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The Square Breath - Samavritti Ratio

07 feb 2014 by Jenny Savage

Andrew Wrenn takes us through this calming and balancing pranayama (breathing) technique.

Samavritti = Equal movement

The purpose of this pranayama exercise is to equalize the four components of the breath:

Inhalation (puraka)
Internal retention (antara-khumbaka)
Exhalation (rechaka)
External retention (bahya-khumbaka)

The benefits include:

Refining the breath and awareness of prana flow.
Calming the body 
Focusing the mind helping to remove distractions making it easier to concentrate and meditate.

How to practice Samavritti

From Andrew's class below.
Find a comfortable sitting position - the posture should allow your spine to be upright so you can use a block or cushion to sit on, or a chair. Rest the back of your hands on your legs, palms up with the tips of the index finger and thumb touching (Jnana Mudra).

Spend a few minutes watching your natural breath. Without changing anything observe the natural inhalation, the exhalation and the natural pauses between each breath.

  • Begin with an exhale for the count of four
  • Hold on the exhale for the count of four
  • Inhale for the count of four
  • Hold on the inhale for the count of four

After a few rounds Andrew takes the count up to 6, but you can stay at 4 or if you find you are struggling with the breath simply lower it to 2 or 3 until it feels easier.

Try to cultivate the same quality of breath at the beginning, middle and end of the count.
The breath should not be forced or strained during pranayama.

After several rounds sit and observe how your body and mind feels before Andrew leads you through a relaxing Savasana.

Beginners’ notes

Samavritti can also be practiced without the retentions (not holding the breath), just equalizing the inhalation and exhalation. As Andrew says, it is fine to drop the retentions in this practice if they are uncomfortable. You can build up by keeping the inhalation and exhalation both on a count of 4 and the retentions shorter (for example for a count of 2) until they feel more natural.


Never strain the breath in pranayama.
If you are pregnant practice equalizing the inhale and exhale without the retentions.
If you have high blood pressure, lung, heart, eye or ear problems it’s advised not to hold the breath after the inhale.
If you have low blood pressure it’s advised not to hold the breath after the exhale.

Watch Andrew's video where he guides you through the pranayama and gives more instructions (members only)

The Square Breath (Samavritti ratio)

Hatha, Pranayama, All Levels, 20 mins


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