Tip Tuesday: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Agni Sara

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

I get a lot of questions about agni sara.

Agni sara (agni meaning “fire” and sara meaning “essence”) is a pranayama (breath exercise) that literally stokes your inner fire. Fire is what you might feel in the abs, as this in amazing core strengthener!

What you do: You can do agni sara in other positions, but I find it to be most effective when done in horse stance. Take a wide-legged stance, turn the toes out, and bend the knees over your heels to sit deeply into horse. Brace your hands where the thigh and hip meet and straighten out the arms to provide traction for the back.

Agni sara is done completely on exhale when you’re empty of air. Inhale, then exhale all your air out strongly. Keeping press with the arms, pull the belly in and up, flaring the ribs (but without pulling in air) then push the belly out. Alternate between pulling up and letting go completely. A round is as many back and forth pumpings you can do before you need to take a breath. You can do agni sara slowly or experiment with fast rounds moving the belly in and out as fast as you can.

Questions I frequently get from students:

Am I doing it right? This pose feels ridiculous.
You will likely feel pretty ridiculous flapping your belly back and forth. If you’re feeling inhibited and serious, agni sara will change that really quick. Speaking of inhibitions, try lifting your shirt to show the belly when you’re doing agni sara. You’ll be able to see the movement you are able to create in the abs and start letting go of the self-consciousness you may have about this area.

I feel like I need to breathe almost immediately when I start pushing my belly back and forth.
It will take awhile to build up the length of your rounds of agni sara. Yours might be short when you first begin. How aggressively are you pushing the belly out? If you are too forceful with your pushing out of the belly (and/or the pulling in), you may find yourself gasping for air. Explore how you can move the belly smoothly, yet strongly back and forth.

Should I be bent over or should my torso be upright?
When you first start agni sara, you may be bent over more to get a sense of the pose. Eventually, you want to have the torso more upright, as this will help you lengthen and flare the ribs as you draw the belly up. The press from the arms into the thighs helps telescope your ribs up from the waist to free up the lower back too.

You could feel that agni sara is agony (it certainly could be if you tried to do it after a big meal or see question #2 above) Perhaps you didn’t know that agni sara is also ecstasy? Agni sara is a powerful tool for sexual healing as it
wakes up your orgasm muscles. When we told the teenagers at juvenile hall about these particular benefits of agni sara, specifically that it can help with stamina, they started requesting it every week!