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Do you want to feel energized in the morning without reaching for a cup of coffee? Do you want to get rid of the afternoon energy slumps easily? Certified yoga teacher Zeina Sfeir will teach you a Pranayama technique called Bhastrika, or bellows breath. So pull out your yoga mat, and let’s get started!

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is the ancient practice of controlling your breath. It’s a main component of yoga, an exercise for physical and mental wellness. In Sanskrit, “prana” means life energy, and “yama” means control. You control the timing, duration, and frequency of every breath and hold. The practice of pranayama involves breathing exercises and patterns. You purposely inhale, exhale, and hold your breath in a specific sequence.

The goal of pranayama is to connect your body and mind. It also supplies your body with oxygen while removing toxins. This is meant to provide healing physiological benefits.

In yoga, pranayama is used with other practices like physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dhyana). Together, these practices are responsible for the many benefits of yoga.

What is Bhastrika?

Bhastrika - pronounced bha-STRI-kaah - 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. This pranayama is best done on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, or when you're feeling tired or sluggish and need a boost of energy to keep you going. Make sure you haven’t eaten for two to three hours before practicing it. It's easy, straightforward, and accessible anywhere and anytime.

If you are pregnant, suffer from stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, or heart disease, please avoid practicing this particular Bhastrika, there are other practices that you can do instead.

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.

Zeina explains, “The gateway of breath in Bhsatrika is only the nose. The practice is done forcefully. When we breathe in, the belly will pull out; when we breathe out, the belly will pull in. Make sure that your breath is even in force and in length, but please do not strain the breath.”

When performing Bhastrika, you will mirror the movements of your diaphragm. When breathing in, extend both your arms above your head, and spread your fingers. When you breathe out, close your hands into fists and draw the elbows close to the ribcage. However, as a beginner, you can start by placing your hands on your knees or your stomach with your fingers turned towards the navel to feel the breaths going in and out. 

The first round will be 1 intake of breath for 2 seconds. The second round will be 1 breath per second. The more you practice this Bhastrika, the easier it will be to get to 2 breaths per second. 

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, pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round of bellows breathing, slower and with less intensity.

You can watch the video above to practice with Zeina! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the Mint Basil Market team or comment below.

June 30, 2021 — Mint Basil Market

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