Monday, May 4, 2020

Kapalabhati Breathing

If there is one thing a yogi will ever tell you - it's to breathe! 

In fact, many people will tell you this. Doctors say this during stress in a hospital, a friend may say this to you during emotional stress, physical trainers tell you this during a workout, so why is it really so important to focus on the breath?

Well, for starters, it is the very thing keeping you alive today. Without a constant inhale and exhale we would forever stop existing in this world. Thankfully, our bodies have been designed to make this an automatic response so we do not need to tell ourselves to inhale and exhale 24 hours a day.

So, if it's automatic, why do so many people tell us to focus on it?

When we focus on the breath, we are able to use it to our advantage. Sure it keeps us alive, but if we can choose to manipulate it for our benefit, we can do much more than just live.

What is Kapalabhati? 

Kapalabhati in Sanskrit literally translates to "Skull" (Kapal) "Shinning" (Bhati). Essentially it is a breath that cleanses the brain and mind and therefore purifies the entire body. 

The method in which this breath is done helps to expel toxins and removes stagnant air and energy from within us. This, in turn, helps to boost immunity and rid our bodies from disease

Doing Kapalabhati helps to increase the amount of oxygen that we take into the body, which then gets transported throughout to all of our organs via the bloodstream. This can help to improve blood circulation and digestion and as fresh, oxygenated blood goes up to the brain we are able to achieve increased mental clarity. 

It's often said, where the mind goes - the body goes, so if we are able to sharpen and cleanse the mind so too our bodies will become cleansed as well. This clarity of the mind helps to stabilize emotions and invigorate the body with energy. 

When Should You Do Kapalabhati? 

Kapalabhati can be done pretty much whenever you feel you need it. 

  • If you need a boost in energy - do Kapalabhati. 
  • If you're feeling a little emotional imbalance - do Kapalabhati. 
  • If you're feeling stuck and need to get your mental juices flowing - do Kapalabhati. 
  • If you just want to detox and boost your immunity - do Kapalabhati. 

This is why it's important to focus on breath, because once you know what it can do for you - you can manipulate it so that it works for you! Doing it in the morning can help to kick start your day. It's also recommended to do it alongside your asana practice. Some say to do it before so that you can gather yourself and be more focused in the asana practice. I, however, use it as a bridge between my asana and meditation. 

Yes - I actually do this every day! When I've finished my asana practice I do several rounds of Kapalabhati and then I slide into meditation. 

Is There Anyone Who Shouldn't Do Kapalabhati? 

There are some things to be considerate of when doing this breathing technique. 

If you've eaten recently then you wouldn't want to do this breathing. I'd suggest waiting a few hours and do it when you're on an empty stomach. Doing it while your stomach is full certainly won't feel good and may do more harm than good. 

You also wouldn't want to do this if you are pregnant, have heart problems, hypertension, or hernia just to name a few. As recommended, a doctor should always be consulted before adding physical activity to your daily routine. 

While doing the practice if you begin to feel dizzy or lightheaded this is a sign that you may need to slow down or stop altogether. This is a practice that takes time to build up and really listening to your body will be essential here. At a maximum, you should only be doing this for no more than 10 minutes. Start slow. You can start doing it for a lesser amount of time, and at a slower pace. 

How To Do Kapalabhati

Hopefully, that prior section didn't scare you! Kapalabhati really is an amazing breathing technique but because it is so powerful there are considerations so just be mindful when doing it. 

The way Kapalabhati works is active sharp exhales followed by passive inhales in a rapid succession pattern. When we normally think of active breathing we normally think the inhale is active. Imagine sucking up through a straw or taking a deep breath - it's the inhale that is doing the work here. 

Kapalabhati works in reverse though. It's actually the exhale that is active and that we're focused on, the inhale will just occur naturally to fill up the lungs.

First off - find a comfortable seat where you can relax and place your hands on your thighs. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale try to forcefully shoot the air out by contracting the abdomen and pulling your navel towards the spine. 

You should feel your abdominal muscles engage and if you don't, try shooting the air out while making the "shhhhhhhh" sound. 

Once you get a feel for shooting the air out on the exhale you can keep in mind that your lungs are like a vacuum, once the air gets forced out - naturally they'll have to refill so you do not need to worry or think about the inhale. All you have to do is focus on a quick sharp exhale and the lungs will refill. 

As I mentioned, start off doing this slowly. You can start by doing a sharp exhale on each second and counting up to 30. 

Exhale - One Mississippi 
Exhale - Two Mississippi
Exhale - Three Mississippi
Exhale - Four Mississippi
Keep going until you've reached 30. Then pause and just breathe normally. You can do this for a few rounds but for starters, I'd say 2-3 rounds of 30 should be good. As you progress you'll be able to sustain it for longer periods of time and you'll be able to increase the rate. 

Be aware of how you feel while doing this. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy either slow down or stop. After each round see how it feels to have fresh, oxygenated blood flowing throughout your body. 


I do Kapalabhati Breathing every day along with my asana and meditation practice. The way things are right now in the world I think everyone might try to do anything to maintain their health. If you are looking to incorporate something that may give you a slight edge in your immunity I highly recommend adding Kapalabhati do your daily routine. 

You'll be glad that you did! 

Take care, my friends - Namaste

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