Bhastrika is a fun pranayama! The pranayama bhastrika or bellows breath produces brain waves similar to gamma waves — our brain waves of integration and higher consciousness.
Bhastrika initially gives one a sensation of excitation (due to its effect via EEG on activating temporo-parietal cortical area brain waves) followed by emotional calm and higher mental alertness.
Bhastrika is fun to do and has many other benefits including those of all yoga and meditations plus more:
- Reducing stress, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Bhastrika Clears our mind — and our lungs!
- It is Anticatarrhal – meaning removes phlegm
- Increases our reaction time
- decreased distractibility
- Gives us greater aerobic performance due to its effect on our hearts and lungs — It reduces our levels of CO2 in our lungs.
- Better focus
- Reduces physical, mental, and emotional blocks (according to yogic lore).
- Can help improve agni — our digestion — and it also improves bile flow which helps with digestion and detoxification. Anything that improves digestion will also improve how well our body can detox as the same organs are involved in both detoxification and digestion.
- Increases metabolism
- Strengthens our abdominal muscles
- Can help with asthma issues
Bhastrika means bellows and just like how a bellows fans a flame to make it stronger bhastrika increases our digest flames known as agni — our digestive fire in our solar plexus area helping not only digest better but burn out toxins better. Bhastrika pranayama increases heat in the body stoking the inner fire of our body and mind.
It is similar but not the same as the breath we do in Uth Pluthi — breathing in this manner also pulls the air across our ol’ factory sense where we absorb more prana from the atmosphere, and it has a cleansing and clearing effect on our mind.
The sound of the breath is a mix between chesty and nasal-y meaning you are making the sound of the breath in both your chest area and your nasals.
Your diaphragm and rib cage are the bellows, feel your ribs expand and contract like a bellows as you inhale and exhale — this is your diaphragm moving your ribs. It is a very strong powerful breath.
In actuality the inhales are contracting our diaphragm and the exhales are contracting our abs — we have to coordinate the action of our abs and diaphragm so the air moves in and out quickly and equally.
Bhastrika is an abdominal exercise!
At the end of each round of bhastrika we do a short inhale retention — about 10 seconds to bring your CO2 levels back to normal after performing bhastrika.
Contraindications: Do not practice Bhastrika if you’re pregnant, have uncontrolled hypertension, epilepsy, seizures, some hernias, ulcers, vertigo, or panic disorder. You should also avoid practicing bellows breath on a full stomach; wait at least two hours after eating.
If you feel faint, nausea, or you start sweating excessively stop performing this pranayama until you meet with a skilled trusted practitioner you could be doing it incorrectly.
How to do Bhastrika
Sit in lotus or your meditation posture with straight spine and relaxed shoulders.
Inhales and exhales are all done through the nose.
Start with one big inhale that is to about 80% of your capacity before each blast of 30 breaths. If you are beginner start with 10 blasts and work your way up.
Begin by taking 5 deep yogic breaths with sound. After your 5th exhale:
- Inhale grab feet (if in lotus) or inner thighs (if not in lotus) – arch back lifting your face to the sky as you are taking this one big inhale to about 80% of your lung capacity.
- Lower chin and start your bhastrika breaths — Strongly and forcefully exhale and inhale making your rib cage expand and contract like a bellows for up to 30 blasts — each breath (one inhale and one exhale) should be about one second. Inhales and exhale are equal.
- End with a slow exhale, then Inhale lift your chin, and exhale tuck your chin into Jalandhara bandha and hold your breath in for about 10 seconds.
- Repeat two more times — on the last time place your hands in jñana mudra to retain your breath.
- Take a long slow exhale
Finish by taking 5 deep yogic breaths.
I mentioned Dr. John Douillard of lifespa.com also teaches a one minute meditation using bhastrika that you can do most anytime throughout the day (except when your belly is full) to help clear your mind, reset your thoughts and increase your gamma brain waves 🙂
The link is below, here is how I would perform his version:
Seated in meditation posture
- Take 5 deep yogic breaths with sound
- Inhale deeply and do one round of 30 blasts of bhastrika (NO breath holding)
- Sit for 30 seconds with a slow yogic breath — this is about 3-5 breaths depending on your breath rate.
Gently continue on with your day taking your mindset with you.