Common steps and sub-activities
Bhastrika or The bellows breathing technique is a method in which the breath is forcibly drawn in and out through the nose in equal proportions, like the pumping action of bellows.
It partly works via increasing the breathing rate – you do take in slightly more oxygen than you actually need for the level of activity you are undertaking, - but the intention is not to push it to the extremes that we might see in the rapid breathing techniques like the breath of fire.
Its principal mode of action, however, appears to be its effect on the diaphragm – the seat of the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve. In effect it is again stimulation of the trigger points.
It appears to be a technique better tolerated by those with weak stomach muscles and large tummies than the techniques that require them to actually hold the diaphragm in for extended periods.
This method is used in the activity Controlled breathing.
Although eastern systems rely on a meditation posture requiring you to sit upright cross legged on the floor, this is not obligatory and can for many people be counter-productive because they are uncomfortable. You must however sit upright.
What you do is expel the gases from the stomach area by pushing your tummy in and out. Actually what you are doing is using your stomach muscles to push your diaphragm up and down. The rate appears to be changeable depending on which book you read.
One of the rather interesting positive side effects of this technique is that it exercises your tummy muscles.
If you have a great big beer [or hamburger] belly this can do wonders for you. The abdominal wall muscles get properly developed, and as a result the intestines and other organs in the abdominal cavity get proper support from the front. By developing the front muscles, and affording a support to intestines from the front, strain on the spine is lessened, and it can help relieve back pain caused by overweight.
Frequency and timing
This technique is not regularly used in systems like yoga. It is regarded as a ‘cleaning out technique’, a precursor to the deeper controlled breathing techniques or to other forms of belly breathing and diaphragm holding methods.
Never ever attempt to undertake long sessions of this technique.
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- Effect of yogic bellows on cardiovascular autonomic reactivity
- Immediate effect of mukha bhastrika (a bellows type pranayama) on reaction time in mentally challenged adolescents
- Immediate effect of slow pace bhastrika pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate
- Reaction time following yoga bellows-type breathing and breath awareness
- The beneficial effect of yoga in diabetes
- Therapeutic Chinese exercises (Qigong) in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus