• T
  • H
  • M
  • Developing Core Control with Agni Sara

    There are a two exercises called Agni Sara that I am aware of. The first one involves "rolling" your stomach vertically by repeatedly sucking your diahragm upwards and then releasing it while holding your breath out.

    The second version of this exercise involves pulling your lower belly in a section at a time and releasing it a section at a time. I first learned this second variation from David Coulter's "Anatomy of Hatha Yoga." This second version may be helpful in developing better control of uddiyana bandha.


    The first version exercises the intercostals since you use them to lift and expand your ribcage. It also stretches your diaphragm. The second version trains your transverse abdominus and helps you to fine tune your control of this innermost abdominal muscle.


    For both exercise, I would suggest doing them while on an empty stomach or at least a few hours after eating. Also, if you have blood pressure problems or are prone to feinting or have a hiatus hernia then you probably should consult a doctor before trying these exercises.

    For all exercises you can do them standing or sitting.

    Agni Sara Variation 1 Preparation, Full Exhales

    For the first variation of Agni Sara, practice doing full exhales.

    Take a relaxed inhale and then smoothly pull your belly back while you exhale. Smoothly release as you inhale.

    I'd suggest exhaling through your lips but you can also exhale through your nose (provided you haven't got a cold.)

    Once you are comfortable pulling your belly in as you exhale, focus on squeezing your ribcage inwards at the same time as you pull your belly in. Smoothly squeeze your belly and ribcage together to expell all of the air from your lungs and then smoothly relax and inhale.

    Rest and rest when you need to.

    Next practice using your ribs to inhale. You can sit down for this exercise and as you inhale focus on pulling your ribs up, away from your pelvis, smoothly and slowly. Expand your ribcage at the same time so that your ribs simultaneously lift and expand. (These can be felt as two slightly different actions.)

    Focus on feeling the actual movement of your ribs since you will be using this same movement in the next part of this execise.

    The next part of the exercise is also known as uddiyana bandha.

    Uddiyana Bandha Breath Hold Technique

    Stand up with your knees bent and with your hands on your thighs and your elbows straight. (If doing this while sitting, then place your hands on the floor.) You'll be using your arms as foundations to help you lift your ribcage.

    Take a full exhale. Then lift and expand your ribcage without inhaling. Relax when you need to. Try to smoothly relax. Rest and then do it again.

    Normally when you lift and expand your ribcage, you expand the volume of your lungs. This causes a vacuum which, if your throat is open, draws air into your lungs. Since in this exercise your are stopping the flow of air into your lungs, the same vacuum sucks your belly in and up. Actually, since your liver and stomach are suspended from the bottom of your diaphragm, your diaphragm draws these organs upwards. Your colon and intestines follow, causing your waist to hollow out.

    After your exhale, you can push down with your arms to help pull your ribcage up. Focus on pulling your ribs up and on expanding your ribcage, without letting any air into your lungs. To release, relax your ribcage and then take an inhale.

    As you get more comfortable doing this exercise, you can focus on expanding the front, sides and back of your ribcage evenly. You can also focus on drawing all parts of your diaphragm upwards so that your diaphragm is stretched completely.

    Agni Sara Variation 1

    Creating a vacuum with your ribcage and drawing your abdomen inwards is what Coulter calls Uddiyana Bhanda.

    Keep all of the air out of your lungs and relax your ribcage. Your belly will relax and "fall" forwards. Then pull your ribcage back up. Repeatedly lift and expand your ribcage and then release so that your belly moves like a wave.

    Relax and rest when you need to and then repeat.

    Nauli Kriya

    Nauli Kriya is the name of the next variation of this exercise. It is where you work at making your rectus abdominus dance.

    From Uddiyana Bhanda, keep your ribcage lifted but try to pull the front of your ribcage and pubic bone towards each other. This should make your rectus abdominus engage and pull forwards. Once you have this action, you can tilt your pelvis from side to side to give the impression that your are "churning" your belly.

    Take regular rests when you need to and repeat.

    If you can bend your lumbar spine back and forwards (and side to side) while doing this, it may actually massage your lower intestines and that may help you with your morning poo.

    To test whether this is true for you or not, practice regularly for a week or two weeks and notice the regularity of your bowel movements and how you feel in general. (You might want to keep a journal or "log".) Then try a week without and again record your findings. You may have to control factors like what you eat and drink. Notice what other factors may or may not affect your bowel movements.

    Failing any affect on bowel movements, this exercise is an excellent party trick and more seriously, it is a good way of practicing control of your body.

    Agni Sara Variation 2 (Controlling Transverse Abdominus)

    And now for the second method of agni sara. (Note that Coulter suggests doing this exercise while standing. I first learned this exercise while sitting and that is the way I continue to do this exercise.)

    While sitting slightly slumped, slowly expand your belly. Slowly pull it in and back. Try to make both actions smooth as well as slow. Keep your ribcage still as you do this.

    I suggest sitting in a slightly slumped position so that your abs can relax.

    For this reason, you may find that sitting on the toilet is a good time to practice, especially if you find yourself "waiting for delivery."

    Now, once you are comfortable with pulling your entire belly in and then releasing it, work on pulling your belly inwards a section at a time. Divide the part of your belly below your belly button into three horizontal bands or strips. The portion of your belly above your belly button you can divide into two horizontal bands.

    Focus on the lowest band. Slowly pull it in, and then slowly release it. (I found the releasing part to be the hardest.) Do this without contracting the other four "bands". Next pull your lowest band in and then pull the second band in. You can then release the second band and first band sequentially, or you can practice on activating and releasing the second band while keeping the first one pulled in.

    Add the remaining three bands in the same way.

    You may find yourself focusing on a part of your belly that you can't quite control.

    Rest if you find yourself getting frustrated or running out of time.

    Next practice pulling each layer inwards sequentially from bottom to top. You can slowly release all at once.

    You might pull band 1 in, hold take an inhale and then on your next exhale pull band 2 in. And so on till you reach the 5th band. Then work at releasing them from top to bottom.

    For your reference I should again mention that I found releasing these bands of muscle sequentially more difficult than engaging them. These bands of muscle are all a part of the Transverse Abdominus. You are thus practice control of this muscle.

    You may find that after practicing this version of agni sara, your lower belly feels slightly energized and that you have a pleasant "buzz." Another benefit is in the context of whole body breathing where you are using your abdominals, diaphragm and intercostals all together to drive your breath.

    And it may help you to better activate uddiyana bandha.

    Holding Your Lower Belly in While Inhaling

    If you can pull your lower belly in while inhaling you may find it easier to breathe into your upper belly and ribcage. It is as if by pulling in your lower belly your give your upper belly and ribcage room to move… room to breathe. You can play with how much of your lower belly you pull in and how it affects your breath. Try with just the lowest band pulled in and then the two lowest bands. Pull in smoothly and slowly as you inhale into your upper belly and ribcage. Relax while exhaling. Notice how your breath feels. Adjust accordingly.

    You might want to try practicing both variations of agni sara regularly as part of your "get out of bed" routine. It can help your bring your awareness to your core and then you can radiate your awareness outwards from there.

    Yoga for beginners 1 ebook, Getting a feel for your body, Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.
    Yoga for beginners 2 ebook, Getting a feel for your body, Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.
    Muscle Control for Better Flexibility ebook, Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.
    Working Towards Wheel Pose ebook, body awareness exercises to make difficult poses easier, Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

    Return to Home Page

    Return to Bandhas from Agni Sara

    Bandhas and Related Muscles and Exercises

    What's New?

    Active Stretching

    Active stretching teaches you muscle control to not only improve flexibility but also body awareness. You'll learn how to adjust postures for better feel as well as more control through a broader range of motion.

    Continue reading "Active Stretching"

    Standing Exercises for Low Back Pain

    Standing exercises for low back pain plus anatomy that can affect the low back and how to use that anatomical understanding.

    Continue reading "Standing Exercises for Low Back Pain"

    Sensational Yoga Poses

    Experience your body (and understand it) with sensational yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Sensational Yoga Poses"

    Barefoot Running Heel Strike

    Is it a bad idea to heel strike while barefoot running? What are the possible benefits of heel striking? When should you not heel strike?

    Continue reading "Barefoot Running Heel Strike"

    Yoga Poses for Abs

    These yoga poses for abs work on the abdominal muscles (and hips) in both standing positions and seated positions.

    Continue reading "Yoga Poses for Abs"

    Enjoying the Experience of Your Body

    Sensational yoga poses, lessons to help you enjoy the experience of your body.

    Continue reading "Enjoying the Experience of Your Body"

    Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas

    Here are the Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas, with inhale movements highlighted in red.

    Continue reading "Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas"

    Seated Yoga Poses

    These seated yoga poses have been organized into a rough routine and include lotus, virasana, janu sirsasana and marichyasana variations as well as more basic seated poses like bound angle, pigeon and seated forward bend.

    Continue reading "Seated Yoga Poses"

    Seated Hamstring Stretch

    In this preparation for compass pose use your arms to pull your leg towards you for a seated hamstring stretch. To modify, use a strap.

    Continue reading "Seated Hamstring Stretch"

    Hip Flexors

    Single joint hip flexors include iliacus, pectineus, obturators, gemelli and gluteus minimus. Use them to help improve your forward bends.

    Continue reading "Hip Flexors"

    Sensational Yoga Ebooks and videos

    Sensational Yoga ebooks and videos are designed to help you experience your body while focusing on specific poses, actions or parts of the body.

    Continue reading "Sensational Yoga Ebooks and videos"

    Extreme Stability for Yoga Video

    Extreme stability teaches you how to work from the ground up when creating stability, whether you are doing poses on your hands or your feet (or some combination of both).

    Continue reading "Extreme Stability for Yoga Video"

    Working Towards Wheel Pose

    The working towards wheel pose ebook teaches you basic body first so that you can feel and control your spine, hips and shoulders, so that working towards difficult poses (in this case wheel pose) is easier.

    Continue reading "Working Towards Wheel Pose"

    Muscle Control for Better Flexibility

    The Muscle control for better flexibility ebook teaches you simple muscle activation techniques that can make it easier to improve your flexibility. Techniques focus on forward and back bending the hips but can be applied to other movements also.

    Continue reading "Muscle Control for Better Flexibility"

    Yoga for Beginners 2

    Building up on the material for part 1, Yoga for Beginners 2 teaches you how to make your body stable for a slightly different experience of your hips and shoulders.

    Continue reading "Yoga for Beginners 2"

    Simple Hip Control Exercises

    Video: This set of simple hip control exercises help you to stabilize the hip joint and control it. You may find these exercises help you improve hamstring and hip flexor strength and flexibility.

    Continue reading "Simple Hip Control Exercises"

    Yoga for Beginners 1

    One approach to learning yoga is to simply practice yoga poses. The approach in Yoga For Beginners 1 is to help you to learn to feel your body while doing yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Yoga for Beginners 1"

    Balance Basics

    Some of the exercises in Balance Basics includes learning to balance on the fronts of your feet as well as on one foot using weight shifting exercises. It also includes exercises for crow pose. I've included videos based on the balanace exercises in the book on this page.

    Continue reading "Balance Basics"

    Motor Control for Yoga

    Motor control is the ability to control muscle tissue. The compliment to it is sensitivity, the ability to feel tension in muscle and connective tissue. Both can be learned and improved. Both are functions of the brain.

    Continue reading "Motor Control for Yoga"