The limb of yoga called Pranayama is the measuring, control and directing of the breath, and breath of fire is one of the most powerful techniques in the arsenal of purification.
Since the practice produces the actual physical sensation of heat (called tapas or the inner fire of purification,) as the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of breathing he/she will strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system, and reduce cravings.
The mind is then set free to become a proper vehicle for concentration and meditation.
Check out the benefits of this breath skill that includes:
- Cleanses the sinuses and lungs
- Keeps the lungs supple
- Strengthens the diaphragm
- Develops belly muscles
- Stimulates the brain! (We could all use that)
I have adapted the general technique as follows, but if you feel unfamiliar with it you can refer to Yoga Journal for more information.
Kapalabhati, or fire breathing consists of alternating short, explosive exhales and slightly longer, passive inhales. Exhales are generated by powerful contractions of the lower belly (between the pubis and navel), which push air out of the lungs. Inhales are responses to the release of this contraction, which sucks air back into the lungs.
Fire breath is done through the NOSE!
Focus on your lower belly. Many beginners aren't able to isolate and contract this area. If needed, cup one hand lightly in the other and press them gently against your lower belly.
Now quickly contract your lower belly, pushing a burst of air out of your lungs. Then quickly release the contraction, so the belly "rebounds" to suck air into your lungs. Pace yourself slowly at first. Repeat eight to 10 times at about one exhale-inhale cycle every second or two.
As you become more adept at contracting/releasing your lower belly, you can increase your pace to about two exhale-inhale cycles every second. Imagine the exhale sweeping out or "brightening" the inner lining of your skull.
Do 25 to 30 cycles at first. Gradually increase the number of cycles you do each practice to 100 or more. Stop if you feel dizzy.
Todays Simple Step
Like me, I hope you fall in love with this breath!
I have found it to be strengthening, centering and powerful.
Practice, practice, practice...
and ask yourself...
What do you do with your fire?
How do you need to manage it?
What gets - and keeps - you inspired?
What energizes you - and does it have genuine health benefits??
Just for today, see if you can call on breath of fire to energize your day - and substitute one minute of breath of fire for your "less than optimal" habits and routines.
This is today's simple step.
Till next time...
Photo credit: GCA "Touching the Sun" by Bob Alba