Breathing Exercises

Bhastrika Pranayama: A Breathing Cleanse To Help You Meditate

Learn how bhastrika pranayama, or bellows breath, can help you reduce your mental clutter and better approach meditation.

Denise Everheart
bhastrika pranayama

Breath and meditation go together like hugs and kisses, chocolate and peanut butter, and rest and relaxation! Well, at least like rest and relaxation. 

In any event, real R & R happens when you combine breath and meditation together. This is where bhastrika pranayama, aka bellows breath, can help you! Think of it as a breathing cleanse to wash away unwanted thoughts so you can easily relax into a deep meditative state.

Bhastrika (bas-tree-kah) is a Sanskrit word that means bellows, like a blacksmith or metal worker uses to fan the flames. Pranayama, also a Sanskrit word, is comprised of two words- Prana and Yama

Prana means subtle life energy. And Yama means to control or contain. This yogic breath is considered the most important pranayama practice (breathing exercise) you can do daily with any yoga or meditation practice. 

Bhastrika health benefits

Also known as yogic cappuccino, bhastrika pranayama is a great alternative to consuming caffeine when used properly. It is a favorite among breathing exercises for college students because it: 

  • Energizes while increasing a calm focus
  • Cleanses nasal passage
  • Clears away unwanted thoughts
  • Enhances present moment awareness
  • Stress reduction 
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Is a  precursor for mindfulness meditation practice
  • Improves circulation
  • Oxygenates the blood

Additionally, this pranayama improves respiratory function.

How to practice bhastrika pranayama

As a general rule, we suggest you learn bhastrika pranayama in person so you can receive careful and individualized training. You can, however, learn in a free, live, online introductory session (mentioned below). Or learn as part of a comprehensive yogic breathing program, online or in-person (also mentioned below). 

But if you want to start right now, check out this video demonstrating slow-paced bhastrika pranayama from the Art of Living Retreat Center. 

Please note to always practice pranayamas such as bhastrika on an empty stomach, since having food in the stomach can be unsettling during bellows breathing.

It is also important to note that doing bhastrika too fast could cause you to be overstimulated and even feel unbalanced. Slow-paced breathing leads to maximum benefits in the safest way. Using a vigorous inhalation and forceful exhalation doesn't mean you have to blow a gasket. Take it nice and easy. You may want to follow up with a few normal breaths or alternate nostril breathing before any meditation practices.

How much and how often should you practice bhastrika pranayama

We have all heard that too much of a good thing can be bad. This is true when it comes to bhastrika. Think of it like a prescription, only do it one to two times a day, with the count prescribed in the video.

Who should avoid doing bhastrika?

Because bhastrika involves a vigorous inhalation and a forceful exhalation in coordination with the arms reaching up and falling down, there are a few conditions that advisably prohibit practicing bhastrika.

  • Anyone who has undergone recent surgery
  • People with shoulder issues may need to take extra care
  • Those with high blood pressure not managed by medication
  • You may want to avoid during pregnancy for comfort reasons
  • Anyone with bipolar symptoms uncontrolled by medication

Next steps

Want to go beyond mindfulness meditation and pranayama practice? The Art of Living Foundation offers a comprehensive yogic breathing program called SKY Breath Meditation. SKY is simply the best among breathing practices.

SKY practice has been shown to give a significant decrease in both anxiety and depression (clinical and non-clinical). Research has also shown up to a 78% reduction in stress hormones. 

Additionally, SKY has a positive effect in the following areas:

  • Increases immunity
  • Enhances deep sleep
  • Improves respiratory rate and function
  • Reduces addictive behaviors
  • Healthier blood pressure
  • Increases clarity of mind
  • Reduces PTSD symptoms
  • Increases self-esteem, life satisfaction, and joy!

All great reasons why you should learn SKY. And if you want to learn how to practice bhastrika pranayama under the guidance of a certified instructor, you can learn it during the SKY Breath Meditation course. Or, you can get a taste by attending a free, live, online introductory session by clicking the image below. 


You may also enjoy reading our review of NYT’s best-selling author, James Nestor’s book on breathing practices for living a healthier life in a modern world.


Art of Living Part 1 course: Discover Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ancient secret to modern well-being.

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