Purify and Energize with Kapalabhati

seated breathing
Thanks to Akshi Yogashala for the image.

Kapalabhati is also known as “skull shining.” This is because, from Sanskrit to English, Kapala translates to “skull” and Bhati translates to “light.” As you breathe, you should imagine your skull filling with light.

According to Chopra.com, Kapalabhati “purifies, rejuvenates, and invigorates the mind and body.” The article elaborates, “This cleansing breath can help you not only release stress and toxins from the mind and body, it can also help release negative emotions, shake off sluggishness, and energize.”

Benefits of Kapalabhati

Because of its ability to increase your energy levels, Kapalabhati breathing is beneficial:

  • First thing in the morning. To help start your day on the right track, use this breathing style to wake you up and get your heart pumping.
  • During your afternoon lull. When you hit that point in your day where you’re trying to decide between a nap or an espresso, try this instead. The invigorating breathing will perk you up!
  • When you’re cold. This is a warming breath, so if you’re feeling cold, use this to reheat your body.

Kapalabhati breathing is beneficial for more than just increasing your energy and body temperature. According to Chopra.com, Kapalabhati breathing:

  • “Cleanses lungs and respiratory system
  • Strengthens and tones diaphragm and abdominal muscles
  • Releases toxins
  • Increases oxygen to cells, purifying blood in the process
  • Improves digestion
  • Energizes and clears mind
  • Focuses attention
  • Warms body”

Cautions

According to Chopra.com, you should not practice Kapalabhati breathing if you:

  • are pregnant,
  • have high blood pressure,
  • suffer from acid gastric issues,
  • have heart disease, or
  • experience abdominal pain.

Also, if you feel dizzy or anxious while practicing, take a break. If you decide to try again, slow down or reduce the intensity.

Kapalabhati

  1. Begin in a comfortable seated position like Sukhasana.
  2. To prepare, take several deep breaths through the nose.
  3. On your last preparatory breath, exhale forcefully and quickly from the abdomen and diaphragm. Let yourself exhale through the nose or mouth, whichever is most comfortable.
  4. Take a nice, slow inhale. With this breathing technique, the inhale should be passive.
  5. Exhale quickly and forcefully while drawing your belly button toward your spine. This quick motion comes from the diaphragm.
  6. Do 10 repetitions of this breath.
  7. Take a break and breathe regularly. This doesn’t have to be a long break, but you want your body to have a chance to recover from this hard work.
  8. Begin your next set.
  9. Do 3-4 total sets of this breath style.

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Do you have any other tips for practicing Kapalabhati? Please let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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