13 ways Kapalabhati Breathing Helps You become Healthier
Have you ever seen any videos of people seated on the floor with their legs crossed, eyes closed, but not meditating? Instead, it might seem like they are pumping their belly in and out vigorously? Don’t worry; this action is perfectly safe (for most people. Read on for contraindications). This action, my friends, is called Kapalbhati.
What is Kapalbhati?
Kapalbhati is a Sanskrit word derived from the root words kapal, meaning “skull,” and bhati, which is best translated as “illuminating” or “shining.” It is an exercise for cleansing the skull. Sounds incredible, right?
Kapalbhati is an element of the yogic body cleansing system that is known as shatkarma or shatkriya. There are six main, traditional kriyas that yogis use to “purify” their bodies. This is one of the six Shatkarmas (cleansing techniques) of yoga as mentioned in the classic text—Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Let’s be very clear: Kapalbhati isn’t a pranayama (breathing technique).
How does Kapalbhati breathing work?
It is an advanced technique and therefore requires some familiarity with abdominal breathing. Kapalbhati involves forcefully expelling the breath out through the nostrils using the lower transverse abdominus muscle. This Kriya consists of short, powerful exhales and gentle inhales. The exhalation is active, and the inhalation is passive. The basic idea behind Kapalbhati is that the brain and all parts of the skull are cleansed through short but strong exhalations of air.
How do you practice Kapalabhati Breath?
- It should be practiced on an empty stomach, so allow at least three to four hours after a meal before engaging in this Kriya.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.
- Preferably, sit in Padmasana (Lotus Pose), which is on the floor with your legs crossed.
- Alternatively, you may choose to sit toward the front of a chair, with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands on your knees, palms facing the sky.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale, do a forceful exhalation where you contract your lower belly, forcing the breath out in a short burst. No strain or tension.
- Quickly release your abdomen.
- Keep the inhalation passive.
- The moment you relax your abdominal muscles, inhalation happens naturally.
- Allow your breath to flow into the lungs effortlessly.
- Immediately initiate another forceful exhalation, drawing the navel inward again, and then let the inhalation follow passively.
- Start with 20 repetitions to complete one round of Kapalbhati.
- On the final exhalation, completely empty your lungs and then allow your breath to return to normal.
- Keep the eyes closed.
- Observe any sensations in the body.
Benefits of Kapalbhati
- Kapalbhati internally tones and cleanses the respiratory system of toxins.
- At the same time, it purifies, rejuvenates, and refreshes the body and mind.
- It also improves circulation, particularly in the head.
- It cleanses the lungs.
- It strengthens and tones the lower transverse abdominis muscle.
- It rejuvenates the brain cells.
- It improves digestion as it stimulates the abdominal organs.
- It warms up the system.
- It bolsters concentration and memory.
- It supports immunity.
- It increases metabolism hence reduces weight and lowers Kapha Dosha.
- It also lessens Kapha-related symptoms/diseases like lethargy, excess mucus, and obesity.
- The increased oxygen supply because of Kapalbhati energizes the nervous system.
Who should avoid Kapalbhati?
- Women who are pregnant, menstruating, or recently postpartum should avoid practicing Kapalbhati.
- People with high blood pressure, heart conditions, asthma, emphysema, or any other lung or respiratory condition should exercise caution when practicing Kapalbhati.
- People who are on an artificial pacemaker should avoid practicing this Kriya.
- Those who have had recent abdominal surgery, or who are suffering from epilepsy or hernia, should also avoid it.
- It is also contraindicated for individuals who have gastric ulcer, vertigo, migraine headaches, significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, or history of stroke.
It is always best to learn a new technique in person, with a qualified teacher. Contact me
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained ayurvedic coach, contact me here.