Kapalbhati - The Skull Shining Breathing Technique
Kapalbhati pranayama (or Kapalabhati) is one of the six Shatkarmas or methods of internal purification in Hatha Yoga. In Sanskrit, Kapal means the skull and Bhati means to shine or illuminate. Kapalbhati cleans the cranial sinuses and hence the name. Some include Kapalbhati as one of the Pranayama, but in the classic yogic text Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and Gheranda Samhita, it is classified under the Shatkarmas or the purification techniques.
Kapalbhati, also called breath of fire is one of the six Shatkarmas or methods of internal purification in Hatha Yoga.
Kapal = Skull
Bhati = Shine or illuminate
Kapalbhati cleans the cranial sinuses and hence the name.
In Kapalbhati, the exhalation is forceful and rapid, while the inhalation is normal. Exhalation is the main part of Kapalbhati.
The forceful exhalation throws out the carbon dioxide from the lungs and the deep inhalation increases the oxygen content in the blood. Kapalbhati purifies the nerves and the pranic nadis. It also removes excess of Kapha (one of the three Doshas in Ayurveda) from the body.
How to Do Kapalbhati
- To do Kapalbhati, sit in a steady posture. Padmasana, Siddasana and Vajrasana are the most suited.
- Place the hands on the knees and breathe normally.
- Relax the whole body and make sure the spine is straight.
- Now, breathe in and out rapidly, with exhalation being forceful. The inhalation should be passive and normal. During exhalation the belly goes inside towards the thorax, forcing out the air from the lungs.
- Relax during Inhalation to fill the lungs again with fresh air.
- Initially one can start with 11 rounds. Later increase it to 60 rounds in one minute. Each inhalation and exhalation should take just one second.
- After the number of rounds, relax and breathe normally, till the breathing rate comes back to normal. The relaxation period can be roughly between 30 seconds to a minute.
- Repeat this process about 3 times in the initial stages.
- Kapalbhati is the best practice available to oxygenate the blood.
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles.
- Increases the metabolic rate and aids in weight loss.
- Clears the nadis (subtle energy channels).
- Stimulates abdominal organs and thus is extremely useful to those with diabetes.
- Improves blood circulation and adds radiance to the face.
- Improves digestive tract functioning, absorption and assimilation of nutrients.
- Results in a taut and trimmed down belly.
- Energizes the nervous system and rejuvenates brain cells.
- Calms and uplifts the mind.
- Low blood pressure
- Gastric ulcer
- Heart ailments
- Recent history of abdominal surgery
Note: Practice Kapalbhati on an empty stomach. Early morning is the best time for the practice. In the evening also one can practice, if there is a gap of about 4 hours after the last meal.