to research further and discovered something called "The Bohr Effect"
This then led me to discover the research of biologist Ray Peat.
Here are some links to get you started.
Correlating my data, I have come to the definite conclusion, that the benefits of practicing breath retentions during asana are substantial.
What is it that really distinguishes the practice of Yoga Asana from other forms of aerobic exercise!?
We can say, bandha, drishti, breath........,
The real distinction for me is Kumbhaka. It's is during Kumbhaka where the magic happens. It is during Kumbhaka that we can contemplate God. It is during Kumbhaka that we find incredible stillness. For me, it's during the moments of Kumbhaka that I can "stop the world" and see things with much greater clarity.
I am forever in debt to Krishnamacharya, Srivatsa Ramaswami and Anthony Grim Hall - it is because of them I have arrived at this point.
Curiosity killed the cat. Well not in this case. Curiosity has saved the cat!
I still have to live with the disease. It's a genetic disease. It's not going away! But the teachings of Krishnamacharya and then his student Srivatsa Ramaswami and then his student Anthony Grim Hall are making living with it a lot more tolerable.
I will post again to Anthony's blog, explaining my findings in more detail.
I just wanted to get my findings and conclusions out there.
Puraka kumbhaka after inhalation when jumping back
"Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person".
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda
Rechka kumbhaka after exhalation while jumping through
"Remember to support the movement with your breath. Jumping through at the end of an exhalation, when you are completely empty of breath, is best because the exhalation also facilitates deeper movement into the forward bending position". Tim Miller
UPDATED: Why did Krishnamacharya introduce kumbhaka (breath retention) into the practice of asana in Ashtanga?