In Sanskrit, Kapalabhati literally means “shining skull”. It is considered to be such a cleansing technique that if practiced regularly, the face takes on a vibrant glow of health.
Morning and daytime is the best time for practicing this exercise, as it stimulates the nervous system and can keep you awake if practiced late in the evening.
This exercise consists of abdominal pumpings. A pumping is a forceful exhalation followed by a passive inhalation. This means you do not have to try to inhale. When you release the abdomen, the air will naturally re-enter your lungs.
Start with 3 rounds of this practice (20-30 pumpings per round), with a breath retention after each round (atleast 30 seconds). This can gradually be increased up to 5 rounds with a maximum of 12o pumping per round. Kapalabhati is generally practiced before Anuloma Viloma to open up the lungs and sinuses.
For a guided practice, visit the Practice With Us Page.
- Removes stale air from the lungs, cleansing the entire respiratory system
- Eliminates large amounts of carbon dioxide, allowing the red blood cells to absorb more oxygen
- Increases lung capacity and strengthens intercostal muscles
- Helps eliminate accumulated mucous and cleanse the sinuses
- Removes bronchial congestion and spasm, relieving and eventually removing asthma
- Massages the stomach, liver, spleen, heart and pancreas and improves digestion
- Strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles
- Tones the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems
- Increases richness of blood and renews body tissues, especially in the brain
- Improves concentration and invigorates the mind, making for a natural energy boost
- Never practice Kapalabhati during an asthmatic attack
- When you first start practicing you may breath incorrectly and feel dizzy. Stop immediately sit or lay down and a breathing normally until the dizziness subsides. Make sure that only your abdomen is moving during the practice.
1. Sit in a cross-legged position, back straight, chin parallel to the ground. Place the hands on the knees in Chin mudra, thumb and index finger touching. Take a few full yogic breaths before beginning.
2. Inhale, fill the abdomen. Pump the abdomen rapidly and forcefully. Start with 20-30 pumpings.
3. On the last pumping, exhale completely, bringing the abdomen towards the spine. Take two full, deep breaths.
4. On the third inhale, fill the lungs 3/4 of their capacity and retain the breath. Hold for 30 seconds. Focus on the point between the eyebrows. *
5. Repeat for three rounds, increasing the pumpings and retention with each round. A typical intermediate practice is 60-80-100 pumpings with retention of 30-45-60 seconds.
* Important: Never strain the breath. If you feel discomfort or dizziness, exhale slowly and breathe naturally. Make sure you hold the breath only as long as you can comfortably and exhale with control.
- Keep the shoulders, back and face relaxed throughout the entire practice.
- The chest should not move when practicing.
- Sit up straight, if you cannot sit easily on the floor find a pillow or block to elevate the hips, tilting the pelvis forward, allowing the knees to come towards the floor.
- If you are new to this make sure you can easily do Abdominal Breathing, this is the precursor to this pranayama.
- If you are learning, place the right hand on the abdomen and the left index finger in front of the nose, when you exhale the right hand will come in towards the spine and you will feel air on the finger.
- If you feel air on the finger when the abdomen expands you are breathing reverse, start back with simple abdominal breath for a short time to reestablish the correct breathing pattern before continuing.
- It may seem easier to do this exercise rapidly at first, but it is recommended to do only one pumping per second to gain control over the muscles. Also when practicing quickly it is more likely for new students to begin reverse breathing without being aware.
- If you make a sound when you exhale that is natural, but the inhalation should be almost silent and relaxed.