Kundalini Yoga Basics: Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire (Agni Pran) is a breathing technique that is often employed in Kundalini Yoga. It is a rapid, rhythmic and continuous breath in and out of the nose, generated by pumping the navel. To start, actively pull the navel point, found about one and a half inches below the belly button, and the solar plexus in and up. This motion will compress the diaphragm and cause air to be exhaled from the lungs. Then release the navel point, allowing the diaphragm to expand, and the lungs to fill. Continue to alternately inhale and exhale. If breath of fire is new to you or you are still getting used to it, go slowly at first, then gradually increase the pace.

This video provides a very clear explanation, and also demonstrates how the navel point should be moving:

(via Hari Singh)

The even inhale and exhale is a matter of balance. When we inhale, we take in prana, our life-force, our life-giving energy. When we exhale, we release apana, the eliminative energy. When prana and apana are equally present, they mix at the navel point, creating an inner stillness and neutrality that allows the Kundalini energy to awaken and flow.

If we practice the Breath of Fire consistently, we can:

– Generate heat and energy at will
– Expand our lung capacity
– Increase physical endurance
– Strengthen the nervous sysytem
– Charge the aura
– Increase oxygen delivery to the brain
– Release toxins and deposits from the lungs, mucous linings, blood vessels, and other cells

Because of these last few effects, beginners may sometimes first feel lightheaded or a little queasy, depending on the body’s history and constitution. If this happens, return to long deep breathing and hydrate. These sensations will disappear with gradual, consistent practice.

This pranayama also strengthens the 3rd chakra, the navel point, which is the center of our power and will. This will generate more mental and physical energy, and give us the ability to focus and follow through.

A note – ladies who are pregnant or menstruating should NOT practice Breath of Fire. More info on that here.

Here’s another video that you can practice along with (after another explanation, practice starts at 2:50):

This is a simple and powerful tool to add to your yogic arsenal. Put it to good use!

(artwork by Evelyn Siegmund)