Breath of fire is a pranayama, or breathing technique, where you breathe rapidly, rhythmically and continuously through your nostrils with equal emphasis on your inhalations and exhalations. You concentrate on the power at your navel center and your solar plexus. Because this is considered an advanced pranayama, give yourself plenty of time and expert instruction to learn the proper technique.
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It is best to work with a teacher to learn pranayama, as these exercises can be quite powerful. The best time to practice is in the morning or two to three hours after a meal. Stop practicing breath of fire if you feel any dizziness or other discomfort. Consult with a health practitioner before practicing if you have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, an ulcer, epilepsy or a hernia. Avoid breath of fire if you are pregnant or menstruating.
According to the Kundalini Research Institute, breath of fire oxygenates and detoxifies your blood. Regular practice can build your lung capacity, clear your respiratory system, balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, heat your body to increase energy, boost your immune system, build concentration, reduce addictive impulses and improve your sense of well-being. Think of breath of fire as a tune-up for your system so all parts work harmoniously together.
Before you practice breath of fire, become familiar with abdominal breath, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, and ujjayi breath, also known as ocean breath because of the sound it creates.
To prepare for breath of fire, sit in a comfortable position, preferably on the floor, with your spine and neck lengthened upward, your shoulders down and relaxed, your chest lifted and your chin slightly back and down to align your spine with the back of your head. Rest your hands on your legs and relax.
Breath of Fire Technique
Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Inhale again and exhale rapidly through your nose. Keep the length of your inhalation and exhalation equal. Inhale by relaxing your abdomen outward, and exhale by pulling your belly in to press air out your nose. Concentrate on sniffing rapidly. After some practice, your abdomen should feel as if it's moving effortlessly. Practice from one to three minutes. Take a break if you're feeling the breath only in your nose.
Breath of fire differs from the breathing technique called kapalabhati, or skull-shining breath, because the latter exercise emphasizes the exhalation. Another commonly confused pranayama is bhastrika, or bellows breath, which involves actively pumping your stomach out and in as you inhale and exhale.