Bhastrikā (pronounced bha-STRI-kaah),is an important breath exercise in yoga and pranayama. It is sometimes treated as a kriya or ‘cleansing action’ along with kapalabhatito clear the airways in preparation for other pranayama techniques. Bhastrika involves a rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation powered by the movement of the diaphragm. The movement of air is accompanied by an audible sound. One inhale and exhale equals one round of bhastrika and it may be repeated for many consecutive rounds. B. K. S. Iyengar explains that the similar “process or kriyā of kapālabhāti is a milder form of Bhastrikā Prāṇāyāma. Swami Sivananda describes the process: “inhale and exhale quickly ten times like the bellows of the blacksmith. Constantly dilate and contract. When you practise this Pranayama a hissing sound is produced. The practitioner should start with rapid expulsions of breath following one another in rapid succession. When the required number of expulsions, say ten for a round, is finished, the final expulsion is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as long as it could be done with comfort. Then deepest possible exhalation is done very slowly. The end of this deep exhalation completes one round of Bhastrika”.
Importance of name
Bhastrika Pranayama is one of the main forms of Pranayama. In Sanskrit, Bhastrika means the ‘bellows’. It is said to purify the mind and clear pranic blocks. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika.
Sit in any steady asana – Padmasana, Siddhasana and Vajrasana are ideal for the practice. Keep the body erect and close the mouth. Inhale and exhale in rapid succession. During this process a hissing sound is produced. Start with say 10 inhalations and exhalations per round. It can be increased over a period of time. Some practitioners even do it till they get perspiration. Some practice Bhastrika along with Kumbhaka (holding of the breath) at the end of the last exhalation. To do this, take a deep breath after the last exhalation and hold the breath inside for as long as comfortable. Then exhale and start breathing normally. This will constitute one round.
- Bhastrika pranayama increases the oxygen content in the blood. Extra oxygen replenishes the entire body
- It removes blockages in the nose and chest
- It is good for asthma patients and removes inflammation of the throat
- It increases the gastric fire and improves appetite
- Bhastrika when practiced with Kumbhaka can generate heat in the body and keep it warm in cold weather
- It improves general health and activates all the organs
- Bhastrika purifies the nadis or the energy (pranic) channels in the body, ensuring free flow of prana to all the organs in the body