Breathing exercises are a quick and simple way to help enhance your sense of well-being. These techniques, which are often used in yoga, may be beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

The breathing technique known as Breath of Fire involves passive, normal inhalations and powerful, rapid exhalations.

This style of forced exhalation may help reduce stress, boost brain function, and improve respiratory health. It’s also said to strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve digestion.

In this article, we’ll look more closely at the benefits of Breath of Fire and provide detailed steps for how to do it.

What is Breath of Fire?

Breath of Fire is a form of pranayama, or breath control. The practice of pranayama involves different types of breathing exercises in which you inhale, exhale, and hold your breath in a specific way, depending on the breathing technique you’re doing. Pranayama is a primary component of yoga.

Breath of Fire is also known as “skull shining breath” or Kapalabhati. In Sanskrit, “kapal” means “skull” or “forehead” and “bhati” means “illuminating.”

Breath of Fire is commonly done as part of Kundalini yoga, which involves:

  • breathing techniques
  • chanting
  • singing
  • repetitive poses

During Breath of Fire, you inhale passively and exhale forcefully. The exhale, which requires you to contract your abdominal muscles, is the main focus of this technique.

Also, the inhale and exhale should be the same length, without any pauses in between. This is different from slow breathing exercises, which often involve longer exhales.

With this technique, the pattern of your breathing is more important than the speed. So, start slow if you’re new to the technique. You can speed it up later on.

Breath of Fire is done in a seated position. It can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on your experience level and preference.

What are the benefits?

Although Breath of Fire hasn’t been extensively studied, the existing research suggests some benefits of the practice. Some other benefits are anecdotal.

Relieves stress

2013 studyTrusted Source found that fast pranayama, including Breath of Fire, decreased stress levels in students.

According to the researchers, fast pranayama may help you feel calmer by reducing activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS is responsible for your “fight or flight” stress response.

The study also found that fast pranayama may increase activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which regulates your “rest and digest” response.

Supports respiratory function

According to a 2014 studyTrusted Source, this breathing technique exercises your respiratory muscles. It also helps strengthen your diaphragm, a muscle that fills your lungs with air.

The study also notes that the short exhales help remove secretions from your airway passages, allowing your lungs to take in more air.

Enhances concentration

2014 studyTrusted Source found that fast pranayama, including Breath of Fire, may enhance brain functions such as memory, reaction time, and attention.

The researchers attributed this benefit to the stress-relieving effect of pranayama. Stress, after all, can make it hard to concentrate. They also noted that focusing on a specific breathing pattern reduces the focus on outside stressors.

And a 2013 studyTrusted Source found that Breath of Fire, when done with eye exercises, can decrease visual reaction time. This may help with concentration, as it improves how quickly you respond to visual stimuli.

Increases mindfulness

In a 2017 studyTrusted Source, students who practiced yoga pranayama experienced higher levels of mindfulness. The pranayama intervention included various techniques, including Breath of Fire.

Practitioners also report that the exercise forces you to be mindful of your breath, which enhances overall mindfulness.

Improves digestion

Breath of Fire engages your abdominal muscles, which may help with digestion.

For example, in a 2013 case reportTrusted Source, the technique helped manage gastroesophageal reflux disease in a 62-year-old man. This may be due to its effect on stress, according to the report.

2015 study also suggests including Breath of Fire in a yoga practice to help manage symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, more research is needed to support this.

Strengthens abdominal muscles

According to anecdotal reports, Breath of Fire can double as an ab workout.

There haven’t been any studies to support this benefit, but there’s some merit to the claim. The breathing technique involves repeated contractions of your abdominal muscles, which may make them stronger, especially if you do this technique on a regular basis.

Still, more research is needed to confirm this effect.

How to do it

If you’d like to try Breath of Fire, follow these steps:

  1. Start in a seated cross-legged position. Sit up tall.
  2. Place your hands on your knees, palms facing upward. You can also place a hand on your belly to feel it rise as you breathe.
  3. Inhale through your nose, feeling your belly expand as you do so.
  4. Without pausing, exhale forcefully through your nose while contracting your abdominal muscles. Keep your inhales and exhales equal in length. Repeat until you’re comfortable with the pattern.
  5. Continue the rhythm, inhaling passively and exhaling forcefully. Repeat several times to practice.
  6. Now, speed up the inhales and exhales. Your exhales should be powerful and loud.
  7. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Over time, you can try doing Breath of Fire for longer.

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Safety tips

This breathing technique may be unsafe for some people. You should avoid it if you:

  • are pregnant
  • have a respiratory infection or disorder
  • have a heart condition
  • have a spinal disorder

It’s common to feel dizzy or lightheaded while practicing Breath of Fire. But always listen to your body. If you feel uncomfortable, stop and try slow breathing instead.

If you’re new to pranayama, practice Breath of Fire slowly. This will give your body time to get used to the exercise.

Bottom line

Breath of Fire is a breathing exercise used in Kundalini yoga. It involves passive inhales and active exhales that are quick and powerful.

As a form of breath control, this breathing technique is associated with stress relief. It may also improve respiratory health, concentration, and mindfulness. Some claim it’s beneficial for digestion and abdominal strength, but more research is needed.

If you’re new to Breath of Fire, start slowly, aiming to do it for 30 seconds. Avoid this breathing technique if you’re pregnant or have a heart, spinal, or respiratory condition.