How To Do Kapalbhati Yoga: Steps, Benefits, Types And Precautions

Meaning of Kapalbhati

‘Kapala’ means skull (head) and ‘Bhati’ means to shine. Because this practice makes the skull shine, therefore it is called Kapalbhati. In other words, it rejuvenates the head region and the mental functions. In the Gheraṇ­ḍasaṁhita, it is known as Bhalabhati; Bhala and Kapala means the ‘cranium’ or forehead. Bhati is ‘light’ or ‘splendour’; it also means ‘perception and knowledge’. It is also known as Frontal brain cleansing yogic practice.

Kapalbhati is one of the pre-requisites of Pranayama. It invigorates the entire brain and awakens the dormant centres which are responsible for subtle perception. In Kapalbhati breathing is done like pumping action of a pair of bellows. Inhalation is passive and spontaneous and exhalation is with forced.

How To Do Kapalbhati Yoga: Steps, Benefits, Types And Precautions
Kapalbhati

Difference between Kapalbhati and Bhastrika pranayama

Kapalbhati is similar to Bhastrika praṇayama. The difference between the two is only that in Bhastrika a practitioner uses force on both inhalation and exhalation, expanding and contracting the lungs; while in Kapalbhati inhalation is automatic and passive and it occurs as a result of forced exhalation. Kapalbhati actively reduces the volume of air in the lungs through forced exhalation.  In Haṭhaprad­īpika, Kapalbhati has been described as follows:

“Perform exhalation and inhalation rapidly like a bellows (of a blacksmith). This is Kapalabati which destroys all the mucus disorders”.

How to do kapalbhati step by step

  • Sit in a meditative posture, eyes closed and the whole body relaxed. 
  • Inhale deeply through both nostrils expanding the abdomen and exhale with a forceful contraction of the abdominal muscles.      
  • The next inhalation takes place passively allowing the abdominal muscles to expand. Inhalation should be spontaneous or passive without effort.
  • The breathing must be of the bellows’ type.
  • Repeat this exercise rapidly several times. While doing this exercise, the abdomen should distend and contract.

Breathing in Kapalbhati

There should be rapid breathing to start the practice with emphasis on exhalation. Inhale

deeply once. Exhale deeply once. Retain breath during maha bandha. Inhale after releasing maha bandha. Normal breathing if necessary before commencing next round. Breathe

through your nose throughout the practice; do not breathe through your mouth. After completing maha bandha you may find it a little difficult to breathe in. It is as though the lungs become locked. This problem can be overcome by exhaling very slightly immediately before inhalation. Remember, the rapid breathing should be from the abdomen and not from the chest

8 wonder benefits of kapalbhati

  1. Kapalbhati clears the respiratory passage and keeps it free from impurities and excess mucus.
  2. It is useful in treating cold, rhinitis (inflammation of the mucus membrane of the nose), sinusitis and bronchial infections.
  3. It stimulates nerves in the abdominal region; massages abdominal organs; and improves digestion.
  4. It increases capacity of lungs.
  5. Kapalbhati clears the respiratory passage and keeps it free from impurities and excess mucus.
  6. It is useful in treating cold, rhinitis (inflammation of the mucus membrane of the nose), sinusitis and bronchial infections.
  7. It stimulates nerves in the abdominal region; massages abdominal organs; and improves digestion.
  8. It increases capacity of lungs.

Scientific Explanation of Kapalbhati

Kapalbhati and Bhastrika are essentially the techniques of vigorous respiration and thus combine the advantage of increased oxygen intake as well as aeration and drying of the respiratory passages. In Bhastrika there is no emphasis on Kumbhaka or the holding of the breath. Certain studies conducted to study the physiological effects of various types of respiratory exercises on oxygen consumption demonstrated that there are appreciable differences in oxygen consumption. Bhastrika has been found to cause an increase in the oxygen consumption to the extent of 18.5 %; thus, the vitalizing influence of Kapalbhati is quite evident.

In Kapalbhati,  the prolonged and forced exhalation is beneficial for brain. Andre van Lysebeth (as quoted in Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda, 2000) discusses a mechanical influence of the respiratory cycle on the structure of brain. During a normal inhalation, cerebrospinal fluid around the brain gets compressed; as a result, the brain contracts very slightly during normal breathing. During normal exhalation, this fluid is decompressed resulting into slight expansion of the brain. The forced and prolonged exhalation in Kapalbhati increases decompression of the fluid and expansion of the brain and enhances the massaging effect on the brain.

Kapalbhati precautions

  • It should be done before meditational practices and after Yogasanas and Cleansing yogic practices.
  • Inhalation should be spontaneous i.e. without effort; and the exhalation should be with force but at the same time it should not make the person feel breathless.
  • This practice should be avoided by the person suffering from cardiac conditions, giddiness, high blood pressure, vertigo, epilepsy, stroke, hernia and gastric ulcers.

Types of kapalbhati

Gheraṇ­ḍasaṁhita describes following three kinds of Kapalbhati:

  1. VatakramaKapalbhati (air cleansing breathing)
  2. VyutkramaKapalbhati (reversed/sinus cleansing breathing)
  3. ŚītkramaKapalbhati (cooling/mucous cleansing breathing )

Vatakrama Kapalbhati (Air Cleansing Breathing)

One should draw in air through Iḍa/ Candra (the left nostril) and expel it out through Piṅgla / Surya (the right nostril). Again drawing air through the Piṅgla one should expel it through the Candra (left nostril). After rapidly inhaling and exhaling one should not hold the breath.

Benefits

It wards off disorders of phlegm.

It strengthens respiratory system.

Vyutkrama Kapalbhati (Reversed/Sinus Cleansing Breathing)

Prepare lukewarm salty water (ratio 1 tsp salt: ½ liter water); relax the body; snort the water into the nostrils letting it flow down into the mouth; repeat several times. Perform Bhastrika as described in the case of Jalaneti. It gives the same benefits of Jalneti

Sitkrama Kapalbhati (Cooling/ Mucus Cleansing Breathing)

Prepare lukewarm salty water as above. Take the water into the mouth and push it up expelling it through the nose; repeat several times. Perform Bhastrika. Benefits are similar to Jalaneti but more intensified with more stimulation to the facial nerves.

Share on:

1 thought on “How To Do Kapalbhati Yoga: Steps, Benefits, Types And Precautions”

Leave a Comment