Are you hopping about with Spring fever? Or are you laying low with allergies and other seasonal discomfort? In this Ayurvedic kriya technique series, we’ve been exploring ways to stay well since the transition from Winter to Spring is challenging many of us, myself included! Last week, I showed you how to perform Jala Neti, or how to cleanse the nasal passages with warm salt water and a neti pot. Have you tried it? This week I’m teaching you Kapalabhati pranayama, translated as skull “shining breath”.
Kapalabhati pranayama clears energy and blood stagnation from the center of the body, where it can remain as a sludge that slows the body and mind. It also helps to break up mucus in the upper respiratory tract. Kapalabhati builds heat as it pumps and increases circulation.
This circulation of blood and energy is what’s needed to maintain proper gut health, immune function, and inflammatory response.
It’s a part of my Spring yoga practice to help lighten up my body, but you may find that it’s useful whenever you’re feeling lethargic or uninspired too! Read on or watch the video to learn how it’s done.
Benefits of Kapalabhati
Kapalabhati breathing is one of the 6 Yoga kriya exercises to promote health and wellness. It’s also an invigorating practice that is a wonderful way to start the day!
Here’s some of Kapalabhati’s benefits:
- Invigorates the body and mind, removing sluggishness
- It strengthens the lungs, liver, heart, and mobilizes the intestine
- It tones the abdominal muscles.
- Increases breath capacity
- Clears mucus and pens the sinuses and airways
Contraindications: This technique should not be used if you have a headache, vertigo, high/low blood pressure, history of stroke, gastritis, hernia, or ulcers.
How to do Kapalabhati Breathing
It’s best to perform Kapalabhati on an empty stomach.
- Come into a comfortable seated position.
- Take a few deep breaths to settle your mind down into your body.
- Keeping your mouth and nose closed, exhale forcefully by pulling in the abdominal muscles. Let the inhalation fill up the abdomen and lungs passively. This is one “pumping”
- Start by doing 10 pumpings. You can build up to 50+ with time, but want to make sure that you don’t hyperventilate or get dizzy. Stop when you feel that you’ve had enough.
- After the pumpings, inhale long and deep. Lift the pelvic floor (mula bandha) as you bring your chin down (jalandhara bandha). Hold the breath in as long as is comfortable.
- Then let go of the pelvic floor and chin locks, and release the breath completely.
- Breathe normally and repeat 2-3 more cycles if you wish.
Note that while these kriya exercises can help keep you healthy and vibrant, you still need to do other work to maintain it. They’re not going to erase the immune challenges that come with poor sleep, an unbalanced diet, or overwhelm & worry.
I hope you find this breathing practice useful! Let me know how it works for you, in the comments below! Well wishes to you..