(Vahnisara dhauti – Activating the digestive fire or cleansing with the fire element)
Preparatory practice: Swana Pranayama (panting breath)
Sit in vajrasana and separate the knees as far as you can do, keeping the big toes in contact with each other. Rest the hands on the knees and close the eyes .Relax the entire body for a few minutes, especially the abdomen.
Extend the arms and lean forward slightly. Keep the head erect.
Open the mouth wide and extend the tongue outside. Breathe in a gasping manner through the mouth with the tongue extended. Contract and expand the abdomen quickly, synchronizing the movements with the breath. While exhaling the abdomen should contract and while inhaling the abdomen should expand. The breathing should be inactive, only occurring because of the movement of abdomen is being emphasized. It should be like the panting of a dog. Keep the chest as stable as possible. Do not strain. Breathe in and breathe out 10 to 20 times. This is one round. Calm and breathe normally before starting the next round.
This technique may be performed in the same position or in padmaasana. Breathe in deeply. Gently breathe out, emptying the lungs as much as possible. Bend forward slightly, straightening the elbows. Push down on the knees with the hands and perform jalandhara bandha. Contract and expand the abdominal muscles quickly for as long as it possible to hold the breath outside comfortably. Do not strain. Gently release Jalandhar bandha. When the head is erect, take a slow and deep breath in. This is one round. Calm down until the breathing normalizes before starting the next round.
Beginners may find this practice tough and quickly become tired due to lack of voluntary control over the abdominal muscles. The muscles must be gently and gradually developed over a period of time.
Three rounds of 10 abdominal contractions and expansions is enough at first. With regular practice, up to 100 abdominal movements may be practiced with each round. The time of breath holding should be gradually increased over a period of time.
Physical – on coordinating the breath rhythmically with the abdominal movement. Spiritual – on manipura chakra.
After asana and pranayama, agnisar kriya should be practiced on an empty stomach ideally in the early morning before breakfast, and preferably after the bowels have been emptied.
In summer months this practice should be practiced with care as it may raise the body heat and blood pressure excessively. During this period it should always be followed by a cooling and calming pranayama such as seetkari or sheetali.
People suffering from high blood pressure, cardiac disease, acute duodenal or peptic ulcers, over active thyroid gland or patients of chronic diarrhea should not perform this kriya. Women who are more than three months pregnant should avoid this practice. However, agnisar kriya may be performed in the postnatal period to tighten up the abdominal and pelvic muscles, and to recondition the reproductive organs.
Agnisar kriya activates the appetite and removes digestive disorders such as indigestion, hyperacidity, hypoacidity, flatulence, constipation and sluggishness of the liver and kidney. It massages the abdomen, stimulating the associated nerves, strengthening the muscles and
encouraging adeqaute health of the abdominal organs. Agnisar kriya activates the five pranas, especially samana vaayu, and raises the energy levels remarkably. It can also alleviate depression, anxiety, dullness and lethargy.
This kriya is really great practice to strengthen and develop control over the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm. It is beneficial as a preparatory practice for uddiyana bandha and nauli.
The word agni and vahni both mean ‘fire’; sara means ‘essence’, or ‘extract’ and kriya means ‘action’ the essence or nature of fire is attributed to the digestive process. If the abdominal organs are not working properly the digestive fire smoulders and requires to be stoked or fanned to increase its power. Agnisar kriya does just that, as well as detoxifying the digestive system and its associated organs, and allowing the ideal assimilation of nutrients from food ingested.