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Bhastrika

August 4, 2011

Bhastrika is also known as the Bellows, rightly so, because of its action as a bellows. A bellows is a tool that creates wind to fan a fire and that is one of the main purposes of bhastrika. It fans the inner fire of digestion, which in Sanskrit is called Agni. This fire is not to be thought of as a literal fire but the heat that is experienced in the abdomen, which you can feel if you touch your abdomen.

Agni needs to be strengthened to improve digestion and to give lustre. A strong agni improves digestion and purifies the body, particularly the blood. A strong agni is also essential for immunity. Agni also gives psychological strength, so that one can digest all experiences. It also gives spiritual strength and fervour.

Due to its action bhastrika also purifies the lungs as the lungs are being inflated and deflated rapidly.

Kapalabhati should be mastered before attempting bhastrika. To practice bhastrika you should sit in a comfortable posture. Chest and abdomen must be open and free. Use your abdomen and chest like a bellows. Rapidly and vigorously breathe in and out. As you breathe in expand the abdomen and chest. On exhalation contract the abdomen and the chest. Do this 12, 24 or 36 times. Then practice kumbhaka with jalandhara and mula bandha. Then repeat two more rounds. When you first start practicing bhastrika, then do only 12 times per round. Gradually increase as you begin to be comfortable with the practice.

You may sweat due to the heat caused. Do not be alarmed. This is normal. Follow bhastrika with sitali or sitkari, especially in summer. Practice in the morning and evening when it is cool. Always follow bhastrika with pranayama. Bhastrika is meant as a preparation for pranayama.

If you suffer from stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, heart condition or had a stroke, then bhastrika should not be practiced. Ideally you should learn this from a teacher who is proficient in the practice.

Practice bhastrika and become strong and healthy.

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Written by Swami Vidyananda. Resident Monk at Ananda Kutir Ashrama. http://www.anandakutir.org.za/

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