Bhastrika Pranayama | Bellows Breath
In Sanskrit, Bhastrika means “bellows”. Just as the blacksmith blows the bellows to create more heat, by drawing and expelling of air, Bhastrika serves to increase energy (amongst other things), by the drawing of air in and out of the lungs. Bhastrika is mentioned in two important yoga texts, Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and Gheranda Samhita. Bhastrika pranayama is a type of breathing technique. Oftentimes, compared to Kapalabhati pranayama.
Much like Kapalabhati pranayama, this is a more intermediate or vigorous technique.
Benefits of Bhastrika Breathing:
- Bhastrika consists of a quick inhalation and an exhalation. Thus, increasing oxygen rich blood circulating throughout the body. During rapid and forced exhalation, the chest is compressed, thus pushing the blood towards the head. During inhalation, the opposite occurs. This process increases blood flow to every part of the body, increasing the vitality of all organs and tissues.
- Bhastrika pranayama purifies the body and awakens the dormant mind.
- During Bhastrika, increase in blood flow causes a slight increase in body temperature. Oftentimes, accompanied by mild sweating. Consequently, helps reduce temperature, keeping the body, balanced. Indeed balance, is a main focal point of Bhastrika pranayama.
- Many pranayama techniques increase or decrease body temperature. However, Bhastrika Pranayama more or less manages to keep it constant or bring it back to normal.
Sit comfortably in a meditative position with your hands on your knees and with your eyes closed. Take a deep, slow breath. Breathe out quickly and forcefully through your nose. Then, inhale immediately afterwards with the same force.
When you exhale, the stomach retracts. When you inhale, the abdomen expands. This movement should be emphasized somewhat. Continue, counting to ten. Do three to five cycles. As you learn this breathing mode, gradually increase your speed while maintaining a rhythm. The time of inhalation and exhalation should be the same.
Bhastrika Pranayama Steps (Variation):
- Sit comfortably in a meditative posture;
- With your right hand, perform Nasikagra Mudra and close the right nostril;
- Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril, then exhale and inhale 20 times;
- After the last one, inhale slowly and deeply, close both nostrils, tilt your head forward in the Jalandhara Bandha, without lifting your shoulders;
- Hold your breath for as long as you see fit;
- Raise your head and slowly exhale through the right nostril;
- Take a deep breath through the right nostril and then practice as you did by breathing through the left nostril 20 times;
- After the last exhalation, inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril;
- After inhaling, close both nostrils and perform Jalandhara, (breath holding and relaxation), as you did prior.
The practice of Bhastrika Pranayama can be considered a combination of Kapalabhati and Ujjayi pranayama. The exhalation is similar to that in Kapalabhati. The inhalation is similar to that performed in Ujjayi pranayama. Once you have practiced Kapalabhati and Ujjayi, Bhastrika will become easier to perform.
Bhastrika can be practiced both in the morning and in the evening. During the summer, with elevated temperatures, limit the practice to the morning or cooler hours. This pranayama is considered an advanced practice. It must be done on an empty stomach.
Contraindications may be those that suffer from have heart disease or have respiratory ailments. Bhastrika pranayama is one of the most powerful pranayama’s. As such, it’s advisable to practice under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.