Agni-Prasana or Breath of Fire is the name for a powerful, energizing breath used in yoga practices to cleanse the nasal passages and lungs. Practitioners also claim it acts as a salve to those suffering anxiety, fear, pain and depression, and that it can massage the internal organs and purify the blood. The core of this pranayama, or breathing exercise, is the navel, which pulses dramatically during the breath. Air enters and exits the body in short, quick bursts through the nose. While Breath of Fire may be practiced in hybridized forms of yoga, it's traditional to the Kundalini practice, which uses the breath to accompany many postures. Master the techniques of the breath before combining it with postures to get the full benefit.
Sit in Lotus, or a comfortable cross-legged position. Prop up your hips with a blanket if sitting feels awkward to you. Keep your mouth softly closed. Focus on relaxing your chest, upper abdominal muscles, feet, face and hands.
Inhale lightly and quickly through the nose and feel your diaphragm extend downward, as if you were filling your belly with air. You'll feel this in the lower belly area -- between the belly button and the pubis. Hold your hand against this area if you have trouble connecting with it. Exhale through your nose in a short, forceful manner. Concentrate primarily on the exhales, as the inhales will occur naturally in response. As you practice, make the length of the inhale and exhale equal.
Quicken the pulsations of the breath until you can complete two to three exhalations per second. You'll experience abdominal toning, and potentially residual soreness in the abs, after practice. Perform the breath for just one to three minutes at a time as you are first learning it; work your way up to as much as 10 minutes at a time.
Tips & Warnings
- Anyone with a history of cardiac problems, hernias, ulcers, diabetes, high blood pressure and severe respiratory infections should skip Breath of Fire. Pregnant women should also avoid this aggressive breathing practice.
- Yoga Alliance of Australia also recommends those with asthma, dizzy spells, epilepsy, colitis or regular headaches check with their physician before practicing Breath of Fire.
- Photo Credit Mallivan/iStock/Getty Images
Breath of Fire in Kundalini Yoga
Rapid breath through the nose is crucial yoga exercise. Learn how to do the breath of fire breathing exercise in Kundalini yoga...