Pranayama Basics II: Kapalabhati or skull lights

Handkerchiefs within reach! This is the first rule for Kapalabhati.

Kapa … what?

Kapalabhati is a great breathing exercise that I now practice daily. The name Kapalabhati comes from Sanskrit. “Kapala” is the skull and “Bhati” means lights or sparkles. So, with this exercise, we can make our “skull shine”, as we guide the mind up to the head with the conscious control of the breath prana in the body. According to the ancient scriptures, our inner light shines through the skull, allowing yogis to merge with the sky.

Actually Kapalabhati belongs to the Shatkarma Kriya , the six yogic cleansing exercises . With the exercise, we can cleanse the entire respiratory system and strengthen and activate the liver, spleen and pancreas and respiratory muscles. But Kapalabhati also has a great effect on our mental state: it provides clarity, silencing babbling thoughts and also awakens the whole organism.

How to Kapalabhati

  1. First breathe in an upright seat a few times very deeply and fully in and out. Put a hand on the upper stomach. Then breathe comfortably, so do not get full of air.
  2. Push the air over the nose powerfully and pull the diaphragm up and in. (It’s almost as if you were snorting your nose.) The stomach goes in and out and the ribs sink down.
  3. A short inhalation follows automatically, you do not need to pay attention to it. She comes by herself and the belly goes back to its starting position.
  4. Exploit the breath 20- 50 times powerfully. That’s a round. You can set the pace yourself, but it should not be too slow, so that the inhalation is only short and passive. Experienced yogis can increase over time with 100 breaths.
  5. Meanwhile, make sure that only your abs work. Everything else (especially the forehead wrinkles!) Should remain completely relaxed.
  6. After each round you exhale the air completely, breathe again and then hold the breath for a short moment (Antar Kumbhaka). Feel into the newly created vastness in you and then breathe out deeply and completely again. Alternatively, you can hold the breathing space in the breath after exhaling (Bahya Kumbaka).
  7. You can practice Kapalabhati for several laps, but make small breaks in between. The length and number of rounds you can increase after a little practice time, piece by piece.
  8. Attention handkerchief alarm! It may well be that Kapalabhati directly cleanses the nose. Just have a handkerchief ready and let go.

What brings Kapalabhati?

The pranayamas, which emphasize exhalation, usually have a calming effect. Kapalabhati vitalizes, but above all makes the mind very light and clear. So one experiences a deep rest through the breathing exercise. That’s why Kapalabhati is not only well suited for Asana practice, but also for meditation. But the exercise is also great in stressful moments when the brain is completely flooded. Kapalabhati makes room here again.

That’s why Kapalabhati should not be missing in my morning yoga program. Most of the time I clean my nose with salt water ( Jala Neti ) to feel the cleansing effect of Kapalabhati better. After a few laps at the latest, I am alert and calm at the same time. Ready for the day, whatever may come.

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