A breath used to invigorate, energize, stoke the fires of digestion and spark creativity.
Yogi Bhajan says that longevity comes with regular practice of breath of fire.
This is a breath for stirring digestive agni. Agni, in ayurveda, refers to fires. The fires of digestion, life force, the cosmic fire – there are many.
Breath of fire strengthens our digestive systems, assisting in the efficiency to burn the fuel we feed ourselves as food, as well as any toxic thoughts or emotions, including that of others, that we may ingest in the course of each day. A strong digestive fire is an important foundation to every body.
This is a breath that, practiced regularly, facilitates rhythm and harmony within the systems of the body.
Breath of fire:
It is easiest to begin learning this breath while breathing through the mouth.
Once the basic form is grasped, then breath should be moved through the nose. It is best performed on an empty stomach.
Sitting comfortably, take a few deep, relaxing breaths to settle your body and slow your breathing.
Once calm, pull the belly in as you exhale through the mouth.
Release the belly and allow the breath to draw back into the lungs.
Pull in the belly and exhale (exhale should be audible).
This is not a ‘pull the belly button to the spine’ type of movement that constricts breath and adds tension to the muscles and the body. This is a slight, controlled contraction of the muscles in coordination with the breath.
Belly button draws in on exhalation and relaxes upon inhalation. Practice this coordination without strain.
Similar to a dog panting, however, here’s the difference as I feel it; when you simply pant with your breath, you can get light-headed and dizzy. Once the connection is established between the breath and the core, there is a grounding factor that supports the breathing and does not result in dizziness. Also, ensure you are drawing in sufficient breath and not allowing the breath to be too short.
Should you feel light-headed, stop the breath immediately. You could try again at another time, with the emphasis on the core action.
Begin this breath slowly and increase the speed once you have gained some control. One cycle per second is a comfortable place to begin. When you first start this breathing, you will feel as though your coordination has left you. It will take a bit of practice for the muscles to engage and release quickly and in sync with the breath.
Here we go.
A couple relaxing breaths.
Begin breathing through the open mouth, making a breathy ‘ha’ sound with each exhale.
Look down, is the belly moving? Gently draw in the belly on the exhale and release on the inhale.
Quicken the breath as the gentle pumping action of the belly increases.
Complete a few rounds and then close the mouth, moving the breath through the nose.
Close the eyes and focus on the rhythmic movements of body and breath. Relax. Draw vitality into your centre.
Try twenty seconds or so and then relax and breathe fully and deeply before doing another twenty seconds. If you lose sync between belly and breath, relax, take a few breaths and then continue with breath of fire, restoring the connection between the belly and the breath. A minute or two a day is all it takes.
Work up to a faster pace, increased intensity and a longer duration as you feel comfortable. Ensure you feel well during your practice.
Feel the fire in the belly? Open nasal passages? Invigorated?
When finished, sit with eyes closed for a few minutes, breathing deeply and simply notice how you feel, the warmth of your core, the movement of energy through the body. Open your eyes, continue relaxed breathing for a minute or so before getting up and continuing your day.
As always, consult a professional or physician if you have underlying health conditions, are pregnant, or have never attempted breathing exercises. Breath of fire is not recommended during the first couple days of the menstrual cycle or during pregnancy. Also, as this is a heat-generating breath, existing heat conditions, such as menopausal hot flashes, may be more suited to sitali breathing than breath of fire.