Pranayama or yoga breathing is the practice of controlled breathing which is where we can obtain our vital energy or life force. Pranayama came from two Sanskrit words Prana and Ayama Prana meaning breath or life force energy. The prana moves in the body through energy channels called Nadis. Ayama which means to have control or to restrain. The vital energy that flows through the Nadis by Puraka, Antara-Khumbaka, Rechaka, and Bahya-khumbaka. Puraka is the inhalation of air, Antara-Khumbaka is holding of breath after inhaling, Rechaka is exhalation, and Bahya-khumbaka is holding of breath after exhaling. With these techniques, the prana is controlled, maintained, and allowed to flow through the Nadis. Unblocking the path and balancing the pranas which makes a healthy being.
The life force or energy can flow in five different movements: Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyan, and Udana. These are called the currents of Prana. Prana-vayu is the energy flow upwards, it focuses on the area of the chest and the head. Apana-vayu flows downwards and it focuses on the pelvis area. Samana-vayu focuses on the navel area. Udana-vayu focuses on the throat area. And Vyan-vayu focuses on the whole body.
Bhastrika in Sanskrit means “bellows” which is an object that expands and contracts and produces a stream of air which blows into a fire. It is also more commonly called as Breath of Fire. Similarly, the Bhastrika Pranayama allows sudden intake and release of air in the body. It is a traditional pranayama that is used in kindling the inner fire of the body including the gastric fire. This Pranayama can also be practiced with a Kapalabhati and used to clear the Nadis which helps in preparing for other Pranayama practices.
Bhastrika breathing technique has three types based on the speed of breathing. The type of practice should be based on the body’s health. The normal speed Bhastrika Pranayama usually takes 5-10 seconds for breathing in and out. This is the best speed to use and can be used by anyone. The medium speed Bhastrika Pranayama is inhaling and exhaling faster than normal. While in high-speed Bhastrika Pranayama, one must inhale and exhale very rapidly, this can be used by people who are fit and healthy.
Precautions Before Doing Bhastrika Pranayama
Practicing any Pranayama should be done under expert guidance. It should not be practiced by pregnant women or anyone with epilepsy, seizures, or panic disorder. Those with heart ailments and hypertension should avoid this Pranayama, otherwise practice this slowly. It should not be practiced on a full stomach, wait at least 1-2 hours before starting the Pranayama. Individuals who have undergone surgery should heed a doctor’s advice before practicing.
How To Do Bhastrika Pranayama
- Start in a comfortable position. This can also be done while lying down or while standing.
- Keep spine in a straight position, close eyes and place hands on knees.
- Inhale until the lungs are full of air and breathe out vigorously through the nostrils.
- After exhaling all the air, inhale with vigorously with the same force.
- Breathe in and out repeatedly. Do this deeply and meticulously while using the muscles in the diaphragm. This should make the abdomen stretch out and the diaphragm moves downward when inhaling, this is reversed when exhaling.
- The breathing is exaggerated when doing this Pranayama, thus producing a strong nasal sound.
Bhastrika Pranayama can be practiced first thing in the morning for an energizing wake up which will get the blood pumping in the body to prepare for the rest of the day, or after lunchtime to keep the body going, or before a workout for a warm up. This breathing technique can be done with a minimum of 2 minutes up to 5 minutes maximum every day. And in places with relatively higher temperature, it should not be practiced for more than 2 minutes.
Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama
The practice of this Pranayama massages the internal organs for digestion thus improving digestion, boosts metabolism and increases appetite. It strengthens the abdominal muscles and helps blood circulation which results in more oxygen being transported. This helps to increase the vitality of the body organs and tissues.
With promoted blood circulation, the blood pressure is maintained, and the mind is calmed. Concentration is improved and relaxes the body. It is also good for controlling anxiety and depression. Heart-related problems are reduced as well as obesity. It is a good Pranayama for burning fat and shedding extra pounds.
It is also good for the respiratory system as it promotes stronger lungs. It also helps in removing phlegm in the lungs and protects the body from pulmonary disorders. Bhastrika Pranayama is also good in curing infections caused by viruses and pollution.
Bhastrika Pranayama helps activate Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna which are the three main Nadis of the body. This is important in the Kundalini Awakening and a good starter before practicing other Pranayama since it clear blocked Nadis or channels which will allow the Prana to flow without any problems.
Recommended Asana for Bhastrika Pranayama
1. Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
The most common asana used for meditating and Kundalini awakening. It allows the Prana to move upwards in the body.
Sit on the floor while legs are stretched and close together with an erect spine. Bend the knees. Place the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on top of the right thigh. Pull both feet as close as possible to the abdomen. Both knees should be adjacent and touching the ground. Hands can be placed on the knees or with Jnana Mudra.
2. Siddhasana (Adept Pose)
One of the most recommended poses for doing meditation. Siddhasana came from the Sanskrit word Siddha which means “adept”. This asana is a symbol of attaining a peaceful and adept mind.
Sit on the floor while legs are stretched and close together. Make sure that the spine is straight but comfortable. Bend the left knee and place the heel between the perineum or space between the anus and genitals. Bend the right knee and place the foot on top of the left, the ankles should be touching each other. Put hands on top of the knee with palms up or in Jnana Mudra.