The mouth should be closed throughout the practice; only breathe through the nose. The following is a brief summary of the breathing sequence for one complete round.
Stage 1: rapid respiration through the left nostril. Deep inhalation through the left nostril. Retention. Exhalation through the left nostril.
Stage 2: same as stage 1 but through the right nostril.
Stage 3: same as stage 1 and 2 but through both nostrils.
Correct method of rapid respiration
It is widely believed that most of the breathing process is induced by expansion and contraction of the chest. This is totally wrong, or rather it is if one breathes correctly. Most of the air is induced into the lungs because of expansion and contraction of the abdomen. Some air is drawn into the lungs because of chest expansion, but not as much as by abdominal induction.
In bhastrika pranayama, one should breathe in and out rapidly using only the abdomen. The movement of the chest should be minimized. There will be some movement of the chest, of course, but it should be passive. The respiration should be performed by conscious and accentuated movement of the abdomen. Some will find this difficult, for the abdominal muscles will have become lazy through lack of use. But with practice you will find it easier and easier as you regain the normal muscular control of the abdomen during breathing. This practice is especially recommended for those people who don’t breathe correctly.
Rest between rounds
Bhastrika is a dynamic practice and requires a large expenditure of physical energy. This will apply more to beginners, who lack control over their abdominal muscles. You should not exhaust yourself . If you wish you can take a short rest between each full round. That is, you can breathe in and out slowly a few times with complete relaxation before continuing the next round.
With practice you will find that you do not require much energy to rapidly expand and contract the abdomen. It will almost move spontaneously without effort. In this case you can dispense with these periods of rest.
Maintain awareness of the breathing process, physical movements and mental counting.
Sequence and time of practice
The best time to practise bhastrika pranayama is after asana practice and immediately before starting meditative techniques. Bhastrika has a wonderful effect on the mind. It induces an intense but relaxed state of wakefulness. This is a good foundation for meditational practice.
Bhastrika should not be done with a full stomach. Therefore, the best time is early in the morning before breakfast. The Gherand Samhita suggests that it should be practised three times every day. This is perfectly acceptable if you are on a restricted diet. This does not apply to the average person living in society.
Blockage of the nose
It is impossible to practise bhastrika if the nose is blocked. The best way to overcome this problem is to do jala neti either immediately before practising bhastrika or before your asana program.