Bhastrika is an important practice of prana-yama. It is therefore widely mentioned in various scriptures. However, some of these descriptions are very vague. For example in the Gherand Samhita it says: "Draw air in and out of your nostrils over and over again like blacksmith's bellows." (v. 5:74)
"Inhale deeply twenty times. Do kumbhaka (retain breath). Then exhale in the way already explained. Wise men practise bhastrika three times every day and never suffer from any disease. They grow healthier day by day." (v. 5:75, 76) This explanation is not given so much for specific instruction but for remembrance. The actual details were intended to be given by a guru.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika there are a few verses which describe the practice. These are as follows: "Place both feet on the thighs and sit comfortably in padmasana. This is the destroyer of all impurities. Lock the pose and keep the neck and abdomen in one straight line. Keeping the mouth closed, exhale through the two nostrils. The exhalation should be such that it makes a sound from the heart to the forehead. Then quickly inhale and fill the lungs.
"Again exhale and inhale. Do this over and over again like the blacksmith's bellows. Air should be moved in and out of the body until you feel tired. Then inhale through the right nostril so that the abdomen expands (like a balloon). Close the nostrils with the fingers and retain the breath. Then after retention, exhale through the left nostril.
"This practice removes disease caused by kapha, pitta and vata (gross and subtle elements in the body). It increases the digestive fire. The flow of prana is revitalized. The practice helps to awaken the kundalini by destroying blockages, including the brahma, vishnu and rudra granthis5. You are especially recommended to practise bhastrika prana-yama." (v. 2:59-67)
Although this is a much fuller explanation, a person would still find it difficult to practise correctly using only reference to this text. Incidentally, the method described is slightly different from the method that we will shortly describe. This is not surprising for bhastrika has many minor variations. Even today many ashrams and schools teach slightly different variations of bhastrika. Each has its place in the sphere of yoga. The method that we teach is one that we have thoroughly tested.
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