Kapilbhati translates to ‘skull shining breath’ because it lights your body up from the inside out! Hence why it’s commonly called ‘breath of fire’. It consists of alternating short, explosive exhales and slightly longer, passive inhales (1).
Physically, this powerful breath activates the body on a cellular level, increasing the digestive capacity, tones the diaphragm and abdominal muscles while cleansing and purifying the organs, especially the respiratory system. Ancient yogic texts also say that it helps you to develop a ‘shining face glowing with inner radiance’ (3).
Energetically, this breath opens up the solar plexus and sacral chakras that are responsible for boosting self-esteem, eradicating the Ego and exercising personal power.
Mentally, this breath is energizing, which makes it great in preparation for creative work or meditation (3).
Cautions and Contraindications (2):
Because of its power, kapilbhati it is not recommended for everyone.
Kapalbhati is not recommended for those who are pregnant, suffer from cardiac problems, hernias, menstrual cramps, uterine fibroids and spinal disorders.
Its usually advised that people suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes also abstain from performing kapalbhati. As well, it should be avoided in the midst of a asthmatic attack (3).
This pranayama exercise is very effective at increasing circulation to the digestive tract and therefore, should be avoided by those with active abdominal ulcers.
Pro tips (3):
- Always practice pranayama on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning is usually best!
- Because this takes a little coordination and getting used to, beginners may benefit from placing their hands on their belly to track the breath.
- Try to isolate this movement to the belly, leaving the chest stationary.
Here’s a video tutorial for you to follow along as you slowly build your pranayama practice:
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- Meditation and Pranayam (Book) by Yug Purush Mahamandaleshwar Swami Paramanand Giriji Maharaj