Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire (Agni Pran)Breath of Fire is one of the foundational breath techniques used in the practice of Kundalini Yoga. It accompanies many postures, and has numerous beneficial effects. It is important to master this breath so that it is done accurately and becomes automatic.
Doing Breath of Fire: Breath of Fire is rapid, rhythmic, and continuous. It is equal on the inhale and the exhale, with no pause between them. (Approximately 2-3 cycles per second.) It is always practiced through the nostrils with mouth closed, unless stated otherwise.
Breath of Fire is powered from the navel point, solar plexus. To exhale, the air is expelled through the nose, by pressing the navel point and solar plexus back and up toward the spine. The upper abdominal muscles also pull in and up. This feels automatic if you contract the diaphragm rapidly.
To inhale, the upper abdominal muscles relax, the diaphragm extends down, flattening as the ribs expand and the breath seems to come in as part of relaxation rather than through effort. The chest stays relaxed and slightly lifted throughout the breathing cycle.
When done correctly, there should be no rigidity of hands, feet, face, lips, throat or abdomen.
Begin practicing Breath of Fire for a duration of 1-3 minutes. Some people find it easy to do Breath of Fire for a full 10 minutes right away. Others find that the breath creates an initial dizziness or giddiness. If this happens, take a break. Some tingling, traveling sensations, and lightheadedness are completely normal as your body adjusts to the new breath and new stimulation of the nerves. Concentrating at the brow point may help relieve these sensations. Sometimes these symptoms are the result of toxins and other chemicals released by the breath technique. The symptoms may be relieved by drinking lots of water and changing to a light diet.
Breath of Fire is not hyperventilation, nor is it Bellows Breath (see below).
There are some restrictions for doing Breath of Fire:
• While pregnant and menstruating, substitute Long Deep Breathing.
• If you feel dizzy when practicing Breath of Fire, you should stop and substitute normal breathing.
• If you suffer from vertigo, you should use caution in practicing this breathing exercise.
• Be aware when practicing Breath of Fire if you have certain health conditions. Although unlikely, BoF may aggravate some health issues such as hypertension, heart disease or suffer from stroke or seizure disorders. Please note BoF may also help.
• Use caution if you have acid or heat related gastric issues such as ulcers.
Common errors in practicing Breath of Fire: There are three common problems to watch for when practicing or teaching beginners:
Paradoxical breathing. Many people learn to breathe backwards: they inhale by pulling the belly in, thus making the space for the breath less rather than more. This is called Paradoxical Breathing. People who are often anxious or smoke frequently tend to have this pattern. It can be easily changed by placing a hand on the chest and one on the belly and doing Breath of Fire slowly with total awareness. (Note: Shiva Singh calls this “Fear Breath”. Somewhere some time we were terrified and we sucked in our belly armoring the navel and stiffening the spine, thus Paradoxical Breath became our normal breathing pattern.)
Trying to breathe by an exaggerated pumping of the belly. Breath of Fire is not the deep bellows cleansing breath that pumps the stomach with complete exhales and inhales. Breath of Fire comes from higher up near the solar plexus.
A loss of attention to the balanced ratio of the inhale and exhale. One way to get this right is to do it wrong first. Try to inhale much more than you exhale with each breath cycle at 1-2 times per second. Within 30 seconds you can sense the over-stimulated jumpiness and imbalance of the breathing. Then switch to a much greater exhale than an inhale at the same pace. Almost immediately you will sense a loss of strength, lethargy, distraction, or depression. Now make the breath exactly equal on the inhale and exhale. Listen to the sound of the breath and create a steady rhythm.
Benefits of Breath of Fire:
• Releases toxins and deposits from the lungs, mucous linings, blood vessels, and other cells.
• Expands the lung capacity and increases vital strength.
• Strengthens the nervous system to resist stress.
• Repairs the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
• Strengthens the navel chakra.
• Increases physical endurance and prepares you to act effectively.
• Adjusts the subtle psycho-electromagnetic field of the aura so that the blood becomes energized.
• Reduces addictive impulses for drugs, smoking, and bad foods.
• Increases oxygen delivery to the brain, facilitating a focused, intelligent, and neutral state of mind.
• Boosts the immune system and may help prevent many diseases.
• Promotes synchronization of the biorhythms of the body’s systems.
Beginning a Practice of Breath of Fire Sit with an extended spine and place the hands on the knees in Gyan Mudra, elbows gently straight, fingers pointing towards the floor Close the eyelids 9/10ths. Roll the eyes up and concentrate at the Brow Point. Begin Breath of Fire for 1-3 minutes. Then inhale and hold without tension for 10 seconds. Relax and stay still. Watch the natural flow of the breath and the constant stream of internal and external sensations. Continue for 3 minutes. Inhale deeply, exhale. Repeat this combination 3-5 times. Another good series for beginners is the Pranayam Energizer Series
© 2003 The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, KRI International Teacher Training Manual Level I, p.95

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