What is Bhastrika Pranayama?
An invigorating and vitalizing breathing exercise, Bhastrika Pranayama is called Bellows Breathing in English. During Bhastrika Praayama, inhalations and exhalations are forceful and active as compared to Kapal Bhati where only exhalations are active. Breathing is done at a rapid pace, carbon dioxide is expelled and more oxygen is intaken. The practice is also called yogic fire of breath. It is highly effective in energizing the mind and body, and helps one in releasing lethargy, exhaustion and tiredness.
What is the starting position for Bhastrika Pranayama?
For Bhastrika Pranayama, one can sit in Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana) or the Easy Pose (Sukhasana). Vajrasana is recommended as the spine remains straight, chest is open and breath movement is better. One must make a fist with the palms, fold the arms and place the left arm near the left shoulder and right arm near the right shoulder.
Practitioners should close the eyes gently, take a few normal breaths, relax the mind and body completely before starting the practice.
How to practice Bhastrika Pranayama
- After coming into the starting position, as you inhale, raise the hands straight up and open the fists.
- Exhale forcefully, bring the arms down next to the shoulders and close the fists.
- Do 20 rapid breaths in the same way.
- 20 rapid breaths completes one round. After this, relax the hands on the thighs and breathe normally for 2-3 minutes.
- Do two more rounds of 20 breaths each.
When to practice Bhastrika Pranayama
It is best to practice Bhastrika at the beginning of the day as it is an energizing Pranayama. You can also practice Bhastrika in the afternoon when you might be feeling a dip in energy. However, do not practice immediately after a meal or at night before bedtime. Practicing before bedtime might not allow you to fall asleep easily due to the energizing effect of the practice.
Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama
Bhastrika is a wonderful practice to instantly energize the mind and body. Toxins and impurities are removed from the bloodstream due to the maximized lung capacity. It is helpful for sinus, bronchitis and other respiratory issues. Bhastrika drains excess phlegm from the lungs. It improves awareness, focus, concentration and productivity. Bhastrika also stimulates the digestive fire and improves digestion. It also helps balance the doshas or body composition, that is Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Bhastrika is a great practice to do in the winter as it increases body heat.
Contraindications of Bhastrika Pranayama
- Bhastrika should be practiced on an empty stomach.
- The practice should be avoided by pregnant women.
- Bhastrika should be avoided by anyone with hypertension, vertigo, heart conditions and panic disorders.
- Advanced practitioners can try doing Bhastrika with an alternate nostril. Kumbhaka (breath retention) can also be applied to the practice. This must always be learnt from an experienced teacher.
- If one feels dizzy, the practice should be paused and normal breathing resumed. The duration of break between rounds will also help.
- If sitting in Vajrasana or Sukhasana is difficult, one can sit on a chair with the back straight. The feet must be placed firmly on the mat.
- If practicing in the summer, one can do a few rounds of a cooling Pranayama like Shitali or Sheetaki or Ujjayi to balance the heat generated in the body.