BREATH OF FIRE: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask
How to do it: Sit in easy pose (simple cross-legged position) Stretch the spine up straight and tall, with the base of the spine forward, the chest lifted and the chin tucked down and back (neck very straight.) In this position, find a balance and relax completely. Inhale and exhale at even lengths with no break between. The navel will start to flex as though pumping. This is one of the many benefits which we will highlight later. Continue from 3 minutes or more (up to 20 minutes)
Eyes: Generally closed, focused up and in at the brow (Third eye point)
Finish: Inhale deeply and hold. Gently squeeze the body to expand the energy, focusing on bringing the energy to the third eye point. Exhale, and relax. (Breath of fire can also be practiced in intervals– 3 min breath, 2 minutes rest, another 3 min, etc.)
I recently took my classes through the complete basic steps of breath of fire, how it is done, the principles behind it and its benefits. It’s really amazing when you look at it closely. So many Kundalini Yoga kriyas have breath of fire within them, but it’s easy to do it incorrectly unless you learn it properly first, and then apply it after some practice.
Breath of fire is basically an inhale and exhale of even length, in rapid succession. That doesn’t mean it has to be done fast. In fact, when doing breath of fire for the first time, one should go slowly and find the rhythm before going faster. The breath simply has to be an even length with no break between the inhale and exhale. This creates a very unique breath, which is actually considered one long breath, but paradoxically it appears to be many rapid breaths. Because there’s no real break between the inhale and exhale, it’s actually considered very long deep breathing sped up. Here’s how you do it…
The even inhale and exhale is a matter of creating balance. The Prana– or life force within the breath comes into the body through the lungs and transfers into the body at the level of the navel. Within our bodies is an opposite, polarizing force called Apana. Apana is an eliminative energy in the body and prana is an activating energy we bring into the body with the breath. When they mix at the navel, the Kundalini energy is sparked and charged. This creates a balance between the life force coming in and the existing energy within the body and what need to get rid of, or eliminate. This mix and balancing of prana and apana creates an energy flow. Breath of fire, literally fires up this energy flow process and results in countless benefits.
The Mechanics of Breath:
When you inhale properly, the lungs fill completely with air and push down on the diaphragm, a U-shaped muscle just beneath the lungs. The diaphragm’s down/up movement causes the navel to expand and contract. Thus when you inhale properly, the diaphragm causes the navel (belly) to expand and when you exhale the navel deflates and the diaphragm rises, deflating the lungs. When you pull in on the navel toward the spine as you exhale, you force more air out of the lungs, causing a more complete breath. So the diaphragm moves up/down and the navel moves in/out.
In breath of fire, the navel pumps as a result of the continuous breath and acts as a bellows, firing up the white-hot kundalini energy at the base of the spine. Yogi Bhajan says this is not a temperature-like heat as we know it, but rather a force– like the encompassing white light of meditation rather than the heat of sunlight, for example. The exercising of the navel point also releases energy stored there in the solar plexus. This energy in turn, expands within you and radiates into your entire energy system. It does so in very practical, physical ways as you will see in the following list of benefits.
‘They say that about five hundred diseases do not come near that person who moves the belly button. The navel controls the vayus, the praanic airs which circulate through your body.’ –Yogi Bhajan
10 Benefits of Breath of Fire:
- Cleans the blood in 3 minutes. It also takes an average of 3 minutes for the liver to filter the blood completely. This is why beginners sometimes feel lightheaded or a little queasy, because the blood is being oxygenated rapidly and the toxins are rushing through the liver. (After very little practice, however, there is no unease, but rather the breath becomes very invigorating and energizing.)
- The solar plexus, at the level of the navel contains a lot of naturally stored energy. This is because the navel is at the third chakra which is the center of personal will power (which is why we use phrases like “fire in the belly” and “she’s got guts.”)
- Causes the nervous system to increase its voltage and fire properly.
- Changes the brain waves creating a global alpha rhythm when practiced properly.
- Expands lung capacity.
- Increases physical endurance.
- Strengthens the navel point, which as mentioned previously is the core will center. This added strength gives mental constancy and the ability to focus and follow through on your promises. (The guts to follow through on what you say you will do.)
- Assists in the overcoming of addictons by cleansing the toxic effects of smoking, drugs, sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
- Increased mental and physical energy in the entire system.
- Releases deeply rooted toxins in the lungs, mucous membranes, blood vessels and cells.
Further Tips for Breath of Fire:
- Once you get into the rhythm of the breath, scan your body for tension. People, especially beginners tend to hold tension in different places in the body, the legs, knees, face, back, etc. Once you begin the breath, relax every part of the body not in use, which means basically, everything but the navel.
- Practice this breath for a minimum of three minutes a day for forty days and watch your life change dramatically. Set an intention in your mind (quitting smoking, losing weight, any positive change) and don’t worry about the particulars of how you’re going to do it. Simply dedicate your self to doing the breath meditation each day. Make an event out of it– first thing in the morning when you wake up or in the evening, but don’t miss a day and watch the result
- Use the mantra “Sat Nam” as you practice the breath of fire. Mentally say or vibrate “Sat” as you inhale and “Nam” as you exhale. Sat Nam basically means, “Truth is my identity, “or “I agree to the truth within.” This centers the mind from wandering on thoughts but also seeds the sub-conscious mind with the soul’s vibration of truth so that when you’re on auto-pilot throughout your day, the back of your mind is actually working on the higher part of your self.