Kayakalpa is a healing and cleansing tradition related to the practice of yoga in much the same way acupuncture and massage are related to some martial arts. Performing kayakalpa does not involve the same progression of challenging physical postures as other forms. Rather, kayakalpa consists of breathing exercises and other techniques intended to focus the flow of energy to improve health.
Kayakalpa focuses on relaxation, breathing and energy control. For this reason, the proper postures for kayakalpa are easy on the body and simple to remember. This prevents physical positioning from distracting the practitioner from his breathing and energy focus. Kayakalpa is generally performed in relaxed seated positions such as lotus, or lying on the back fully relaxed.
Kayakalpa breathing practices focus as much on the structure and intent of breathing as hatha yoga postures focus on the structure and intent of motion. Fire breath is a practice in which the yogi breathes in slowly and naturally, then exhales forcefully through the mouth. Fire breath helps with relaxation, fosters cleansing through completely emptying the lungs with each exhalation and develops awareness of the diaphragm while breathing.
Bastika is a breathing exercise roughly translated as "bellows," and thought to fan the fires of personal energy, much like a bellows fans a physical fire. To perform bastika, the practitioner breathes in through the nose, then breathes forcefully out through one nostril while holding the other closed. Alternating nostrils with each breath, this practice can lead to feelings of light-headedness or dizziness in beginning students.
The practice of kayakalpa includes receiving massage and herbal treatments much like going to a traditional doctor. When receiving this kind of treatment, the recipient will assume various postures according to the course prescribed. When being worked on with massage or herbal tinctures, a relaxed posture is usually recommended. The person under treatment may also be prescribed a course of more physical postures from hatha yoga between sessions.