Also known as Skull Shining Breath, Kapalabhati is an energizing breathing practice that clears the lungs, the nasal passages, and the mind. In Sanskrit, Kapal means “cranium” or “forehead” and bhati means “light,” “perception,” and “knowledge.” Kapalabhati therefore brings lightness and clarity to the frontal region of the brain. Requiring a rapid contraction and release of the abdomen, this is an active pranayama that focuses primarily on the exhalation; the inhalation occurs passively and without effort. Kapalabhati is tridoshically balancing.
First sit in any comfortable sitting position with the hands on the knees. Relax the body and breathe naturally. Bring the awareness to the breath and abdomen. Inhale deeply and exhale with a forceful, but never straining, contraction of the abdominal muscles. The next inhalation will occur passively as the abdominal muscles relax and expand. There should not be any effort to inhale. Continue with the active exhalation and passive inhalation, which is the opposite of what we normally do. If necessary have a break, breathe naturally and then continue.
- Strengthens and exercises the muscles of the respiratory system
- Clears the air passages
- Increases the efficiency of the lungs
- Purifies the respiratory system
- Increases the supply of oxygen in the blood
- Purifies nadis
- Removes sensory distractions and energises the mind
- Strengthens the nervous system due to its action of reversing the breathing process.
- Improves digestion and metabolism
- Brings a state of lightness and clarity to the mind
- Removes sleepiness
- Precautions & Contra-indications
If there is any dizziness stop the practice and breathe naturally. Recommence when ready but with less force. If it continues seek guidance. Avoid if there are heart problems, high blood pressure, lung problems, recent abdominal surgery, stroke, vertigo, epilepsy during pregnancy and menstruation.
It is said that the ideal ration for kapalbhati is 120 repetitions per minute. Practicing faster than this is not advisable. If one cannot practice that speed they should do what is most comfortable for them.
The amount of repetitions can slowly be increased as per the individual’s capacity and strength. One may start with 2 rounds of 20 repetitions and slowly build up to 2 rounds of 120 repetitions. After some time one can build up to 500 repetitions.