How to do Breath of Fire in Kundalini Yoga

Discover the transformative power of Breath of Fire (Agni Pranayama), an integral breathing technique prominently featured within Kundalini Yoga sequences. It is a rapid, rhythmic and continuous breathing practice, mostly done through the nose, powered by the navel and the solar plexus.

 

In the yogic scriptures there are mentions of two breathing techniques that seem similar to Breath of Fire, namely Kapalbhati and Bhastrika. Although both of them involve rapid breathing with powerful exhales they are performed differently than the Breath of Fire commonly used in Kundalini Yoga.

Kapalbhati has a forceful exhalation and passive inhalation, using the abdominal muscles. Bhastrika has a forceful inhalation and exhalation using both chest and abdominal muscles. Breath of fire has a powerful exhalation and a passive inhalation, making sure both are done for an equal amount of time. The chest stays relaxed and the movement of the belly is centered in the navel.

In contrast to conventional breathing, Breath of Fire seamlessly merges inhalation and exhalation, forming a continuous, elongated breath cycle. While standard breathing relies on pauses to shift between inhaling and exhaling, Breath of Fire sustains a rhythmic contraction and release orchestrated by the navel's activity.

 

Practicing Breath of Fire: Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Sit with a straight spine and start by taking a few deep conscious breaths, becoming aware of your navel moving along with the breath.
  2. When you’re ready, begin by expelling the air out through the nose by pulling the navel point in towards the spine rapidly. This will push the diaphragm upward, pushing air out of the lungs.
  3. For the inhalation release the navel and the air will flow in automatically.
  4. Try to do two breaths per second, but adjust according to your capacity.
  5. For beginners, start with 1 to 3 minutes.

 

Key Considerations for Practice

  • When performed properly there is an equal in- and exhalation in the breath of Fire. This is important, as too much inhalation will make you feel dizzy and too much exhalation will make you feel very uncomfortable.
  • The navel propels the movement; no strain should manifest in the face, shoulders, or any other body part.
  • Initial practice may induce sensations like tingling due to nervous system responses.
  • If dizziness arises, pause and reestablish breath ratio before resuming practice.
  • Guard against reversing navel movement; some inadvertently pull in during inhalation and extend during exhalation.

 

Benefits of Breath of Fire in Kundalini Yoga

Breath of Fire is an excellent training to release tension from the diaphragm area. It stretches the muscular fibers at the lateral margins of the diaphragm, where it attaches to the inside wall of the ribs. When this muscle is tight it will result in a shallow breath, weakening your strength, your stamina and your personal power. That’s why in Kundalini Yoga we work a lot with the Breath of Fire.

Furthermore, this pranayama affects our brain by reversing the natural mode of breathing. Normally the inhalation is ‘active’ in the sense that inspiratory muscles contract, pulling the diaphragm down to expand the lungs, and the exhalation is a result of relaxing that contraction. In the Breath of Fire we turn this around, we activate the muscles for a powerful exhale and the inhalation is a passive result of releasing that contraction. This induces a reversal of the flow of neurological messages sent to and from the brain which awakens and activates the brain centers.

As we rhythmically pump the navel with the fast breathing pattern of the Breath of Fire we increase this massaging effect of the brain and we stimulate the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid. Breath of Fire also stimulates the blood circulation.

 

Additional Gains Include:

  • Internal system massage: Controlled Breath of Fire offers an invigorating internal massage, enhancing blood and lymph flow through organs.
  • Detoxification enhancement: Heightens the body's capacity to expel toxins and waste gases.
  • Temperature regulation: Generates internal heat, aiding in dispelling excess mucus and boosting resilience against respiratory issues.
  • Digestive improvement: Elevates appetite and digestion.
  • Nervous system reinforcement: Enhances nervous system robustness.
  • Emotional release: Assists in releasing physical and mental tension.
  • Pranic flow refinement: Amplifies energy center movement, bolstering vitality and mental clarity.
  • Subtle body purification: Profoundly purifies nadis and removes energy channel obstructions, particularly in the central Sushumna nadi.

 

Elevate your Kundalini Yoga journey with Breath of Fire, a dynamic pranayama enriching your mind, body, and spirit.