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Kapalabhati: Breath of Fire

Kapalabhati is a Sanskrit word that has two parts: Kapala = Skull, and Bhati = Shiny.

Also known as the Breath of Fire, it is one of the most energetic and stimulating breathing control techniques we do while practicing Yoga. It is considered one of the six Kriyas or purification and cleansing exercises. When we practice it correctly, we expel the residual air left in our lungs and pump large amounts of oxygen into the circulatory system.

How to practice Kapalbhati

Sit comfortably, with your legs crossed or bent, back straight and shoulders still.

Close your eyes and concentrate on breathing through your nose.

Take a deep breath through your stomach two or three times as preparation. It allows the abdomen to expand when inhaling and contract when exhaling.

Inhale through the nose, inflate the belly, and then start contracting your abdomen to take out the air through the nose with short, energetic, and rhythmic exhalations.

Concentrate only on exhaling. The abdominal muscles will relax automatically, allowing the air to fill the lungs passively.

Energetic exhalation. Passive inhalation.

To start, perform three cycles of 20-30 Kapalbhati breaths, separating each cycle with three slow and deep breaths to calm your respiration rhythm so that you don’t hyperventilate. Gradually, you can increase the number of pumpings per cycle.

Kapalbhati Benefits

  • Increases the level of oxygen supply to the blood, reaching each cell in the body. This is why it is convenient to perform this breathing exercise in spaces where the air quality is good.
  • Strengthens the intercostal muscles and increases lung capacity.
  • Helps cleaning the respiratory system, and eliminates mucus excess. Just remember to have some tissues at hand!
  • The movement of the abdomen and diaphragm gently massages internal organs such as the liver, stomach, heart, spleen, and pancreas, thus stimulating the blood flow in these areas.

What should we be aware of while practicing Kapalbhati?

Practicing this breathing exercise may produce some dizziness, and this is normal. If you start feeling very dizzy, keep calm, open your eyes and choose a point to focus on. Also, take long, deep, calming breaths until you feel the dizziness is gone and your breathing rhythm is back to normal.

It is not recommended to perform this exercise during the last hours of the day or before going to sleep. Kapalbhati is a technique created to boost your energy and can keep you from going to bed. However, it is ideal to practice it first thing in the morning or before performing any activity that requires tons of energy.

It is not recommended to practice Kapalbhati in hot weather. You don’t want to add fire to fire, right? In this case, it is advised to do cooling breathing exercises such as Sitali or Sitkari.

Kapalbhati is not recommended for people who suffer from anxiety since it can cause dizziness and hyperventilation.

I hope you practice this exercise daily to keep your respiratory system clean and the inside of your skull radiant.

Namaste!

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