“Breath is the king of mind,” wrote B.K.S. Iyengar in “Light on Life,”

I start my pre-dawn routine with bhastrika, per my Ayurvedic doctor’s Rx. If you do an Internet search, you’ll find a number of different forms of bhastrika. I follow the version I learned in a workshop with Dr. Vasant Lad, who runs the leading comprehensive Ayurvedic medicine training program in the Americas.

Like kapalabhati, you focus on pumping your stomach, and ridding as much air as you can, as you inhale and exhale through the nose. However, the entire torso and head are involved. I visualize my elbows opening and closing around my body, in sync with my breath, like a bellows fans the fire. Pushing your closed hands into your thighs, you arch (inhale) and round the back (exhale) with the breath. The head follows the curvature of the spine in both directions. This serves as a slow massage of the lungs, diaphragm, heart, lymphatic system and circulatory system. Dr. Lad says, “With bhastrika, all hurt and sorrow leaves with residual air to allow in new consciousness.”

Like kapalabhati, bhastrika should not be practiced by pregnant women, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure, glaucoma, or recent abdominal surgeries.

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