Breathing Exercise for Beginners

Kapalabhati (Breath of Fire)

Posted On : 14 January 2017.

Posted By : Yogi Mahesh Chetan.

Meaning : Kapala = skull, bhati= shines. It is classified under kriyas as well as in Pranayamas. If breathing of kapalabhati follows retention, we may say kapalabhati is a pranayama.

Kapalabhati involves breathing, which cleans, shines, the kapala, the skull or the brain. The brain cells are stimulated by this Kriya.

In Classical book Hathayoga Pradipika, Kapalabhati is defined as:

  • Bhastravallohakarasya recapurau sasambhramau.
  • Kapalabhatirvikhyata Kaphadosavisosani.

Method

  1. Sit in any comfortable asana like padmasana, with the back and neck straight and the hands in jnana mudra on the knees.
  2. In the beginning, Inhale deeply expanding the abdomen passively, and then exhale forcefully and simultaneously contract the abdominal muscles.
  3. Next inhalation should be passive allowing the abdominal muscles to expand and Inhalation should be spontaneous passive recoil, involving no force. One inhalation and exhalation makes one cycle. Perform 15 cycles to begin with. After 15 cycles of breath inhale and hold the breath as long as it is comfortable. Fifteen cycles of breath make one round of Kapalabhati.
  4. After completing one round of Kapalabhati practice, focus on the third eye center and meditate for few minutes and then start next round.

Breathing Instruction

The breathing used in Kapalabhati should be from the abdomen mostly, and its focus should not be the chest. The rate of breathing should be increased slowly as stamina increases. In beginning one breath in two seconds and then progress to one breath in one second and then to two breath in a second.

Duration

  • 3 to 5 rounds of 15 breaths and meditation in-between two rounds.
  • Advanced practitioners may extend the number of rounds as per their practice.

Awareness

  • Physical - on breathing
  • Spiritual - on third eye center

How to Sequence

Kapalbhati can be practiced before or after asanas or neti and before meditation or concentration. It should be practice at any time on an empty stomach.

Precautions

If dizziness is felt, stop the practice and relax for some time and then continue the practice with more awareness and less force.

  1. Do not bend the spine forward, backward or sideward during the practice of Kapalabhati. Such a bending may cause muscle sprains in the neck or back for beginners.
  2. Avoid contortions of the face.
  3. Persons with High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Slip Disc, Spondylosis, etc., should avoid Kapalabhati.

The Physiological Effects of Kapalabhati.

Kapalabhati is Kriya which detoxifies and stimulates all activity throughout the body. We present the effects on major systems of the body briefly.

1. Nervous System

The practice of Kapalabhati activates the sympathetic nervous system, but the Sympathetic-Parasympathetic balance is well kept up.
The brain cells are invigorated continuously, and Increased circulation of blood with higher oxygen level increase the functions of the brain cells. Memory and will power increases with the practice of Kapalabhati.

2. Muscular System

The abdominal muscles are vigorously exercised to bring more blood circulation which increases the digestive power of the person. A person has more nutrient absorption due to improved blood circulation. It also activates and massages the abdominal organs.

3. Circulatory System

During kapalabhati Increased heart rate pumps the blood throughout the system. Blood saturated with the higher concentration of oxygen which activates all the cell activity level. The lethargy of the cells is eliminated due to increased activity and oxygen level.

4. Respiratory System

Due to the rate of breathing 120 breaths per minute compared to the standard breathing rate of about 15 per minute, there are two effects:
a. Cleaning of carbon dioxide from the lungs and
b. Increased oxygen concentration in the lungs.
The stale air at the end of exhalation is not emptied out during normal breathing. Kapalabhati with its rapid, forceful exhalation gets rid of this stagnated air, helping in the total cleansing of the lungs.

5. landular System

Kapalabhati brings balancing effect on the Glandular system. Both exocrine and endocrine glands get stimulated

6. Therapeutic use of kapalabhati

Kapalabhati increase healing power of the body. As the rate of respiration increases, it also increases the prana flow in the body. Prana is the base of all type of healing in the body. Patients with diabetes, obesity, respiratory disorders, constipation, gastritis, hyperacidity, etc. find Kapalabjati incredibly healing.

Overall Effects

  1. Cleansing. Activising and revitalizing of different systems.
  2. Moving from Tamas to Rajas.