Why the name Bhastrika?
Bhastrika or bellow-breathing is a powerful and energizing technique of Yoga breathing. The Sanskrit word Bhastrika literally means breathing like a bellow. Ancient Yogis used to call this breathing exercise ‘the yoga breath of fire’. Bhastrika is a form of fast deep breathing where air is pulled in and expelled out rhythmically just like the pumping of the bellow. This powerful practice of Bhastrika is said to awaken the subtle psychic powers within you. Several yoga treatises say that this breathing exercise awakens the Kundalini power.
Practice long deep breathing before practicing Bhastrika
Before doing Bhastrika, practice long deep breathing for a while, at least for a week or two. Most of us do not know how to breathe properly. By shallow breathing we deprive us of the ability to recharge ourselves from the cosmic reserve of vital energy which is available for free.
To practice long deep breathing, take in a long deep breath for a slow count of four. Feel the breath going down, expanding your ribcage and filling your whole chest cavity with air. At the end of the count four, when you feel that you cannot take any more air in, take just a little more. Hold for as long as it is comfortable for you and then exhale slowly for a count of four or six, whichever is comfortable for you. When all the air out, breathe out a little more. This is one round. Do three rounds daily in empty stomach.
This practice is harmless and has many benefits. Soon your breathing becomes very deep and you feel energized.
The technique of Bhastrika: how to do it?
By the practice of taking long deep breaths, gradually your lungs will expand and all the tensions in the abdominal muscles, chest and rib cage muscles will be released. It will help you to do Bhastrika better. To do Bhastrika, sit in any comfortable pose, may be, on a low chair, with your spine straight. Keep the mouth closed. Visualize the bellow nature of the diaphragm. Deeply inhale and exhale in rapid succession, but do so in a rhythm. Your chest will expand and contract as a result. The abdominal muscles will move too. You may start with five successive in-breaths and out-breaths. This is called one round.
In the beginning do two to three rounds at most. Do not push yourself too hard. Do not exhaust yourself. During the practice your shoulders should remain relaxed throughout the breathing cycle. Do not do it too fast, in the beginning. Do it in a pace that is comfortable to you, so that you can do it with little effort. Do it at a slow rate.
When you are done with it, take a long deep breath, fill your chest and then fill your belly with it. Retain for as long as you are comfortable and then slowly exhale the air. Take rest for a few minutes. Do not involve in any other work or practice immediately after doing Bhastrika.
What are the benefits?
This breathing practice eliminates toxin from the system and infuses the cells and tissues of the body with fresh oxygen and vital energy. It invigorates your lungs, muscles and brain cells. This practice of Bhastrika quiets the mind and makes your head clearer adding clarity to your thinking. It destroys the phlegm and makes you warm. It strengthens the Pituitary gland, purifies and oxygenates the blood and stimulates the nervous system.
Words of caution: “Too much stoking burns out the boiler of the engine. So also too much practice of Bhastrika wears out the system as the breathing process is forceful” – BKS Iyengar.
Be aware of hyperventilating, and build your capacity slowly.
Always practice the Bhastrika pranayama in an open and well-ventilated place. If you are under any form of medical treatment or supervision, ask your medical caregiver before undertaking the practice.
If you are suffering from High blood pressure you should not practice this breathing. Persons with poor lungs capacity should not attempt the Bellow breath. If you are suffering from hernia avoid this pranayama.