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Breath of Fire

Updated: May 19, 2023

Bhastrika Pranayama is a powerful breathing practice that focuses on the navel center, providing warmth and energizing effects. The Sanskrit word "bhastrika" means "bellows," which accurately describes the active filling and emptying of the abdomen and lungs during this practice. Before attempting Bhastrika, it is important to be comfortable with foundational pranayama, apply Jalandhara Bandha during breathwork, and have a regular practice.

This breath technique utilizes the abdominal muscles and diaphragm to draw air in and out of the lungs. It generates heat in the body by stimulating blood flow through the digestive organs, resulting in toning, increased energy, and improved digestive capacity of the liver, stomach, spleen, and pancreas. Starting with one breath per second and five repetitions, gradually increase the number of rounds (up to three rounds). It is crucial to note that this breath is intense and has both benefits and contraindications. It is recommended to consult with your doctor before starting any new physical activity. It is also advisable to learn pranayama from an experienced teacher.

As you progress in your practice, gradually increase the duration mindfully, evolving through your breath and strength.

"The prolonged practice of bhastrika energizes every atom of the body. It sets the entire system in motion and purifies it, thus awakening higher powers." - Swami Rama

Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama include alleviating sleep disorders and strengthening the respiratory system, leading to improved oxygen flow in the body. It cleanses and rejuvenates the lungs, increases lung capacity, and alleviates allergies and asthma by clearing excess mucus from the nasal passages, sinuses, and chest. The practice also strengthens the muscles of the heart, bronchial tree, diaphragm, and abdomen. It oxygenates the blood, facilitating the removal of carbon dioxide from the blood and tissues. Additionally, Bhastrika kindles the digestive fire, tones the digestive system, cleanses and invigorates the liver, pancreas, and spleen, improves circulation, balances and strengthens the nervous system, induces a sense of peace, tranquility, and focus, and promotes vigor and vitality in the mind and body.

It's worth noting that Ayurveda recognizes that Bhastrika Pranayama can help balance excess vata, pitta (when practiced gently), and kapha.

(*Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine originating in India.)

Remember to approach the practice with mindfulness and respect for your body, gradually increasing duration and seeking guidance from a knowledgeable teacher.

There are certain contraindications to be aware of when practicing Bhastrika Pranayama. It is important to avoid this technique if you are pregnant or menstruating. Individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, epilepsy, vertigo, significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, recent abdominal surgery, or those at risk for stroke should also refrain from practicing Bhastrika. It is not recommended to perform Bhastrika on a full stomach or at night, as it stimulates the nervous system and may interfere with relaxation and sleep. Additionally, it is advised to abstain from practicing Bhastrika during a migraine or asthma episode. It is crucial to prioritize your safety and consult with a healthcare professional or qualified yoga instructor if you have any concerns or pre-existing conditions.

Suggested reading;

book - Light on Pranayama by BKS Iyengar

link to great article on sleep apnea and pranayama;

* see suggested links


The information for this blog has been learned and/or has being inspired/influenced by the teachings of;

Paramahansa Yogananda, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Rama, Deepak Chopra plus the knowledgeable teachers that I have been so fortunate to study with in person, Gyandev, Bob Metzler, Santhanam, Dicksha, Nishala Devi Joy, and Amish from Sri Lanka. Thank you!!!

Other sources;

Yoga International

NDTV food

Bayan botanical


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