Rupali and I learned this energizing sequence of movements—called hara kumbhaka—early in our yoga journey at the Kripalu Center.
And we love it!
It’s such a simple practice, yet very effective.
A little about hara
‘Hara’ refers to the abdominal area or the soft belly. It’s considered the seat of our life force—the house of chi, qi, prana.
Here the third chakra resides, known as manipura chakra (lit., city of jewels), which is involved with our personal will, vitality, self-esteem and the power of transformation; it also governs digestion and metabolism.
Moving from your center during hara kumbhaka is moving from the center of your being, which strengthens your life force, creates deep awareness and focuses the willy-nilly mind.
In each of the movements of this flow sequence, you’ll bring your hands back to the hara center…to draw attention back to center and keep the mind present during the practice.
Incorporating it into your teaching
Over the years we’ve continued to practice hara kumbhaka as well as teach it to students of all ages.
But encouraging students and private clients to commit to a consistent home practice can be tough.
Heck, we have trouble with that ourselves sometimes!
Giving them mini-practices creates more possibility for success, because it’s not such an overwhelming time commitment.
And of course a LITTLE yoga is better than NO yoga, right?
Hara kumbhaka is just such a mini-practice that can be done daily.
Some of the surprising benefits are:
- It’s energizing.
- It doesn’t take long…only a few minutes.
- It can be a standalone practice or used as a warm-up to a longer yoga sequence.
- It builds focus and concentration.
- It gets you breathing deeply.
- It requires that you synchronize breath with movement.
- It increases balance so it’s especially beneficial for older students to improve their lower body strength and balance.
- It’s good for limited-range-of-motion students (including older yogis) who find other vinyasas beyond their capability.
- It doesn’t require much space so it’s great for traveling yogis.
You can also add a short kumbhaka, or holding of the breath, to increase the benefits of building energy and quieting your mind.
So you can see why we like hara kumbhaka so much!
This video of hara kumbhaka shows two different variations for the feet and arms.
Rupali’s version is great for students that are more open in the shoulders and stronger in their balance.
You’ll get all the positive effects regardless of which one you use, so go with the one that feels most comfortable in your body.
Remember the goal is to create more ease and steadiness in your body through your yoga practice.
For some practitioners this might be considered a vigorous sequence, so warming up thoroughly before starting is a good idea. You can always use the first couple of rounds as your warm-up, taking shorter steps into warrior and goddess and not going as deep into the poses. For the last few rounds lengthen the stances and deepen the poses. Doing a total of five rounds of the sequence is a good amount.
Relax deeply after. Commit to seven days consecutively and notice the effects.
Use the ujjayi (Darth Vader breath) throughout the sequence, breathing in and out through the nose. A more vigorous variation is to inhale through the nose when bringing the arms up, and then exhale with a “HA” sound as you step INTO each pose.
You can add a brief holding of the breath at the end of both phases…just a pause, with no clenching.
Kumbhaka means retention but only add the breath holds when you feel comfortable with the sequence.
Build your energy…quiet your mind…sharpen your internal awareness.
The three main poses included in hara kumbhaka
- Stand with feet hip width apart.
- Palms on hara center (solar plexus, manipura chakra).
- Inhale arms up, shoulder width apart.
- Exhale with a “HA” sound, lunging forward with your right foot into virabhadrasana A (warrior).
- Inhaling, spring back, exhale return your hands to your solar plexus. Repeat on opposite side.
- Inhale arms up a “V” and out to the sides.
- Exhale as you step your right foot wide to the right side, toe out, bending your knees and bringing your elbows downward, fingertips up, palms facing inward.
- Inhale, return to center arms in a “V,” exhale hands to solar plexus.
- Repeat on opposite side.
- Interlacing your fingers over your solar plexus, turn your palms outward and inhale arms up overhead.
- Exhale “HA” softly as you bend your knees and sink into a utkatasana, pressing your palms straight out in front of you at shoulder level.
- Inhale, straightening your legs and raise your arms overhead.
- Exhale, returning your hands to your solar plexus. Repeat this movement one time.
Repeat sequence five times.
Hara kumbhaka is a feel-good posture flow that’s suitable for most bodies, ages, genders and doshas (temperaments). It creates a lovely calm, energized focus that becomes more profound the more you do it.
This is a fantastic posture sequence to teach your students to initiate a home practice.
What you can do next
- Leave us a comment (pretty puhhhleease).
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