You can invigorate your body and mind with the breathing technique known as bhastrikaor “bellows breath”, or Kapalabhati, “shining breath”. These exercises cleanse your lungs while increasing the oxygen flow to your cells and tissues. These techniques also help with motivation and are known to increase lung capacity, improve circulation, boost metabolism, tone abdominal muscles and improve digestion and elimination.
To perform bhastrika, sit comfortably with your spine upright and close your eyes. Exhale all the air from your lungs. Then begin deep in and out breathing through your nose silently using the mantras, “So” on the inflow and “hum” on the outflow. For the first twenty breaths take two-second slow forceful inhalations and two second slow forceful exhalations. It is easiest to keep track of the number of breaths by counting on your fingers.
The next twenty breaths are performed faster with approximately one-second inhalations and one second exhalations. These are also preformed through the nose while thinking “So” on the in-breath and “hum” on the out-breath.
Finally, perform twenty rapid bhastrika breaths, approximately one-half second inhalations and one-half second exhalations. After the twenty rapid breaths, perform one more slow deep breath and then simply feel the sensations in your body. You will notice that your mind is clear and quiet while your body is energized.
Do not hyperventilate to the point where you are feeling lightheaded or dizzy. The breath movement is almost entirely abdominal, using your diaphragm to move air. Your head and shoulders should be relaxed and mostly still. Use bhastrika when you are feeling a little sluggish and need a quick replenishment of energy. It is also beneficial prior to your afternoon meditation to clear away drowsiness before you start your practice.
Another variation of the bellows breath is Kapalabhati, or “shining breath”. This particular breathing technique involves forceful exhalation followed by passive inhalation.
Sitting comfortably with your spine in an upright posture, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs, then allow them to fill passively. The primary movement is from your diaphragm. Perform this movement ten times, and then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat these cycles of ten movements three to four times. Like Bhastrika, Kapalabhati is a cleansing and invigorating pranayama.