Yoga originated in ancient India and has been a part of our culture since then. It is a set of physical, spiritual, and mental exercises that are practised for our well-being. It has now become popular as a form of physical exercise in the west, too. Yoga reduces stress and promotes good physical health and mental well-being. Kapalbhati Pranayam or Pranayama is a popular yoga asana. Read on to know all about it.
Kapalbhati Pranayam is a type of breathing exercise which promotes overall well-being and good health. ‘Kapalbhati’ means ‘shining forehead’ in Sanskrit and ‘Pranayam’ means ‘breathing exercise’. It is named so because practising Kapalbhati is said to improve mental health and intellect. It is a yoga technique where you sit in a particular pose and do breathing exercises.
Types of Kapalbhati Pranayama
There are 3 types of Kapalbhati Pranayam:
In this type of Kapalbhati Pranayama, we sit cross-legged on the floor and breathe. In this form of Pranayama, your inhalation should be passive and exhalation active.
In this Kapalbhati technique, you need to sniff in water in through your nostrils, let it go into your mouth and then spit it out.
This Kapalbhati technique is the opposite of the Vyutkrama. You take water in through your mouth and expel it via your nostrils.
Kapalbhati has numerous benefits for your body and mind. Some of them are as follows:
Kapalbhati has numerous health benefits and can remedy various ailments.
The benefits for Kapalbhati for diabetes include lowering of blood sugar by stimulating the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin and reduction of stress, which is a significant barrier to effective blood sugar control.
The benefits of Kapalbhati for weight loss include reducing abdominal fat, toning abdominal muscles, and increasing core abdominal strength. Kapalbhati thus helps in fighting obesity.
Practising Kapalbhati regularly can also provide relief from constipation. This is a problem for many people across all age groups. Bad eating habits, not staying hydrated, and other health conditions cause constipation. Practising Kapalbhati can alleviate constipation and doing this for 3 to 5 minutes every day can remedy constipation within one week.
Kapalbhati Pranayama can improve your immune system and your ability to fight disease-causing microbes.
The benefits of Kapalbhati breathing for healthy hair are:
It prevents hair loss by increasing the blood flow to the scalp and strengthening the hair roots.
Kapalbhati exercise also prevents premature greying of hair.
Kapalbhati is really simple to learn and practice. Any certified yoga expert can teach you how to practice this breathing technique. The steps to do Kapalbhati pranayama are as follows
Sit cross-legged on the floor. Place your hands on your knees with your palms facing upwards. Now fold your index fingers of both the hands such that their tips touch the tips of your thumbs.
Inhale deeply and calmly with both nostrils the until your lungs are filled with air. Focus on your abdominal region while doing this.
Pull in your stomach such that you bring your navel as close as possible to your spine. You can place your right hand on your abdomen to feel the muscles contracting. Now relax from this contraction and exhale rapidly and forcefully in a short burst and follow this up with an automatic, immediate inhalation. As you release your abdomen, you will be able to feel your lungs filling up with air.
Repeat this breathing exercise 20 times. Rest for a while after this in the same pose and meditate silently. You can do another round after resting for five to ten minutes.
Although Kapalbhati has many benefits, it can have certain side effects too in some people, and therefore, you should consult a yoga expert and your doctor before performing Kapalbhati. Some of the side effects that may be caused by Kapalbhati are:
Kapalbhati pranayama rejuvenates and heals both the body and mind. This breathing exercise has the power to cure several ailments. However, this yoga technique should be practised with care, and there are several precautions that you must take while doing Kapalbhati:
If you are a beginner and are aged 40 or above, you must do one exhalation stroke per second when performing Kapalbhati pranayama. Younger people can do two exhalation strokes per second. If you have been doing Kapalbhati for at least a year, and are younger than 40, you can attempt more than two strokes per second.
It is ideal to practice Kapalbhati early in the morning on an empty stomach.
Do not attempt Kapalbhati without learning how it is done. First get a health check-up done to ensure that you are fit enough to practice Kapalbhati. After you get the go-ahead from your doctor, learn the technique from a certified yoga expert and practitioner.
Avoid doing Kapalbhati if you have your menstrual period. Pregnant women should also avoid doing Kapalbhati as forcefully contracting the abdominal muscles can harm the unborn baby.
If you suffer from heart diseases, exhale really slow.
People who have high blood pressure should not increase their rate of Kapalbhati. Stick with a lower rate, like one stroke per second.
Kapalbhati may aggravate ulcers. So if you have ulcers, be careful while practising the technique and check with your doctor as well as your yoga teacher whether it is safe for you.
If you have a slipped disc, you should not do Kapalbhati. People who have stents placed in their blood vessels should also avoid doing Kapalbhati pranayama.
People suffering from respiratory problems like asthma, wheezing or bronchitis should be careful while doing the breathing exercises.
Before practising Kapalbhati, you should learn basic pranayama techniques and become proficient in them. This is because Kapalbhati is an advanced pranayama technique and trying this without proper knowledge can do more harm than good.