Kapalabhati breathing is an advanced yogic breathing technique that offers a host of benefits. If you haven’t yet tried Ujjayi Pranayama, start there and once comfortable with Ujjayi, move onto Kapalabhati breathing.
Often known as “skull-shining breath,” Kapalahbhati comes from two Sanskrit words: Kapala, which translates to “Skull,” and Bhati, which means “light.” It’s an exercise that purifies, rejuvenates, and invigorates the mind and body. When you practice this breath, visualize your skull filling with a bright light; this is how its name came about.
This cleansing breath can help you not only release stress and toxins from the mind and body, it can also help release negative emotions, shake off sluggishness, and energize. It consists of a series of forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations; you’ll find steps at the end of this article on how to perform it.
At five syllables, it can be difficult to pronounce. Try this: Kah-bah-lah-bah-tee.
Benefits of Kapalabhati Practice!
Most people who practice Kapalabhati regularly will tell you that they do it because it gives them an energy boost and a surge of heat. There are many reasons to explore the practice, including that Kapalabhati breathing:
- Cleanses lungs and respiratory system
- Strengthens and tones diaphragm and abdominal muscles
- Releases toxins
- Increases oxygen to cells, purifying blood in the process
- Improves digestion
- Energizes and clears mind
- Focuses attention
- Warms body
How to Perform Kapalabhati
The important thing to remember for this exercise is that your inhale is passive and your exhale is the forceful, powerful movement. Start this practice at a slow pace, and with time you can build some speed if it feels comfortable for you to do so.
- Sit comfortably in an upright posture and rest your hands on your lower belly. If you’re sitting in a chair, make sure to place both feet on the ground.
- Take a deep, cleansing breath before you begin, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your belly with air about ¾ way full.
- In a quick motion, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
- Allow your lungs to fill up naturally, with no effort as your belly expands.
- Perform this cycle 10 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body.
- Repeat these cycles of 10 movements, 3 to 4 times.
Contraindication: Do not practice Kapalabhati if you are pregnant, or if you have high blood pressure, acid gastric issues, heart disease, or abdominal pain. You should also stop or slow down if you feel dizzy or anxious.
When to Use Kapalabhati
In the morning: Since the Kapalabhati breath is so energizing, try it first thing in the morning for an invigorating wake-up call.
When you’re cold: Kapalabhati is a warming breath, so if your body is chilly, a few rounds of Kapalabhati can warm you up, even on a snowy day.
Mid-afternoon: If you’re feeling a case of the mid-day slump come on, try a few rounds of Kapalabhati to energize your mind and body to power you through the rest of the day.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.