Updated: Oct 17, 2022
Here comes summer, and with it, heat. Heat powers action and movement, fueling summer fun. But are you always pushing yourself to do more, be more? Maybe you feel stuck in overdrive, frustrated and prone to occasional angry outbursts. If that's the case, taking on too much this summer may leave you feeling burned out rather than rejuvenated. This month's Mini Home Practice teaches us to sensitize to rising heat in the body, allowing us to let off steam before we combust.
To try the Pulsing Breath, bring your attention to your upper belly. Come to a kneeling or seated position and place your fingers just between and below your bottom ribs, on your upper abdominals. Say "HA!" loudly and with a deep voice. Notice the movement in this area of your body. This is where the Pulsing Breath is generated.
Next, seal your lips and breathe out fully. Breathe in half to two-thirds of your breath capacity to prepare yourself for the Pulsing Breath. To begin the pulsations, push air out your nose in 12 short active bursts, with short pauses between each puff of air out the nose. Rest for about a minute, then repeat two more times, or until you feel your body's heat begin to rise.
Use each forceful short exhale to snap your middle abdominals back toward your spine, in a similar manner to when you said "HA!" in a deep voice. Each snap-back forces air out of the lungs, causing a reflexive passive inhale to occur as the body pulls air into the vacuum you have created in your lungs. Choose a slow but regular speed of about one pulse per second.
As you push and puff to create these pulses, notice the sensation of heat rising in the body. The goal is to notice the sensation of heat in the belly, but to prevent this sensation of heat from rising into the neck or head regions. Stop the Pulsing Breath before you feel a flushing in the neck, or blushing in the face. With practice, you will start to be able to tell when to stop the Pulsing Breath before this happens. In this way, we train our mind to use awareness to keep heat within our powerful center, and out of our head, where it can cause physical stress and eventually feelings of frustration or even anger to collect.
With practice, you will begin to become more sensitive to the feeling of rising heat, and more responsive to your body's exertion levels. This awareness may prompt you to notice when you need rest. Rest provides better balance throughout your system.
Through regular practice of the Pulsing Breath, you will likely become more attuned to the warning signs and physical symptoms of overexertion. As you become more aware of your body's signals, you may begin to correlate your choices with your personal thresholds for action in your life. With this self-knowledge, you become free to empower yourself to make choices that create more balance. For many, this practice is a welcome alternative to always reacting to past choices, or even finding yourself completely burnt out and at a loss as to how you have become so depleted.
For those Yoga nerds out there--you know who you are--Pulsing Breath is a type of slow Kapalabhati breath, also known as Breath of Fire, which stokes our agni, or belly fire. In the ancient practice of Ayurveda medicine, agni is considered a form of energy. It is the biological fire that controls metabolism, digestion and the immune system. By balancing the agni energy and digestive system through Ayurveda, we enjoy better health, reduced stress and a calm mind.
However, the instructions for Pulsing Breath differ significantly from traditional Kapalabhati. Instead of stoking the fire of agni, we are sensitizing to agni in order to develop restraint and balance throughout the system.
I wish you a happy Summer Solstice and may the heat of summer serve, not deplete you!