Bhastrika Pranayama: The Complete Guide

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Bhastrika Pranayama: Step-by-step Guide by Soulful ArogyaBhastrika is the Sanskrit word for bellows which is why this technique is also referred to as the ‘bellows breath’. It is a Pranayama breathing technique where the breath is forcibly drawn in and out as if using a blacksmith’s bellows. Hence the name. Bhastrika pranayama is considered one of the most important breath exercises in yoga and pranayama.

In other Pranayama breathing techniques, inhalation sets the pace, the pattern, and the rhythm for exhalation. In bhastrika pranayama, exhalation sets the force and the pace. In bhastrika, both inhalation as well as exhalation are vigorous and forceful.

When practiced regularly, bhastrika improves digestion, immunity, and energizes the body and the mind.

There are four stages to this practice. In this article, we’ll explore the technique and steps involved in all four stages of bhastrika pranayama.

How to do Bhastrika Pranayama: All Four Stages (Step-by-Step Guide)

Bhatrika Pranayama: Stage 1 (Technique)

In this stage, the nostrils are kept open throughout.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. You can choose to sit in padmasana or sukhasana, if you’re comfortable in these asanas.
  2. Sit quietly for a while, taking in slow, deep breaths. Keep your eyes open.
  3. Lower your head towards the trunk and lift up the inner frame of the chest towards the descending chin. Rest the chin in the notch just above the breastbone (this is the chin-lock aka jalandhara bandha). If you find this difficult, just keep the head down as low as you can without causing any strain.
  4. Keep the arms down and rest the back of your wrists on the knees.
  5. Close your eyes and direct the gaze inwards. Breathe deeply.
  6. On your next breath, exhale quietly as far as possible. Exhale whatever breath is in the lungs.
  7. Now, take a short, strong breath and expel it with a quick strong blast. Repeat this and you’ll find the second in-breath quicker and more forceful than the first one.
  8. One quick inhalation and exhalation, taken together, completes one blast of bhastrika.
  9. Do four to eight such blasts at a stretch to complete one cycle, ending with an out-breath.
  10. Now take a few slow, deep breaths just as in ujjayi pranayama, for ten seconds. Then exhale slowly and completely. This rests the lungs and the diaphragm and prepares them for fresh blasts of bhastrika. This ends one round of bhastrika.
  11. Repeat three to four rounds of bhastrika blasts interspersed with ujjayi breath (step #10). Then take a deep breath and lie in savasana (corpse pose).

This completes the stage 1 of bhastrika pranayama.

Bhastrika: Stage 2 (Technique)

In this stage, both nostrils are kept partially closed throughout.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, following step 1-7 of Bhastrika Stage 1. Exhale whatever breath is in the lungs.
  2. Bring the right hand to the nostrils.
  3. Partially close both nostrils with the tips of the thumb, ring, and little fingers. Make sure that both sides of each nostril are even.
  4. Now perform bhastrika blasts as described in points 7 to 11 of stage 1 above.
  5. Repeat five to six times, take a few deep breaths, then lie down in savasana.

This completes bhastrika stage 2.

Bhastrika: Stage 3 (Technique)

In this stage, bhastrika is done through alternate nostrils, with interspersion of ujjayi breaths.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, following step 1-7 of Bhastrika Stage 1. Exhale whatever breath is in the lungs.
  2. Bring the right hand to the nostrils.
  3. Now block the left nostril completely and the right one partially.
  4. Inhale and exhale through the right nostril vigorouslly, doing four to eight blasts at a stretch. Make sure that no breath escapes from the left nostril. End with a blast of out-breath.
  5. Next, block the right nostril, partially block the left. Inhale and exhale through the left nostril vigorously, doing four to eight blasts at a stretch. See that no breath escapes from the right nostril. End with a blast of out-breath.
  6. These two together complete one round of bhastrika, stage 3. If you’re a beginner, take a few deep breaths after each round to rest the lungs.
  7. Do three to five rounds of bhastrika, stage 3, take a few deep breaths and lie down in savasana.

This completes stage 3 of bhastrika.

Bhastrika: Stage 4 (Technique)

In this stage, the in-blasts and out-blasts are done through alternate nostrils. In other words, if the in-breath is done from the right nostril, then the out-breath should be done from the left, and vice versa. 

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, following step 1-7 of Bhastrika Stage 1. Exhale whatever breath is in the lungs.
  2. Bring the right hand to the nostrils.
  3. Block the left nostril, half-open the right and take a quick, but strong in-breath through it. Quickly close the right nostril, half-open the left and breathe out quickly and vigorously through it. Do four to five blasts in quick succession. This forms the first half-round.
  4. Now, do the other half-round, repeating the same procedure as above, but breathing in from the left and out through the right. Do four to five blasts to complete the second half-round.
  5. Do three to five rounds of bhastrika, stage 4, take a few deep breaths and rest in savasana.

This completes bhastrika stage 4.

Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama

Regular practice of bhastrika pranayama can have the following benefits:

  1. It invigorates the liver, spleen, pancreas, and abdominal muscles.
  2. It improves digestion.
  3. It energizes the body and the mind.
  4. It benefits the nervous system.
  5. Drains the sinuses and stops the nose running.
  6. It improves immunity.
  7. Creates a feeling of exhilaration.

Conclusion

Hope you found this guide on bhastrika pranayama useful. How has been your experience with bhastrika? Do you practice it on a regular basis? Please share your thoughts on the practice in the comments section.

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