Kapalabhati – Skull Shining Breath
Kapalbhati is an excellent breathing exercise to warm up the respiratory system and internally warm up your body in preparation for the following physical practice.
Kapalabhati is considered to be so cleansing to the entire system that, when practiced on a regular basis, the face shines with good health and radiance. In fact, traditionally Kapalabhati is one of the six internal cleansing exercises (shat kriyas) rather than a form of pranayama. Even though it is traditionally classified as a cleansing exercise, Kapalbhati is an excellent breathing exercise to warm up the respiratory system and internally warm up your body in preparation for the following physical practice. It is an easier version of the pranayama Bhastrika and is suitable for most levels of experience and fitness.
In Sanskrit, kapal means “skull” and bhati means “shining.” Together they mean “shining skull.”
Cleansing breathing technique
Instructions for Skull Shining Breath
- Find a comfortable sitting position, with your spine elongated.
- Take an abdominal breath in to prepare for pumping.
- Contract your abdominal muscles to forcefully exhale from the nose.
- Relax your abdominal muscles naturally, for inhalation.
- Be cautious not to inhale actively, but instead release your abdomen and allow the air to be sucked in passively.
- Repeat this for 3 sets. Increase pumping from 30 to 40 to 50 pumps per set.
- In between sets, take a deep breath, and release, then a gentle abdominal breath and retain the breath. Increase the duration from round to round. So first 20, then 30, and in the last round 40 seconds.
Cautions and Contra-indications
- Kapalbhati should be avoided by those suffering from hypertension, anxiety, or panic attacks.
Relevant Pranayama Techniques
When practised safely, pranayama is beneficial to the body and mind. You can also try another pranayama such as
Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing).
For more yoga asanas and exercises, make sure to visit the Arhanta Yoga Asana Guide!
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