Yogic Breath Work
Controlling the breath has physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits. I teach my students in yoga classes as well as my clients in private practice how to control their breath on a regular basis. The benefits of controlling the breath go beyond the scope of this article, as we will focus on one form of breath control technique in particular: Kapalabhati or Breath of Fire.
Breath techniques are used in yoga for a wide variety of reasons and benefits. Common ones seen in class are Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath), Alternate Nostril Breathing & Kapalabhati (Breath of Fire). Awhile ago, I filmed a short video in my room on how to do Kapalabhati (see above). Instructions on how to do it are written below.
What is Kapalabhati?
- A form of breath control.
- In Sanskrit. Kapal means "skull" and "bhati" means "illuminating". The increase of oxygen and prone illuminates the skull, face, and skin! It's purifying for the frontal brain, as well.
- Part of the yogic principles of the body cleansing techniques - shatkarma. Therefore, it's cleaning as well as breath work.
- You focus on the exhales instead of the inhales (inhales happen naturally)
- Traditionally done for 3 rounds for 30 pumps of breath each round.
- A very meditative practice - aligns both hemispheres of the brain.
- Can be practiced daily.
Benefits of Kapalabhati - Breath of Fire
- Works to open the Heart Center (Anahat Chakra) and the Naval Center (Manipura Chakra).
- Improves respiratory problems, blood circulation, asthma, bronchitis and lung capacity when practiced regularly.
- Areas of digestion and elimination are stimulated and improve (leading the weight loss or release of toxins and waste in the gut).
- Cleanses the nasal and cranial passages, tones the abdomen, and builds internal heat. Circulates the breath, the energy (prana).
- Energizing and uplifting.
- Detoxing and cleaning.
How to Do Kapalabhati
- Take a few rounds of breath normally.
- Exhale all the air completely, inhale half way, and begin pumping the air out on exhales for 30 pumps. Eyes can be open or closed.
- If the eyes are closed, take the gaze inward towards the third eye chakra (ajna) - the space between the eyebrows.
- Take a few normal rounds of breath and repeat twice more.
Remember to focus on pumping all the air out. Hug the navel in and up the along the length of the spine each time to actively expel all the stale air. You won't have to even think about the inhales - they happen naturally.
- Pregnant women. Check with your doctor first.
- If you feel nauseous or dizzy.
- It's not necessary to do all 3 rounds. You will still derive benefits from doing this once or twice and building your way up.