Bhastrika Pranayama - The most powerful pranyama technique
Bhastrika translates as Bellows. Bellows are an instrument used to produce a strong gust of air with the aim of fanning the fire. When practicing this yoga technique, you produce similar movements that could be said to be like the bellows. You are also generating heat, in the sacrum, in the pelvic floor area. Fanning the flames of your latent energy.
This is a very powerful pranayama when it comes to yoga breathing practice. It is the most effective to lead to the awakening of kundalini. The most suitable for the spiritual aspirant.
Bhastrika is often taught as a more energetic version of Kapalabhati, with an active inhale and exhale, almost akin to hyperventilation. While it could be argued that this does have some physiological benefits, it is not correct.
Done in this way it can lead to a stimulation and aggravation of the nervous system that is actually counterproductive to our spiritual progress. For the record I would suggest that both Kapalabhati and Bhastrika should be done with an active exhale and passive inhale.
So what is the correct technique for Bhastrika?
It is a combination of Kapalabhati and Surya Bhedana. A number of Kapalabhati pumps followed by a one round of Surya Bhedana.
Kapalabhati pumps + Surya Bhedana = Bhastrika
In this way the main thing for ensuring good technique in Bhastrika is first mastering Kapalabhati:
- Making sure it is possible to perform the pumps using the lowest part of the abdomen.
- Not bringing tension into the upper part of the abdomen.
- Allowing the stomach to relax fully in between each pump.
- Developing control of the pelvic floor
- Start the pumps slowly to ensure good technique. With time and practice the pumps become fast and strong.
Surya Bhedana is breathing in through the right nostril, holding the breath and then breathing out through the left nostril.
(Other pranayamas can be done after the Kapalabhati pumps instead of Surya Bhedana. Hatha Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita describe the techniques slightly differently. However Surya Bhedana has been found to be the most effective for the awakening of kundalini.)
In Bhastrika it is important that the two techniques are blended together nicely and smoothly. Knowing how to end the Kapalabhati and flow into the Surya Bhedana.
As I mentioned earlier, Bhastrika is the most effective technique for the awakening of kundalini. So we must make efforts to bring the system into balance first of all, preparing the ground so that we can plant our seeds.
Bhastrika is taught to a student primarily once they have good enough technique in Kapalabhati and also when there appears to be some balance and regularity coming into their pulse.
In pranayama, the teacher uses pulse reading to give an idea of what is going on inside the student, both in terms of their nervous system and how they are controlling and using their prana.
Benefits of practicing Bhastrika Pranayama according to Hatha Pradipika
- It balances all the doshas
- Increases the body temperature
- Useful in low blood pressure
- Awaken the kundalini
- Infuses the vigour and stamina
- Removes depression
- Brings alertness
- Improves memory
- Pierces the three knots - brahma granthi, vishnu granthi, rudra granthi. Which are situated at the naval, heart and throat region.
Bhastrika pranayama assists in correcting any disproportions in your three doshas—Kapha, Vata, and Pitta.
Bhastrika leads to the awakening of Kundalini.
Bhastrika should be done ideally in the morning, after having been to the toilet and before eating breakfast.
Bhastrika is not to be done by menstruating or pregnant women.
Bhastrika should be learned under the guidance of a competent teacher, who can judge if the student is suitable for it or not. First master Kapalabhati.