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Bhastrika

by | Nov 12, 2018

It’s classical Kundalini Yoga. I don’t think there is anything better – “Breath of Fire” –  just do it! If you learn how, you’ll find it natural. It is long deep breathing done faster –much faster! You’ll feel lighter, it might even be the beginning towards enlightenment, who knows. You’ll do yourself a favor too. Keep those channels open, the blood healthy. Enjoy your practice! We’re here to find new heights!

Stoke a fire – open the bellows and let the air in and send it out again. The in-out movement is of equal force. We don’t press harder on the downward push, that would be unnatural and taxing on your arms and wrists. The fire ignites as oxygen mixes with the spark to fuel it into a flame of greater proportion. Heat is produced.

In the 1970’s, Yogi Bhajan talked about the “Breath of Fire” as the “Bellows Breath.” For some reason he never talked about it as being Bhastrika, yet the word literally means just that or bellows. Perhaps, he just wanted to coin and make popular the phrase “Breath of Fire.” In a time where the different styles of yoga cross borders and intermingle, perhaps it is time to clear up the misconceptions about what Bhastrika is really about. There is room in the yoga world for all three names: Kapalabhati, Bhastrika and “Breath of Fire.” In our practice of Kundalini Yoga there is no doubt that we will continue to use the term “Breath of Fire,” but it’s good to be able to talk about it in the context of Bhastrika. Maybe those who practice another style will find similarities between their practice and Kundalini Yoga. After all, it is just yoga.

The feeling you get after a minute or two of practice is incredible and something to be experienced. It doesn’t take long as the abdomen moves in and out faster than you could possibly imagine. While you are doing it; you are looking out through Ajna and hearing the sound of the intake and outtake of the breath through the nostrils, enjoying the music you are listening to. Then you inhale holding the breath inside effortlessly without thought – just pure enjoyment. Is there anything better than that? Afterwards, you exhale and are rewarded with a whole other experience, one not entirely expected. It’s peace of mind and an internal calmness rarely felt. You feel like you have to repeat the experience maybe seconds or minutes later; it just depends on how far you want to go in this inner exploration of yours. You understand that peace requires effort. To feel this way requires work, effort. And wanting to feel it again and again becomes an inner desire that is almost intoxicating.

There is no greater technique than “Breath of Fire” (Bhastrika) when done correctly and with intention. You learn that you don’t have to force the muscles of your abdomen to move in such a way, you just have to think about how to keep the rhythm of the breath going from up above – with eyes closed, inside the skeleton of your inner body. In an age of endless commentaries about transformation and enlightenment on a personal level, and without giving it too much thought in the process; you can achieve some of what you’re looking for if you learn how to practice “Breath of Fire.”

Something magical happens on a physiological level when you breathe like this – fast and with a sustained effort. Maybe it is just the blood stream being flooded with a greater amount of oxygen molecules and pushing all of the toxins out of you. They have to go – and they do. You find yourself left with a sense of purity within and it is transformative.

The rapid exchange of gases – oxygen and carbon dioxide – in the blood stream allows two things to happen. First, your muscles receive the oxygen they need to create energy and then they automatically relax as tension is reduced as you exhale. These natural patterns of the body – activity and relaxation – are reinforced. The body returns to its natural order. Secondly, all of your internal organs benefit from the increased oxygen flow moving through the bloodstream. They too are cleansed and their cells begin to behave differently sending out new signals to the rest of the body and to you on a cognitive level. There is a sense of health pervading everywhere and it doesn’t go unnoticed by you.

Don’t overemphasize the exhalation when you practice “Breath of Fire.” It isn’t healthy and isn’t sustainable. In fact, if you find it hard to keep going while practicing, then probably there is still some work left to do and it’ll just take some more practice.

If you try too hard or put too much emphasis on the exhalation the practice becomes more like Kapalabhati. Kapalabhati can be a great practice if you know what you are doing it for. Those who practice it say it to purify the blood and clean out toxins from the body. It is a very forceful exhalation followed by a short and rapid inhalation, but the emphasis is definitely on the exhalation. And you can only do it 10-12 times. Kapalabhati becomes a different way of looking at the world, there is force applied for a short duration to achieve supposedly long-lasting results. I like a softer but still intense practice without the oxygen starvation that occurs with Kapalabhati. If Bhastrika really is the same as “Breath of Fire” (and I think it is), you can do it forever. No problem. With it, you will achieve those long-lasting positive results you were looking for in your pranayama practice.

The road to inner peace is life teaching you that you don’t have to go down tortured pathways. Life can be made easier depending on our perspective and how we see things. “Breath of Fire” is not hard, it’s just concentrated effort and a willingness to want to discover new spaces inside of you. Practicing these ancient techniques, you become like an explorer from a different age searching out those new places and lands where hope and promise lie. The effort you make will bring new meaning to life enriching your experience and opening new doors for you. The journey is never over and each step you take is about finding out something new about yourself, and the world around seems to respond to you saying: “Isn’t this what it’s all about?”

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