Breath of Fire
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” —Rumi
This is the fifth lesson of the breathing course. Today, we will explore Breath of Fire (Kapalabhati in Sanskrit), also known as Bellows Breath, to call in more energy. Just as a blacksmith’s bellow blows air vigorously and rapidly to fan the flames of the fire to purify iron, in this practice, we inhale and exhale rapidly to increase our oxygen to the brain.
Why We Need Breath of Fire
Do you ever notice a dip in your energy in the afternoon?
On occasion, while driving my car, I would start to feel sleepy and long for a nap or a cup of coffee. Then, I started practicing “breath of fire,” and it is the perfect natural substitute that brings me back to a clear mind. This happens because this breathing technique turns on activity in specific areas of the brain related to awareness and improvement of attention. Your blood starts pumping more quickly, and you feel a renewed passion for activity.
Breathing on fire can immediately change your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels, and when practiced regularly, produce long-term effects. This practice increases the supply of blood to the brain, tones the entire nervous system, increases the digestive fire, and gives warmth to the body.
However, because this form of breathing engages our diaphragm and abdomen, avoid doing these on a full stomach. Try to wait at least two hours after eating. Further, avoid this one if you are pregnant or have medical conditions, including high blood pressure, glaucoma, epilepsy, panic disorder, gastric ulcer, hernia, or vertigo.
How to Perform Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire is a rapid cleansing breath that has passive inhales and rapid, short, forceful exhales. As a beginner, practice this breath in a comfortable seated position. If you practice yoga, you can try this breath in a variety of yoga postures like hero’s pose (seated on your knees), boat (balancing in the place between your sit bones and tailbone), goddess (wide squat with arms in right angles), and more.
Before you begin, inhale a slow four- to five-second diaphragmatic breath, expanding like a balloon, and exhale evenly as the balloon deflates. Then inhale halfway and exhale as you hug your core in. Your next short inhale will expand your diaphragm, and your strong exhale will push your breath out. Let the expulsion of breath follow one another in rapid succession. This will bring rapid action both on the diaphragm and the entire respiratory system.
See if you can synchronize your exhales with the seconds of a clock. Start with ten seconds for one round, then take a break to inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. Work your way up to repetitions of 30, 90, or 120 for a more advanced practice. You can watch the second hand of a clock or set a timer. After some practice, you may even be able to perform two inhales and exhales per second.
If you feel comfortable with retention, you can hold your breath for as long as comfortable, then at the end of a set, apply a chin (tucking your chin into your chest) and root lock (squeezing anal and reproductive organs in and up) and bring your attention to the life force energy building inside of you. Practice three to five sets.
This practice may be a bit uncomfortable, as your self-discipline is strengthening, but it is not supposed to be painful. If you become dizzy, stop and let your breath return to normal so your body can equilibrate. Everyone’s lung capacity volume is different. Breathe naturally until you feel comfortable again.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Twisting Breath, which can rejuvenate the oxygen low to your spine and inner organs.
To your continued success,
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