Kapalabhati Pranayama | Breath of Fire | Skull Shining Breath
Kapalabhati Pranayama – the Breath of Fire – is a technique that belongs to pranayama, an area of competence of Yoga that takes care of the breath. It’s no secrete that understanding how breath can control both the body and mind is crucial to successfully practicing the art of yoga.
Specifically, Kapalabhati pranayama is a bit more on the technical side when it comes to breathing techniques. It is a type of rapid breathing, which serves to generate energy in the body, and to increase the level of concentration. In addition, Kapalabhait breathing is an ancient technique from Hatha yoga.
The word “kapal” means “skull” or “forehead” and “bhati” means “light” or “shining”. Furthermore, means “perception” or “knowledge”. Kapalabhati is therefore, the practice that brings a state of light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain. Another name of this practice is “kapalshodana” where the word “shodana” means “to purify”. Sometimes, Kapalabhati pranayama is referred to as “Light Skull Breathing”.
It is believed to have a purifying effect on the lungs, while helping to balance and strengthen the nervous system. In fact, in general yogic breathing has been shown to improve lung function. Through a series of forceful exhales, and more passive inhales, Kapalabhati pranayama activates energy centers of the body, and whole body oxygenation levels. Thus, deserving the name, Breath of Fire.
Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama:
This yogic breathing technique has psycho-physical and spiritual benefits. It helps in healing and purifying the system (or body).
As beforementioned, Kapalabhati serves several believed benefits for the body, mind and spirit. This includes;
- oxygenating the body;
- refreshing the body and mind;
- cleansing the respiratory system (sinuses) by eliminating waste matter;
- strengthening muscles of your stomach and abdomen;
- improving digestion;
- improving circulation;
- slowing the aging process and helps to relax the facial muscles and nervous system;
- Finally, it is the best way to awaken the Ajna chakra (or third eye).
Kapalabhati breathing Sequence:
- Firstly, sit in a comfortable or meditative position, such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana);
- The hands are in a mudra or on the knees. Alternatively, place you hands on your lower belly.
- Keep your head and spine erect;
- Then, close your eyes, relax the body;
- Inhale deeply through the nose, expanding the abdomen. Exhale through the nose, forcefully, contracting the abdominal muscles, without creating tension;
- The next inhalation takes place passively, letting the abdominal muscles expand;
- The inspiration must come from a spontaneous, effortless return;
- Practice 10 breaths in succession, then inhale and exhale deeply;
This is a cycle, practice 3 to 5 cycles (of 10 or 20 breaths).
After performing the practice, maintain awareness of emptiness in the area in the center between the eyebrows, perceiving the feeling of emptiness and serenity. Remove all unnecessary thoughts. In addition, it is important that the breathing in this technique is abdominal and not thoracic.
The amount of breaths can be increased from the initial 10, up to 20, when the abdominal muscles are stronger. Advanced practitioners can increase the number of cycles to 10 or more. For longer periods, it’s advisable they are practiced only with an expert guide.
The practice should be performed on an empty stomach, 3-4 hours after meals.
Kapalabhati Pranayama is usually practiced after Asanas or immediately before meditation and/or concentration techniques. As you become better within the practice, increase your breaths and cycles.
Importantly, if new to pranayama, beginning with basic breathing techniques is best. For example, Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) or Ujjayi Breath.