Kapalabhati – The Purification or Skull Shining Breath
How to Practice
Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Notice the movement of the diaphragm and how during inhalation, the diaphragm descends and the abdomen is pushed out. On exhalation, the diaphragm pushes the lungs up and the abdomen moves toward the spine. It’s this constant up-and-down movement of the diaphragm that pulls the breath in and out.
On an exhalation, contract the abdominal muscles in a sudden and jerky action and throw the air out the nose, immediately breathing in again. More attention should be focused on the exhalation but do remember to inhale again after each expulsion, keeping the mouth closed and allowing the breath to continue in a rhythmic cycle.
Start with three rounds of nine or 18 expulsions each. At the end of each round, inhale deeply and hold for as long as possible. You may lock the chin to the chest, contract the navel and pull up at the anus to engage the triple lock using the three bandhas here. This will enhance oxygen intake, leaving pleasant flowing vibrations moving throughout the body, as the fresh and revitalised prana makes its way into your cells.
During this exercise, concentrate on the navel centre and notice the strength and heat building there. Between successive rounds, normal breathing should allow the body to rest while the prana works to spiritualise the whole being.
Wonderful for persons suffering from asthma, this breath also removes impurities from the blood and tones up the circulatory and respiratory systems. With Kapalabhati the rapid intake of oxygen makes the blood richer and this, in turn stimulates every tissue of the body. Moreover, the constant movements of the diaphragm work to stimulate the stomach, liver and pancreas and clears the entire mind.
Asana – The practise of yoga postures before your pranayama is beneficial as it releases congested prana and stimulates existing prana within the body. Postures also prepare the body to sit for longer periods of time without discomfort. An upright posture and a calm and steady pose are necessary for the unhindered
movement of breathing and pranic flow in the body.
Time and Place – The best time to practise is in the early morning before sunrise when the body and mind are fresh. If this is not possible, sunset is the next best option. Choose a clean and quiet place with a moderate temperature. Regularity is essential to any spiritual practice so carry out your pranayama on a daily basis in the same place and at the same time every day.
Cleanliness – Brushing the teeth, scraping the tongue and taking a shower (or even just washing the face and hands) before starting helps refresh the body and mind.
Bodily Conditions – Begin on an empty stomach to prevent the prana being concentrated in the digestive area. Also try to empty the bladder and bowels beforehand.
The Nose – The nose is the starting point of respiration and it’s important you focus attention on the nose and not breathe through the mouth. If you suffer from sinus or have a blocked nose, the yogic cleansing
practise of washing the nasal passage or the neti pot technique is recommended.
Side Effects – Pranayama is in no way harmful, but guidance is necessary. It is an exact yogic science and all students, once they have completed a minimum of two years yoga practice, should seek out
a competent teacher to learn pranayama as these techniques are essential to the evolution of the yogi aspirant.