The next time you feel sluggish, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, try an energetic breathing practice, instead.
Bhastrika, or “bellows breath,” is a traditional breathing exercise in yoga that helps to increase Prana or life force in your being. It’s often used to energize the body and clarify the mind. If you feel hazy, or like you're moving in slow motion, Bhastrika will help clear the clouds.
Bellows breathing is also a practice to consider if you’re trying to lose weight. Performing a few rounds throughout the day can help increase your digestive power and boost your metabolism.
You probably want to avoid practicing bellows breathing close to bedtime, as it may invigorate your mind and make it difficult to fall asleep. But the next time you need a energy boost, give it a try.
How to Perform Bellows Breath
- Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep, breaths in and out from your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly fully as you breathe.
- Begin bellows breathing by exhaling forcefully through your nose. Follow by inhaling forcefully at the rate of one second per cycle.
- Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still while your belly moves in and out.
For your first cycle, move through a round of 10 Bhastrika breaths, then take a break and breathe naturally, observing the sensations in your mind and body. After a 15- to 30-second break, begin the next round with 20 breaths. Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round of 30 bellows breaths.
Make sure to listen to your body during the practice. Bellows breathing is a safe practice, but if you feel light-headed in any way, take a pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round of bellows breathing, slower and with less intensity.
When to Use Bellows Breath
First thing in the morning: Since bellows breath is energizing, try it first thing in the morning for a wake-up call that will get your blood pumping and get you in the perfect mode to start your day.
During the mid-day slump: For those of you who work in an office, the mid-day slump is the dreaded time when we crash, usually about an hour after lunchtime. If you feel sluggish after lunch or in the middle of the day, find a quiet corner of your office and practice a few rounds of bellows breathing for a pick-me-up even better than espresso.
Before a workout: Getting ready for a run, yoga class, or workout session? Before you lace up your shoes or roll out your mat, sit for a few rounds of bellows breathing to warm you up and get you in the focused and energized mode.
Contraindications: Do not practice Bhastrika if you’re pregnant, have uncontrolled hypertension, epilepsy, seizures, or panic disorder. You should also avoid practicing bellows breath on a full stomach; wait at least two hours after eating.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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