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Kapalbhati Pranayama - Frontal Brain Cleansing Breath, How to do Kapalbhati Pranayama - Frontal Brain Cleansing Breath, Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama - Frontal Brain Cleansing Breath, Precautions, & a note for yoga practitioners

Kapalbhati Pranayama

Kapalbhati Pranayama (frontal brain cleansing breath) has a cleansing effect on the lungs and is a good practice for respiratory disorders.

  1. How To Do Kapalbhati Pranayama Correctly
    1. Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)
      1. Breathing pattern while doing Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)
      2. Sequence: 
      3. Benefits of doing Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)
      4. Precautions while doing Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)
      5. Practice note: 
    2. Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique2:Alternate nostrils
      1. Duration
      2. Breathing pattern while doing Technique2: Alternate nostrils
    3. Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)
      1. Sequence: 
      2. Precaution while doing Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)
    4. Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)
      1. Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)
      2. Duration: 
      3. Benefits of doing doing Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)
      4. Precaution while doing Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)
      5. Practice note: 
  2. Preparatory practices
  3. Types of Pranayamas  

How To Do Kapalbhati Pranayama Correctly

Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)

  • Sit in a comfortable meditation asana. The head and spine should be straight with the hands resting on the knees in either chin or jnana mudra.
  • Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
  • Exhale through both nostrils with a forceful contraction of the abdominal muscles. The following inhalation should take place passively by allowing the abdominal muscles to relax.
  • Inhalation should be a spontaneous recoil, involving no effort .
  • After completing 10 rapid breaths in succession, inhale and exhale deeply. 
  • Allow the breath to return to normal. This is one round. Practise up to 5 rounds.

Breathing pattern while doing Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)

  • The rapid breathing should be from the abdomen; the shoulders and face remain relaxed.
  • Beginners may take several free breaths between rounds. The number of respirations may be increased from the initial count of 10 up to 50, as the abdominal muscles become stronger.
  • Advanced practitioners can increase up to 60 or 1 00 breaths per round.

Sequence

  • As a shatkarma to clear excess mucus from the nasal passages, kapalbhati should be practised before pranayama.

Benefits of doing Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)

  • Kapalbhati has a cleansing effect on the lungs and isa good practice for respiratory disorders. 
  • It balances and strengthens the nervous system and tones the digestive organs. 
  • It purifies the nadis, and removes sensory distractions. 
  • It energizes the mind for mental work and removes sleepiness.

Precautions while doing Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)

  • Kapalbhati should be performed on an empty stomach, 3 to 4 hours after meals. If practised late at night, it can prevent sleep.
  • If pain or dizziness are experienced, stop the practice and sit quietly for some time. Practise with more awareness and less force. If the problem continues, consult a competent teacher.
  • Kapalbhati should not be practised by those suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, vertigo, epilepsy, stroke, hernia or gastric ulcer. It is not recommended during pregnancy.

Practice note

  • Although kapalbhati is similar to bhastrika, there are important differences. Bhastrika uses force on both inhalation and exhalation, expanding and contracting the lungs above and below their resting or basic volume. 
  • Kapalbhati, on the other hand, actively reduces the volume of air in the lungs below this level through forced exhalation. In this practice, inhalation remains a passive process, which brings the level of air in the lungs back to the basic volume only. Kapalbhati reverses the normal breathing process, which involves active inhalation and passive exhalation. It has profound effects on the nervous system.

Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique2:Alternate nostrils

  • Sit in a comfortable meditation asana, preferably pad­ masana, or siddha/siddha yoni asana.
  • Raise the right hand and perform nasagra mudra.
  • Left nostril: Close the right nostril with the thumb.
  • Exhale forcefully and inhale passively through the left nostril l 0 times. The pumping action should be performed by the abdomen alone; the chest, shoulders and face remain relaxed.
  • After the 10 breaths, take a deep breath in and out through the left nostril.
  • Right nostril: Close the left nostril and repeat the same process through the right nostril.
  • Both nostrils: Replace the raised hand on the knee. Repeat the same process through both nostrils.

Duration

  • Ten breaths through the left, the right and both nostrils forms one complete round. Practise up to 5 rounds.

Breathing pattern while doing Technique2: Alternate nostrils

  • Beginners may take several free breaths between rounds. The number of respirations may be gradually increased from 10 up to 50, as the abdominal muscles become stronger.

Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

  • After perfecting technique 2, antar kumbhaka may be commenced.
  • At the end of the round, inhale deeply and retain the breath for a comfortable length of time without straining. Exhale slowly with control. Practise up to 5 rounds.

Sequence

  • Practise just before meditation techniques. Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)
  • Before applying bandhas in this practice, they should first be perfected as individual practices. After antar kumbhaka has been mastered, jalandhara and moola bandhas may be combined during internal retention.
  • At the end of each round, inhale deeply. Practise jalandhara bandha and then moola bandha during internal retention. Hold the breath inside without straining.
  • After the required count of retention, release moola bandha, jalandhara bandha, and then exhale.

Precaution while doing Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

  • Do not practise with bandhas without seeking the guidance of a competent teacher.
  • Contra-indications for jalandhara and moola bandhas apply, as well as for kapalbhati technique 1 .

Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)

  • After perfecting technique 3, bahir kumbhaka may be commenced.
  • At the end of the round, inhale deeply and retain the breath for a comfortable length of time. Exhale slowly. 
  • Retain the breath outside for a comfortable length of time.

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

  • After perfecting maha bandha as an independent practice, it can be incorporated into the practice of kapalbhati during external retention.
  • After completing one round, inhale deeply and retain the breath inside for a few seconds.
  • Exhale completely and practise maha bandha.
  • Retain the bandha, and the breath outside for a comfortable length of time without straining.
  • Release maha bandha and inhale.
  • Maintain awareness of the eyebrow centre, feeling an all­ pervading calmness.

Duration

  • Up to 5 rounds.
  • Experienced practitioners can gradually increase the number of respirations to 60, and slowly increase the duration of external retention up to 30 seconds.
  • Further rounds should be practised only under the guidance of a competent teacher. Do not strain.

Benefits of doing doing Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)

  • This practice is useful for spiritual aspirants as it arrests thoughts and visions. 
  • It calms the mind in preparation for meditation. At the same time, it energizes the mind so one is not overcome by sleep while sitting for meditation.

Precaution while doing Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)

  • Proceed slowly with awareness of the effects of the practice. Build up the number of breaths, number of rounds and length of retention gradually. Do not strain by practising for extended periods. If breathlessness is experienced, discontinue the practice or reduce the number of rounds to a comfortable level.
  • The contra-indications for maha bandha apply, as well as those for kapalbhati technique 1 .

Practice note: 

  • If the inhalation seems locked after external retention in maha bandha, a slight exhalation before inhalation relieves the locked condition of the glottis and brings the respiratory muscles back into action.
  • The Sanskrit word kapal means ‘cranium’ or ‘forehead’ and bhati means ‘light’ or ‘splendour’ and also ‘perception’ or ‘knowl­ edge’. Hence kapalbhati is the practice which brings a state of light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain. Another name for this practice is kapal shodhana, the word shodhana meaning ‘to purify’.

Preparatory practices

  1. Natural breathing
  2. Abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing
  3. Thoracic breathing
  4. Clavicular breathing
  5. Yogic breathing

Types of Pranayamas  

  1. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Psychic network purification)
  2. Sheetali Pranayama (Cooling breath)
  3. Sheetkari Pranayama (Hissing breath)
  4. Bhramari Pranayama (Humming bee breath)
  5. Ujjayi Pranayama (The psychic breath)
  6. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows breath)
  7. Kapalbhati Pranayama (Frontal brain cleansing breath)
  8. Moorchha Pranayama (Swooning or fainting breath)
  9. Surya Bhedi Pranayama (Vitality stimulating breath)

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