|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 183 ]
The term bhastrika denotes a forceful out-breath, like that of a blacksmith's bellows, which is why it is often referred to as the "bellows breath."
There are nine classical forms of bhastrika used in yoga, known as the nau bhastrika. In each, the air is either moved rapidly in and out, or strictly out of the lungs, with the out-breath done in an explosive fashion.
Mukha is the Sanskrit word for "mouth" (or face) and so, the mukha bhastrika is the forceful expulsion of air through the mouth.
Other forms of bhastrika include the nasarga bhastrika, in which the breath is taken in and out through the nose (nasya), and the nasarga mukha bhastrika, whereby the breath is taken in through the nose and exhaled through the mouth.
In this practice, the breath is blasted out through the mouth, which is puckered as if you were going to whistle. This mouth gesture is known as kaki mudra, or the "crow gesture."
Note: The breath should only be pushed 'out' of the lungs, with no air at all taken in along the way. The full lungs, then, are gradually emptied completely throughout the 6 to 9 out bursts.
- Sit in vajra asana.
- Begin by taking in a long and full breath through the nose, filling all three parts of the lungs.
- Perform kaki mudra and blast the breath out in short bursts, forcefully contracting the diaphragm muscle to push the air.
- After the first couple of blasts, slowly bend forward so that the lungs collapse within the chest cavity, continuing to blast the air out until the lungs are completely empty. Make between 6 to 9 bursts of air from the start to the finish.
- Inhale as you slowly return to the upright vajra asana position, completely re-filling the lungs again with the mahat yoga pranayama.
- Repeat this process a minimum of 3 times.
- After the final performance, remain with your forehead on the floor in dharmika asana, the devotional pose, and take a few relaxing breaths in this position.
Effects and Benefits
Mukha bhastrika is also known as the cleansing breath. It helps to remove old, stagnant air from the lungs and cleanses the bloodstream of excess carbon dioxide, which is associated with mental fatigue, altered nerve sensations and physical weakness.
The performance of the kaki mudra stimulates the nerves of the mouth, tongue and throat, so that additional cleansing takes place within these areas.
According to research at JIPMER Hospital in Pondicherry India, the practice of mukha bhastrika decreases response time and enhances memory and comprehension. Research also suggests that it is useful in combating learning disorders, A.D.D., and mental retardation.
The mukha bhastrika is a good finishing practice for any deep-breathing pranayamas, such as vibhagha pranayama or the Pranava pranayama. It is also a good practice to re-energize when feeling fatigued and tired.
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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