In Lesson 8 we introduced you to antar kumbhaka (inner retention) as the third stage of nadi shodhana pranayama. We emphasized that you should slowly develop the ability to hold the breath for longer periods of time. This allows the body to make corresponding adjustments to meet the new operating conditions of the respiration cycle. For this reason, we advised that the practitioner limit his or her inner retention to no more than a count of ten (about ten seconds) for the first stage of antar kumbhaka practice.
If you have been practising nadi shodhana stage 3 regularly and find that you can easily retain your breath for a count of ten throughout continuously repeated rounds, then now start to slowly increase the duration of the retention. Aim to eventually make your ratio of one round as follows: 1:4:2: 1:4:2 for inhalation: retention: exhalation: inhalation: retention: exhalation. The last ratio given was 1:2:2: 1:2:2. All the details previously given will still apply, but with the gradually increased duration of retention. Don’t try to achieve the final ratio in one day; take your time and progress gradually, measuring your progression by the easiness and calmness with which you perform the practices. Gasping for breath and easily becoming tired indicate that you are not ready to increase your ratio. “Slowly, but surely” is the motto to remember in pranayama, and in fact yoga in general. Remember also that the actual duration of the retention will depend on the duration of inhalation and exhalation, which will have been fixed in the previous practices of nadi shodhana 1 and 22.
If you have been practising nadi shodhana but find difficulty in holding your breath for more than a few counts, then continue with the ratio given previously. Don’t try to make undue haste – let the wisdom of your body set the pace. If you have not been practising pranayama regularly then you should master the more fundamental stages 1 and 2 before attempting antar kumbhaka. This is important.
The times of practice that we have given in the suggested practice programs are the bare minimum. Try to devote more time every day to doing nadi shodhana. If you can spend half an hour daily, diligently practising nadi shodhana, you will reap wonderful benefits.