Bhastrika Pranayama – Life Force on Steroids

Bhastrika is the most powerful technique in pranayama as it rapidly fills the whole torso with air and therefore, when done right, with life energy.

It is, in a simplified way, like the three part breathing exercise from chapter 10,  only done faster and with zeal (and faster and faster when practice begins to bear fruit).

The effects of this exercise are incredibly far reaching, for example it is said it pierces through the three major obstacles to our full expression, (granthis) and cures all diseases by lessening/reducing the effects of the three imbalances we might have (or doshas ((vitta pitta and kapha)).  Further Gregor says that the benefits go “at nauseaum”.  


CONTEXT:  This is a series I call Claudia’s Book Club.  The first book we are looking at is Pranayama The Breath Of Yoga by Gregor Maehle.

We have read most of the book so far and we are now at the ‘practices’ portion. We have gone through the preparations, the considerations on food, environment, what asana practices are necessary and lots of other details like purification of the nose and practicing stomach churning and so on and so forth, lots of wonders from previous chapters.

In the prior-to-last chapter we learned about breathing in a “wave” form which is, like everything in this book, pre-requisite for this chapter.

On the last chapter we looked at the most important pranayama there is (alternate nostril) this exercise we are looking at today, is the one that can help advance on that pranayama exercise at a very fast rate, provided of course, that we do it right.  Now back to the chapter.



Bhastrika is also the most misunderstood exercise around.  Gregor says he has identified four different ways in which it is taught currently all over the world, and the differences are so vast (page 263) that he reverted to the original ancient texts and his own practice to see the effects, understand it, and come up with what the proper technique really is.  It is a delight to read his own findings and comparisons of old texts and current schools.

The Steroids of Pranayama

You may wonder, last chapter we looked at what I coined the only pranayama there is, we talked about the alternate nostril exercise and how it is really all you need, then why Bhastrika?

It turns out Bhastrika, with its enormous amount of air/prana/energy intake into the system can further you along the alternate nostril pranayama practice like nothing else, it is the steroids of pranayama.

How It Works:

It is a complete yogic breathing cycle, breathing in with the belly, rib-cage and chest, and then exhaling with the chest, rib-cage and belly only with intended (forced, worked) inhales for the three part intake, and intended exhales for the three part exhale.

Because it is done rapidly (as one gets comfortable and with the practice) it might look like a thoracic bellowing (hence the confusion) but it is much more than that as it is sending air to every part of the torso.

I would not recommend anyone trying this or taking it lightly.  It clearly needs a very good foundation, but I find that knowing where I am going along the path always stimulates me and gets me to keep practicing.  For that, it is an amazing read.

I found very interesting this idea that it pierces through the obstacles to our success (granthis),  hear Gregor out:

“Yoga proposes that along the spine there are three energetic blockages that block the ascent of spiritual energy and thus one’s spiritual evolution….” (page 267)

The three knots are called just like the three main representations of the Divine: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, which are the gods (or energies) of creation, maintaining and destruction/rebirth.

Here are the three energies that govern all of us in the rich
imagery of Indian drawings, creator, maintainer and destroyer/re birthing

Real Life Effects

Piercing these knots helps with very practical things in life, like grounding ourselves in a serious relationship of love rather than hoping around lovers, or  finding our voice and our work, even making a living, meaning finding our place in the world and owning our light and talents.  And they are not just psychological knots:

“The interesting thing about the yogic granthi model is that yoga does not see these blockages as just psychological but as actual energetic blockages located in the pranic body” (page 267)

Believe it or not we are coming to the end of the book.  I am grateful at all the things I have learned with this book and how it has inspired and deepened my own practice.  How are you liking it?


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One Response to Bhastrika Pranayama – Life Force on Steroids

  1. Claudia February 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I love this virtual book club idea, though I haven't read this book yet. I also like how you outlined the chapters, so I can catch up when I am able. This is a really good concept… one I might just borrow:) Love it.