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Breathwork: Relaxing + Invigorating Breathing

Breathwork is used to invigorate, energize and relax the body, mind and spirit.

Relaxing breathwork techniques include such practices as Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath), Long Deep Breathing and Alternate nostril breathing
Invigorating breathwork techniques include Breath of Fire (Agni-Prasana) ‘Bellows Breath’ and Kabalabati. These are just a few there are many others to explore.

Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath)

This is a yogic practice which is done in the sitting position, spine straight, arms raised side ways, elbows bent, eyes closed, peace-sign fingers over the eyes, thumbs in ears. The practitioner then inhales deeply and hums five to ten long hums. The purpose is to block out the outside world and commence the inward journey.

Long Deep Breathing

This is a relaxing practice which is done in the sitting position with spine straight. The practitioner inhales deeply to the count of four, feel the breath expand your abdomen like a balloon. At the end of the fourth count, when you think you can’t take any more air in, take a sip more. Then hold in stillness for a count of four. Then exhale over a count of four….and when you think you have all the air out, huff more out. With practice your breathing will become deep and sure and the count of four expands to a count of five or six and so on. The purpose is to concentrate on the period of emptiness and stillness between the inhale and exhale.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Raise one of your hands to your face, palm facing it. Put your thumb by one nostril and your forefinger by the other. Gently put your thumb over the nostril, blocking the passage of air through it. Breathe in the other nostril slowly, using the first technique. Hold the in breath for a second, concentrating on the stillness, then exhale. Remove your thumb, and put your forefinger on the nostril and breathe in, concentrating on the middle, exhale.
Continue to alternate with one complete inhale/exhale per thumb/finger.
Do this for about eight to ten cycles.

Breath of Fire (Agni-Prasana) ‘Bellows Breath’

This is a cleansing & energising breath, powered by abdominal contractions. Once the diaphragm is felt during Long Deep Breathing then there are a couple of ways in which one can begin to do Breath of Fire. In this breathwork the air is pulled in and pumped out very rhythmically, just like pumping a bellows. No tension whatsoever should be felt on the abdominal muscles, chest and rib cage muscles or shoulders, which remain relaxed throughout the breath. In fact, it may almost seem that you can continue the rhythm indefinitely with little effort at all.


Sit with a tall spine in a comfortable seated position, or even lying down. One way to start is with long deep breathing. As soon as you feel the lungs completely expand, begin to force the air out. Then, as soon as most of the air is out, immediately expand the air back in. With each breath, arch the spine forward and press the palms inward against the knees in a light manner. When you can feel the diaphragm filling the lungs from the back to the front completely, then contract again.

Expand and contract a bit faster with each breath until (without expanding or contracting completely) you feel a rhythm, and let that rhythm take over. Continue breathing rapidly in and out of the nose, with your mouth closed and breath moving rapidly in and out of the nostrils. Your belly is also moving in and out, in and out. The movement is like that of using a bellows to stoke a fire.

This breath is also referred to at times as ‘breath of fire’. This is because it stokes the internal fire in the body, gets energy moving and invigorates the body mind and spirit. It is important to note that the breath emanates from the belly: this is diaphragmatic breathing, not chest breathing. It can be helpful to place one hand gently on the lower belly to feel the breath and belly muscles move and synchronize them.


Begin with three rounds of bellows breath:

  1. first round of 15 repetitions
  2. second round of 25 repetitions
  3. round of 25 repetitions, or if you feel comfortable you can do 50 repetitions.

After each round take close your eyes, place your hands on your stomach and breathe deeply for 5 breaths, emphasizing and elongating the exhale. This calms the body and circulates the energy you just built.



Kabalabati is a breathing technique used to cleanse the body, both of mucus and of tensions held in the chest and throat. Some people feel a strong emotional cleansing as well as heightened energy after kabalabati breathing. Kabala means “skull” and bhati means “that which brings lightness.”


Kabalabiti breath is very similar to bellows breath but with one important difference: the exhale is active while the inhale is passive. Essentially, you are shooting the breath out of the nostrils and then allowing only a passive inhale to come in again through the nostrils before shooting the next breath out again through the nostrils. Make sure the face and jaw are as relaxed as possible and that only your belly muscles are reverberating, not the whole body. This will take some time but the effects are well worth it.


Begin with 3 rounds of kabalabati:

  1. first round of 15 repetitions
  2. second round of 25 repetitions
  3. third round of of 25 repetitions, or if you feel comfortable do 50.

As with bellows breath, after each round close your eyes, place your hands on your stomach and breathe deeply for 5 breaths, emphasizing and elongating the exhale especially to calm the body and circulate the energy you just built. A lovely option is to  follow either of these exercise with alternate nostril breathing.



Bellows and kabalabiti breath stoke the fire within and get energy moving and woken up, alternate nostril breathing allows you to calm down and take that energy you built and slowly calmly distribute it to the entire body for your use and a wonderful feeling of calm and well-being.

For many of us, simply sitting and focussing on breathing can be difficult. As such, easing into the process with the support of an external focal point can be a gateway to meditation. Two beautiful methods can be contemplative cup of ceremonial cacao, or a candle gazing for example with one of our mindful candle ritual sets.