Kapalabhati, sometimes spelled kapalbhati, is a vigorous yoga breathing technique that cleanses the lungs and helps quiet the mind for a deeper state of meditation. Unlike most other breathing techniques, kapalabhati emphasizes an active exhalation and a passive inhalation. Kapalabhati practitioners claim this technique helps the body regulate its metabolism, release toxins and burn off fat, all of which are excellent for helping weight loss.
A combination of the Sanskrit words for "skull" (kapala) and "illuminating" (bhati), kapalabhati helps create clarity and radiance in both body and mind. Kapalabhati is considered both a pranayama (breath technique) and a shatkriya (cleansing technique).
Kapalabhati practitioners believe that the breathing technique energizes the brain with freshly oxygenated blood, clears the mind, increases awareness, detoxifies lungs and nasal passages, massages the abdomen, stimulates digestion and helps develop strength and stamina. Because it strengthens the abdominal muscles, kapalabhati may also help tone and slim the waistline.
Sit in a comfortable on the floor or in a chair. If you're sitting on the floor, you can cross your legs or sit in Vajrasana, a kneeling position with your buttocks on your feet. Root your pelvis downward and lengthen your spine upward. Move the upper palate of your mouth slightly back to align your neck and head. Keep your body relaxed and still. Only your abdominal muscles need to work.
Begin by breathing deeply and evenly through your nose. After a normal inhalation, exhale fully and notice how you can actively contract your abdomen muscles to press out more air. Continue exhaling by contracting the muscles in front of the abdomen. You'll force a powerful exhalation through the nose followed by a passive inhalation. Repeat about 25 to 30 times. After one round, take a few normal breaths. Then do two more rounds with a breath break in between. Keep a steady rhythm. Your belly will actively pump like a machine.
Practice kapalabhati once or twice a day in the morning and evening, but not just before going to bed. Do three rounds of 25 to 30 repetitions in each session.
Practice on an empty stomach, at least 2 hours after your last meal. Do not practice kapalabhati if you’re pregnant or if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. Discontinue if you feel any pain, dizziness or nausea. Keep a tissue handy.
- "Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing"; B.K.S. Iyengar; 1985