17 Jun Agni Sara for Better Bowel Movement
Discussing bowel health and movement, has been a daily occurrence for me for the last 8 years of teaching yoga full time (empty stomachs and bowels are especially important when teaching advanced pranayama and kriyas). But more importantly, a large majority of students will suffer from some sort of digestive problem that certain poses and breathing exercises can significantly help. Yoga is renowned for being a full head-to-toe exercise that among many other things, stimulates and regulates your bodily systems, endocrine, nervous, respiratory and digestive. Yes us British are known for our toilet humour, but I’m genuinely hoping this post may help anyone with constipation and general digestion issues.
In India 18 years ago, I was introduced to the practice of Agni Sara by a yoga master. I was no longer just attending 1 yoga class a week, but had started to develop my own daily personal practice. With regular breathing exercises, twist poses, forward bends and Agni Sara, my previous digestive issues disappeared and since I’ve had a regular, healthy and happy gut.
The benefits of deep breathing and yoga poses on a variety of digestive disorders has been well documented. But what about this little unknown cleansing exercise from India?
AGNI SARA – Fire Purification
Agni Sara is considered a traditional kriya, or yogic cleansing practice, or rather a more gentle version or step towards practicing Nauli. It is a more gently version of the latter and therefore can also be practiced on a fuller stomach as an aid to constipation. Performing a number of rounds of agni sara produces heat or fire in the abdominal cavity activating its organs.
Agni Sara, according to Swami Vishnu-Devananda, ‘stimulates the liver, spleen, kidneys, and pancreas, reduces the abdominal fat, and removes constipation.’ In order to peform Agni Sara, his instructions are this: ‘The student sits with crossed legs and inhales deeply. Then with a forced exhalation he empties the lungs as much as possible. After the exhalation, he keeps the breath out for a few moments without inhaling. In this condition, his diaphragm is raised naturally to the thoracic cavity and he can manipulate the abdominal muscles. Again, as long as his diaphragm is in the raised position, he pumps the abdominal muscles inward and outward in a quick succession. In each round, when he empties his lungs, he pumps 15 to 20 times without inhaling. This is one round.’ (The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, Swami Vishnu-Devananda, 1988)
When practiced first thing in the morning as part of your kriya routine, it is traditionally done on an empty stomach and can help induce the emptying of bowels before the more forceful kriyas. However I have found this extremely effective when going to the toilet isn’t as easy, due to bloating mild constipation. In 17 years I no longer suffer from esophageal re-flux or IBS, but sometimes I’ll have a naughty meal or have to eat at the wrong time, and I’ll get mild constipation. Below is a video of exactly what I do when sitting on the toilet, to get things moving around and out! Basically you take a breath and after you’ve exhaled, pump your belly in and out as many times as you can until you have to inhale again. There’s no need to be forceful. Take a break in between rounds and take it gently the first time to ensure there are no negative repercussions. Personally it usually achieves the desired effect quite quickly, and 2 minutes later I’m walking out the bathroom! Again I’m sorry to be indelicate, but please share with anyone it could help and if it helps you, please leave me a comment below 🙂