Kapalabhati Pranayama - Skull-Shining Breath
Kapalabhati pranayama or Breath of fire/Skull-shining breath is a pranayama which is a set of breathing exercises within yoga. Pranayama exercises are believed to come with a lot of health benefits for our bodies as well as our minds. For us to be healthy and happy, the body and mind need to be balanced. If our breathing is for example forced or stressed it would affect us both physically and mentally, in a negative way, by practicing pranayama and becoming more aware of our breathing, we will take that next step towards achieving that important balance within.
Kapalabhati is pranayama, and the exercise consists of a rhythmic breathing technique where you actively exhale air from your lounges and passively breathe air in. Kapalabhati is said to serve as a cleansing technique, Kriya, for your whole body where you exhale all toxins and increases the oxygen level in your blood and your brain. Kind of like kicking out the old and in with new and fresh ingredients for your body to benefit from. You may experience a slight feeling of dizziness after practicing Kapalabhati, that is due to the increased level of oxygen in your body. This will soon ware off, and you will feel energized and relieved of all the stress you may have felt before.
A tip for you is not to do Kapalabhati on a full stomach. If you have just eaten, you will benefit from waiting a while.
In Sanskrit: kapal = skull," bhati = shining illuminating
Benefits of Kapalabhati
It is believed that Kapalabhati can be used to cleanse the frontal parts of our brains. It is also said to relieve toxins from our whole system and increase the oxygen levels in our blood. By using our core and lower abdomen to rhythmically be pumping out air we are stimulating the Parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect on us. Other health benefits that are believed to be gained from practicing Kapalabhati and pranayama are better lung capacity, an increase in stamina, help your digestion and strengthen your nervous system. Kapalabhati is also energizing at the same time as it helps you to relieve stress.
Kapalabhati pranayama– step by step
- Sit down comfortably on your yoga mat.
- Make sure your back is straight and that you do not arch your back.
- Place your hands on your knees. Your right-hand goes to your right knee and your left hand to your left knee.
- Now that you are in position, breath in deep and exhale two or three times.
- Take a deep breath, inactivate your lover abdomen and push the air out by pressing your navel towards your spine. The inhalation will come naturally and passively as your abdomen expands.
- Repeat in a rhythmic pattern.
- Make the last exhale long, breathing out all the air.
Let your first interaction with Kapalabhati pranayama be in a yoga class, either in an online tutorial or in a studio.
You can vary the time you are practicing Kapalabhati, but start off slow, only do the exercise for a few breaths and focus on your technique. As you become more experienced, you can increase both time and pace.
Kapalabathi can differ from different traditions. For example in Bikram yoga, Kapalabati is performed with open mouth and in Kundalini and other methods inhale and exhale is through the nose during the whole exercise.
Important to know is that Kapalabhati should not be practiced while being pregnant or menstruating!
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