Breath of Fire is a signature breath technique in Kundalini Yoga. It can be practiced on its own for anywhere from 3-31 minutes, depending on the needs and composition of the practitioner. It is also a common component in kriyas due to its profound energetic effects.
It takes time to master the balance of abdominal strength and relaxation that make this breath possible, but the benefits make it worthwhile.
Breath of Fire is a rapid pumping of the navel that is light and rhythmic. There is little effort in the gentle pump of the belly as one moves air in and out of the nose. Rather, the navel is gently drawn towards the spine with each exhale. The in and out breaths are equal in length, though the inhale comes more through relaxation than effort. Breath of Fire is practiced through the nostrils with the mouth closed unless otherwise noted.
Beginners are encouraged to start small, with 1-3 minutes of practice. Some people may experience dizziness or lightheadedness when first starting to practice. If this happens, take a break and return to your natural breath.
Breath of Fire invigorates the brain, purifies the blood, and strengthens the nervous system. Regular practice expands the lung capacity and increases vital energy. It’s a go-to practice for times when one is low on energy or battling addictive tendencies and needs a natural oxygen boost. It is also responsible for the “high” that many experience when they practice Kundalini Yoga, so be mindful not to overdo it!
Breath of Fire:
Take your comfortable seat. Close your eyes and concentrate at the brow point, about a quarter of an inch above the root of the nose and the same distance inside your skull. Stick your tongue out and begin to pant like a dog. Notice how the belly draws in with the exhale. Note: if it doesn’t, see reverse breathing below.
Once this becomes automatic, close your mouth and continue through your nose. Place your hands on your belly. Is it moving powerfully in and out? Or staying put? You should notice a gentle pump of the navel.
Remember: This is a powerful breath, but hyperventilation is never the goal. If you begin to feel lightheaded, slow your breath, reset your rhythm, and begin again. Take your time and rest when needed.
The Kundalini Research Institute recognizes three common problems to look for in yourself and your students while practicing Breath of Fire. They include:
Breath of Fire is not to be practiced during pregnancy or on the first three days of your menstrual flow. In a kriya where Breath of Fire is called for, you can either replace it with Long Deep Breathing, or practice a very light Breath of Fire without pumping the navel.