Cut-off Retention

Cut-off breathing retention

Cut-off breathing is a breathing retention exercise, that limits the supply of oxygen to the brain, by narrowing the arteries going to the brain. While making a breath-retention, after a full exhale, head is tilted to the side, so that the artery going through the neck, up to the brain, becomes narrower.

As levels of CO2 rise in the blood, when making a retention, the body prioritizes the brain and directs more of the remaining oxygen to the brain. The brain gets oxygen through the arteries going through the neck. By tilting the head backwards, then tilting the head to one of the sides and holding this posture, we can narrow the arteries, restricting the blood flow and thus restricting oxygen supply to the brain.   

If the head is kept tilted to the side in a particular angle for long enough, dizziness is experienced and ultimately loss of conscience.

Practicing cut-off retention

We start by sitting down practicing harmonious breathing with closed eyes. After fully exhaling, breath is held, head tilted to the back, then to the right (ear to the shoulder) and the neck is twisted. This position is held for a number of seconds (counting 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 …) and then the head is straitened. While head is strait up, we make a complete inhale.
At the last stage of the harmonized exhale, breath is held again, head tilted to the back, then to the left and then twisted. This position is held for an additional second (counting 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 …). This sequence continues by alternating between tilting to the left and tilting to the right, every time adding one second to the count.
After adding slowly a second on every tilt, when getting to a certain amount of seconds air is held until we feel breath hunger. We can add a few seconds beyond the point of air hunger and then inhale. The last longer retention is made for both left and right side.


The exercise is practiced with eyes closed. It is worthwhile experimenting different eyeball positions, when practicing and finding which position increases our concentration.

After the last two (long) retention, it is a good practice to be able to return to the same tempo of inhaling / exhaling. If breathing is accelerated, it may mean that the retention was too long.

After ending the retention and allowing blood to pass through the arteries in the neck, a warm sensation in the neck may be experienced.

Starting with a 5 seconds retention and gradually going up. Let’s say, going up to 12 seconds (counting 21, 22, 23 ….. 32) which is in total 4 tilts to the right and 4 tilts to the left.

On the last count, 32, we continue retaining the breath until we feel air-hunger, then we inhale. This retention is repeated on the opposite side.