Kriya Yoga Technique of Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kriya Yoga Technique Photo of Nancy Ash by David Campione from the Private Collection of Rev Nancy

A Kriya Yoga Technique: "Warmness on the Soul" Let your "Soul Shine" with a Kriya yoga technique called Kapalabhati. One of the Shat-Karmas (six cleansing processes) of Hatha Yoga, it is also considered one of the main pranayamas, or deep breathing exercises.

The word Kapalabhati is Sanskrit consisting of two words: kapala means skull; bhati is tranlated as shine. So the term kapalabhati (one of the deep breathing exercises) actually indicates that it makes your "skull shine." This method of yoga pranayamas (breathing exercises) is unique in that it's also considered a cleansing or purification practice (Kriya).

How does it cleanse? Kapalabhati is a purification process that entails vigorous breathing or quick expulsions of the breath. This Kriya yoga technique and pranayama cleanses the respiratory system and nasal passages. The forced exhalations rid the lungs of older, stale air lying at the bottom, creating a vacuum (of sorts) to bring in prana (life force) with a fresh supply of vital oxygen. about this author

deep breathing exercises to invigorate - let your Soul Shine!

Kapalabhati Kriya Yoga Technique:
Benefits, Practice and Tips

Let's look at some benefits of this essential, basic pranayama kriya:

  • Purifies the respiratory system and nasal passages
  • Impurities of the blood are expelled
  • Circulatory system is toned
  • Lung function is enhanced
  • Ability to hold the breath increases
  • Carbon-dioxide is eliminated
  • Tones the abdominal muscles
  • Tones the stomach, heart and liver by vigorous movements of the diaphragm
  • Increases oxygen flow to all cells
  • Increases energy to the head (perspiration increases)
  • Clears the mind (excellent preparation for meditation)
  • Improves concentration

"Pranayama is the link between the mental and physical disciplines. While the action is physical, the effect is to make the mind calm, lucid and steady." - Swami Vishnu-Devananda

"Warmness on the Soul"...Practice and Tips for Kapalabhati

When you practice Kapalabhati you will become very warm. You'll notice a glowing sensation in your head and face. Hence the name "skull shine." It's what I call "Warmness on the Soul," or "Soul Shine." This is one of the deep breathing exercises of yoga that is very powerful, and as I mentioned already, vigorous. It is a portal to the Soul.

I would recommend that you have a skilled teacher assist you when learning any pranayamas, especially this Kriya yoga technique. Kapalabhati is perfomed in a seated posture, such as Easy Pose, Half Lotus or Lotus (which I am demonstrating in the photo at the top of this page). I have taught thousands of yogis and yoginis to do pranayama in a chair. So if you can't sit on the floor you can still practice.

One Round of Kapalabhati:

  • Sitting up straight in your chosen seated asana, take a few rounds of gentle conscious breathing first.
  • Then inhale...and...
  • EXHALE vigorously, pulling your abdominal muscles inward sharply.
  • Repeat that pumping action about 5-15 times, keeping a steady pace.
  • When you feel done with the expulsions (exhales), inhale smoothly and completely, and exhale smoothly and completely.
  • Finally, inhale completely and smoothly, and hold that breath ....... as long as you comfortably can.
  • When you are done holding your breath, exhale comfortably. Sit still and relax. Feel the warmth pervade, feel your "Soul shine" as your head radiates tremendous energy.

Tips for Kapalabhati: The inhale is automatic. On the inhale you will relax your abdomen. It will be silent. Emphasize the exhalation. Remember this Kriya yoga technique is about expelling the air...not taking it in.

Do not force or strain, especially when you are holding your breath. When you are exhaling quickly in these deep breathing exercises, you are contracting the abdominal muscles sharply. That action is raising your diaphragm which is forcing the air out of your lungs. Keep the exhale short and audible. To practice now put your hand up a few inches from your nostrils and blow out. You should feel the warm air on your hand and hear the sound of the breath going out.

Practice a few rounds of the "pumping" at first; maybe 3-5, and see how you feel. Then on the next round try more. When beginning, don't over do it, otherwise your tummy may be a bit sore the next day from too much contracting of your "abs." Practice three rounds the first day… of up to 10-15 pumpings/expulsions each. Gradually work up to 20 exhales...and advanced practitioners up to 60.

Other Tips for Deep Breathing Exercises:

  • Avoid eating at least 2-3 hours before practice.
  • Fresh air is best before sunrise.
  • Avoid cold air as this may stress the lungs.
  • Avoid incense. Keep air clean.
  • Empty bladder and bowels first.
  • Make sure spine is straight; use a cushion.
  • Take a lesson from a qualified teacher.
  • Check with your physician before starting pranayamas.

When you are finished with your rounds of Kapalabhati, this wonderful Kriya yoga technique, continue sitting quietly for a few minutes. You may then lie down on your back and do savasana (yoga relaxation). If you can, stay seated and proceed directly into the meditation method of your choice. With regular practice you will enhance your meditation experience as well as reaping the powerful health benefits of this pranayama.

Write to me if you have a question about the deep breathing exercises of Yoga. I'll answer all inquiries as soon as I can or give you a shout-out on my radio show, so tune-in. As a practitioner and teacher of pranayamas since the '70s, I can vouch for their amazing benefits. The basic Kapalabhati Kriya is a portal to deepening spiritual development. A warmness on the Soul arises...indeed your "Soul shines." Good luck in your purification practice. Om Shanti, and Namasté.

Question about "Soul Shine" Kapalabhati?

Pranayama: Deep Breathing Exercises

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