In the same way that a blacksmith uses bellows to invigorate his fire, this technique uses breath to cleanse the lungs and the sinuses and to stimulate heat in the system. Regular practice of Kapalbhati can help to:
- Clear the nasal passages, including the sinuses.
- Detoxify the lungs.
- Purify the blood.
- Tone the nervous system.
- Increase vitality and re-charge our prana (life-force), especially when combined with pelvic floor squeezes. This is why Kapalbhati is is sometimes referred to as the “anti-aging” pranayama.
- Bring clarity to the mind. In fact, the Sanskrit name, “Kapalbhati”, refers to the shining of the frontal lobes of the brain.
- Improve digestion and stimulate all the abdominal organs.
This technique consists of sharply squeezing the belly in towards the spine, which puts pressure on the abdominal organs. It is therefore not recommended to practice Kapalbhati if you are pregnant, or during your periods, or if have any kind of sensitivity in the belly. It is also physically demanding and therefore anyone with a weak heart should proceed with extreme caution. As always, do please listen carefully to your body and only do what is comfortable for you.
- Sit in meditation posture, with the spine held upright, and the eyes and mouth closed. Keep the chin parallel to the floor, the shoulders relaxed, the hands on the knees, or the lap, with the palms turned up.
- Take a light breath in through the nose to begin a set.
- Ignoring the chest area, squeeze the abdomen sharply back towards the spine and exhale through the nose at the same time. If you wish to enhance your practice, then squeeze your pelvic floor at the same time.
- Relax the abdomen (and pelvic floor) to let air into the body. You don’t have to consciously breathe in, the vacuum created when you squeezed the abdomen will naturally draw air in when you relax.
- Steps 3 and 4 above constitute one Kapalbhati breath.
- Perform 12 – 18 breaths like this, after which you pause to take a short break.
- Practice one or two Full Yogic Breaths during this break and this completes one set.
- Perform up to 3 such sets, repeating steps 2 – 7 above.
- To finish, allow the breathing to return to normal and observe how you are feeling for a few moments before opening your eyes. Remain in the state of calmness for as long as you can after coming out.