Kumbhaka Paddhati is the only text which deals
exhaustively the topic of pranayama. It is extensively
quoted by Sunderadeva , another writer on hatha-yoga
in his Hatha-sanketa-candrika and Hatha-tatva-
kaumudi . The text describes more than 50
kumbhakas, many of which are not commonly known.
Despite the description of various kurnbhakas , the
author is loud in praise for meru-kumbhaka of which
he describes 47 stages. These include all levels of
spiritual development. These stages are a continuum
of experiences the yogi passes through as a result of
continuous-practice. of kumbhakas. These are not
found described in any. available texts. Therefore. it is
the unique feature of .Kumbhaka Paddhati .
Kumbhaka-paddhati (manual on pranayama) of Sri
Raghuvira, edited by Dr. M. L. Gharote and Dr. Parimal
Devnath is an interesting collection on the science of
yoga-cudamani-upanisad mentions pranayama vidya
as mahavidya (great knowledge of learning), where the
practitioner of pranayama experiences the union of himself
with the Universal Spirit (Brahma).
Kumbhaka-paddhati explains fifty-seven types of
kumbhaka with forty-seven stages.
God is one, but people call him by different names.
Similarly, though the text explains fifty-seven types of
kumbhakas, the readers should know that the principal
kumbhakas are of these types namely, antar-kumbhaka
(retention of breath after inhalation), bahya-kumbhaka
(retention of breath after exhalation), kumbhaka in-between
interrupted puraka and recaka and one that is both instinctive
and intuitive (kevala-kumbhaka).
Actually, pranayama consists of four movements:
puraka (in-breath), antar-kumbhaka (retention after breath),
recaka (out-breath) and bahya-kumbhaka (retention of breath
after the out-breath).
As different patterns of breathing and retention can
be discovered while performing different types of asanas, it
is possible to adopt and adapt different types of breathing
patterns and retention (kumbhaka), according to one' internal
intellectual development and maturity. These adoptions and
adaptations through the various permutations and
combinations express the multiples of kumbhakas.
As Pranava 'aum' with the crescent and dot is the seed
of all words, puraka represents generation or creation of
energy (G) Brahma, antar-kumbhaka represents organization
of energy (0) Visnu, recaka releases that vitious air that
destroys life (D) Mahesvare, while bahya-kumbhaka takes
one to experience the changeless, eternal state of quietude.
Pranayama is a great penance (maha tapas). It is
nadanusandhana, one has to investigate, inquire and search
(sravana, manana and nididhyasana). Lord Patanjali puts
this in simple words, japa, artha and bhavana.
We have all been bestowed with pance-bhautike-serira
consisting of earth, water, air and ether. They are the physical
matters of the body. These five matters have their own
infrastructures as panca tenmatras, namely, odour, taste, shape,
touch and space. These tanmatras are the chemistry and
alchemy of the body. These are controlled by the cosmic life
force (visva-prana-sakti). As nature (Prakrti) divides into
various sections, this visva-prana-sakti transforms into panca
vayus as prana, apana, samana, vyana and udana. These
five vayu's locations have been explained in the text
corresponding to the five elements and their corresponding
five atomic powers. They also correspond to the five cakras
namely, muladhara, svadhisthana, manipuraka, anahata and
visuddhi. The other two cakras, ajna and sahasrara are
These pance-vayus churn, mix, mould and blend the
bhutas and tanmatras to bring their essence (rasa) and prana
sakti (elixir of life).
We are endowed with karana-sarira (causal body),
suksma-sarira (subtle body) and sthula-sarira (gross body, also
These three bodies represent the prajna (awareness)
of self, consciousness and body (asmita, citta, desa) and prana
acts as the link in connecting these three bodies. For example,
inhalation helps in expanding the self and consciousness
progressively in delicate adjustment to touch the torso (desa) ,
whereas in exhalation, the sense and feel of the body and
consciousness is gradually released to reach the self without
any disturbance or collapse in the outer body. In kumbhaka
equi-balance of prana and apana is learnt. This way
pranayama sadhana acts as a hub for the sadhaka to learn
this connection with clarity.
In short, the secret of pranayama is the art of spacing
the intelligence of the self, judiciously in the body (desa) , by
puraka. Uniting together the space in place is antar-
kumbhaka. Releasing the breath delicately for the place to
reach the inner space is recaka, bringing together the place
with the interior space of the body is bahya-kumbhaka. Hence,
pranayama is not only a method of balancing the energy
metabolism, but it also is an experiencing the state of
composed consciousness (samadhana-citta).
Kumbhaka-paddhati cautions that, 'as one climbs from
the lower steps to reach the top of the ladder, one has to
progress in kumbhaka, carefully observing the rules and stages
of pranayama to reach the higher stages of yoga' (KP-231-
236). The effects of kumbhaka explained from 237 to 280
in this treatise are also found in the vibhuti-pada of Patanjali
and hathayoge texts.
The notes given at the end of the book are a guide for
I feel that it is a valuable book for keen pranayama
sadhakas and it is a well presented book to know and
understand the richness of the science, art and philosophy of
The work of editing the present text of Kumbhaka-
paddhati was started with the single manuscript available in
the beginning. This manuscript is deposited in the Rajasthan
Oriental Research Institute, Jodhpur the details of which are
Ace. No. 4577, Kumbhaka-paddhati by Raghuvira.
Size 24.0x 11.3 cm., lines 10, letters 28, folio No. 21,
status - complete, condition good, age 19th century.
This is indicated as 'J'.
As the work proceeded we found the quotations from
Kumbhaka-paddhati in the works like HSC and HTK, both
composed by Sundaradeva. For comparison and variant
readings, these quotations from Kumbhaka-paddhati were
considered. When the text was almost completed, we came
to know that another manuscript copy of Kumbhaka-paddhati
is deposited in the Library of Asiatic Society, Kolkata,
through our friend Dr. Dhanaraj Sharma, Prof. of Sanskrit
Deptt., Punjab University, Chandigarh. He was kind enough
to send us a Xerox copy of this manuscript for our study.
We are grateful to him for his friendly gesture in the interest
of yoga. The details of this manuscript are as follows-
Acc. No. viii.B.6597 ,Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal,
Kolkata, Kumbhaka-paddhati by Raghuvira Audicya,
Size 22.5x9.3 cm., lines 5, letters 8-11, folio No. 31,
status complete, condition good.
This is indicated as 'A'.
'J' manuscript is more complete. There are many
verses missing in 'A' manuscript. However, 'A' manuscript
has been used for determining important readings.
It is interesting to note that' A' manuscript has been
noted in the Aufrecht's Catalogus and in Catalogus
Catalogrum. But the 'J' manuscript has not been included.
We find the' J' manuscript important and therefore it is used
The author of Kumbhaka-paddhati
The author of Kumbhaka-paddhati is Raghuvira. He
is also mentioned as Raghava, Raghupati and Raghurama.
He has given a brief account of himself in the beginning of
the text from which we know that his father Siverama hailed
from a royal family and was residing in Kasi (Benares). He
was a descendent of Kutsa Gotra (clan) and was an Udicya
Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, has published a text called
'Satkarma-samgraha' edited by Dr. R. G. Harshe in 1970. In
this text verse no. 148 states-
iti sanksepatah proktsh karmanam sangrahah ptuuh|
vidusa raghuvirena sriman-natha-prasadatah.||
This ascribes its authorship to Raghuvira, Raghava
or Raghunatha. In verse no. 149 there is a reference to
Audicya Brehmana- 'iti srimad-dvijodicya-jnati-
rajakulabhidhat'. From these statements it is clear that
Raghava or Raghuvira has also written the above text of
There are many similarities in his writings in both of
these texts which may be mentioned below:
i) There are frequent references to the sources of Siva
found in both the texts. Every now and then the author has
expressed his indebtedness to Siva using several of Siva's
ii) He calls himself an Audicya Brebmana and
descendent of a royal family.
iii) He calls his treatise on a particular subject as
'paddhati' like 'Karma-paddhati' and 'Kumbhaka-paddhati'.
The text of Satkarma-samgraba apparently seems to
have been written by 'cidghananandanatha' -
'cidghananandanatha 'ham kurve satkarma-sangraham.' It is
possible that this name has been adopted by Raghuvira or
Raghava prior to writing of the 'Satkarma-sangraha' as
suggested by the editor of this text. He calls himself as the
disciple of Gaganananda-natha. Raghava seems to have
written another text named 'Misraka' having an admixture of
yoga and medicine as the title indicates.
We come across quotations from KP in the works like
Hathasanketa-candrika and Hatha-tatva-kaumudi authored
Both Raghuvira and Sundaradeva were residing in
Kasi. But it is not known whether they were contemporaries.
The title of the text
The title of the text given by the author is Kumbhaka-
paddhati. He also refers to kumbhamarga or the path of
kumbhaka originated from Siva. Kumbhaka-paddhati and
kumbhamarga may be considered as synonyms.
What is kumbhaka?
The word kumbhaka is derived from the word kumbha
meaning a water pot. Just as a water pot contains water,
similarly, when the lungs hold the air, it is called kumbhaka.
Yoga-yajnyavalkye defines kumbhaka as 'sampurna-
kumbhavad-vayor-dharanam kumbhako bhavet'. Kumbha
is used for kumbhaka in many places in the present text.
kumbhaka is also a synonym of pranayama and has been
profusely used in the pauranika and hathayogic literature.
In these texts, the technique of pranayama is described in
three phases, namely, paraka, kumbhaka and recaka. But in
pranayama the phase of kumbhaka is most important and
puraka and recaka are only complementary and
supplementary phases. Looking to the importance of the
kumbhaka phase, it is considered as a synonym for
pranayama. Thus the three phases of pranayama, namely,
puraka, kumbhaka and recaka are respectively the processes
of filling the lungs with air, holding the air in the lungs and
expelling the air from the lungs.
In the phase of kumbhaka, there is no movement of
breath. Therefore, smrtis define it as niscala-svasah. It is a
phase in the respiration technically described as svasa-
prasvasa-gati- vicchedah (PYS- II.49).
Physiology of kumbhaka
Kumbhaka may be physiologically described as Breath
Holding. The term Breath Holding occurs frequently in the
Sports literature. In many athletic events breath is held. The
physiology of breath holding involves respiratory, circulatory
and cardiac changes, all of which are important. Most obvious
changes are increasing level of CO2 and decreasing level of
02 in the alveolar air. These changes reflect the changes in
the level of respiratory gases in the blood. 02 and CO2 levels
are involved in respiratory control, but CO2 level is more
important in holding the breath.
When the partial pressure of CO2 in the alveolar air
exceeds approximately 50mrn.Hg., the stimulus to breathe is
so strong that the breath can no longer be held. This is called
Break Point at which breathing recommences.
Chemoreceptors are susceptible to chemical
component of the blood. Due to accumulation of CO2, the
capacity to retain the breath is limited. According to Haldane
.01 per cent change in CO2 changes the action of the
In kumbhaka afferent impulses of Vagus start from
the lungs and the efferent impulses of Vagus are sent back
from Medulla oblongata. The afferent impulses enable us to
keep the lungs in a particular stretched position and the
efferent impulses help to slow down the heart.
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