Bhastrika Pranayama - The Bellows

Bhastrika is described here for those participating in Yoga Mentoring with Radhika-ji.

Bhastra means bellows. In Bhastrika the abdominal muscles move in an action similar to that of a blacksmith's bellows, churning up the fire in the body. 

How to practice Bhastrika

Sit with the head, neck and trunk in a straight line. Sit in your chosen meditative posture. You may sit in:

  • Maitri Asana - the Friendship pose 
  • Sukhasana - the Easy Pose 
  • Svastikasana - the Auspicious Pose or 
  • Siddhasana - the Accomplished Pose

Inhale slowly until abdomen is fully expanded and then exhale forcefully through the nostrils. This is followed by rapid and vigorous inhalation and exhalation. Begin slowly and pick up speed, like a train.

One exhalation and one inhalation together, make up one cycle. 

The cycles are to be repeated in rapid succession. 

Start with 10 cycles. This is 1 round. Begin slowly and then pick up speed, little a train.

After 1 round breath normally. Take the time between rounds to come back to your normal breathing. This may not seem to make a difference initially, but as you increase the cycles in each round, you will find these short breaks of normal breathing useful.

Do a total of 3 rounds of 10 cycles each for 1-3 weeks.


Increasing the number of cycles


Bhastrika Pranayama


Increase the number of cycles per round by 10 for another 1-3 weeks. As you get more comfortable with Bhastrika Pranayama, you can increase the number of cycles by 10 every week.

At the end of 7 months you will be doing 240 cycles of Bhastrika, 3 times. 

This table is only a suggestion. Everyone has a different capacity and it is important not to over exert oneself. 

Dangers of Pranayama

There are serious dangers involved in doing pranayama practices without a trained teacher from an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 

Swami Rama says in Lectures on Saundaryalahiri, "Many teachers do not practice and then teach others just to do experiments. That's a very dangerous thing to do.  In books there are many things written. Some of the writers wrote them without knowing.  They took from here and there and wrote a book. Bad yoga practice can lead you to very dangerous situations for which there is no medicine. Suppose your pranic vehicles are disturbed because of your foolish practices that you have read through books. Where is the medicine for that? Therefore, a teacher is needed, and the teacher should be skilled enough not to mislead their students, not to make experiments on them. Let teachers make experiments on themselves. So, we have always in the scriptures, warnings, yellow mark on the scriptures, 'Don't do it!' It's a tradition."

Disturbance of pranic vehicle due to wrong Pranayama practice can lead to many imbalances causing, among other things:

  • Headache
  • Erratic mood change
  • Depression
  • Tendency to colds and congestion
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

Prolonged practice of incorrect pranayama techniques can lead to serious and permanent disturbance or imbalance of the nervous system. The only practice you can do safely without guidance is Diaphragmatic Breathing.

Precautionary Measures

  • Pranayama practice should not be done out of books, websites or videos.
  • Pranayama practice should be undertaken only with highly experienced and qualified teachers of an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 
  • Avoid teachers that mix practices from different traditions.
  • If you do not find an experienced and qualified teacher, then it is better not to do any pranayama practice. 
  • Retention (Kumbhaka) is not recommended.


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