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Kapalbhati

(Kapal = forehead, Bhati – shine/light) A cleansing process, which makes your forehead shine

“Kapalbhati” is a very popular practice among yoga practitioners. Kapalbhati is the last of the Shatkrama, a cleansing process, which cleanses the frontal sinus and makes your forehead shine.

Method

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Step 1: Assume any comfortable sitting position. Relax your body completely while at the same time, maintain the neutral position of the spine. To maintain a neutral position of the spine, slightly tuck your abdomen in to fix your hips on the floor and raise your spine in the air while keeping your hips fixed on the floor. Make sure there is no depression at the lower back.

Step 2: Take few deep breaths. Inhale and slightly elevate your chest up. Maintaining the chest in elevated position, exhale multiple times.

Step 3: In kapalbhati, you only exhale and do not make an effort to inhale. Inhalation occurs passively. The breath is forcefully expelled from the lungs by contracting the abdominal muscles. Hence, make sure that the whole process of exhalation is taking place from the  abdominal region and not the chest. Chest movement should be minimized.

Step 4: Kapalbhati increases sympathetic tone in the beginning which is then followed by parasympathetic dominance and that is how after continuous forceful expulsion, one feels great relaxation.

After Kapalbhati Effect: Regular practitioners of Kapalbhati swear by the experience they come across once the Kapalbhati practice is over. Perform Kapalbhati in the right manner and without pushing yourself beyond your limit. Once you stop, remain calm. Concentrate on your breathing. Just be an observer & you will feel that you have reached the stage called, “Breath Retention” meaning there is no need for inhalation & exhalation at all and this happens automatically. You may also feel vibrations around your nose and face.

How Many Expulsions?

A very common question, which is generally asked is, “how many expulsions at one go”?  Different schools of yoga have different recommendations when it comes to the number of expulsions.

As a beginner, the best thing is to get a base by checking the number of expulsions that can happen at one go comfortably. Say one is comfortable with 20 exhalations. So that should form the base. Perform 2-3 rounds. 

Gradually, increase the number of expulsions with regular practice. At any given time, try to perform within the limit only.

The standard frequency of expulsions in kapalbhati is 120 times per minute and at this speed, the practice of kapalbhati for half to one minute is sufficient.

With regular practice, one can gradually reach a higher number of expulsions.

Benefits

  • Respiratory: Kapalbhati helps cleanse the respiratory system.
  • Cold & Cough: Kapalbhati is a good remedy for functional cold & cough.
  • Asthma, Bronchitis & Tuberculosis: Kapalbhati cleanses the lungs and improves its elasticity. It also makes oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange sufficient. Regular practice of Kapalbhati (not during the attack) makes the respiratory system strong.
  • Digestive System: Gives good massage to the abdominal cavity, tones up that area and helps in Digestion.
  • Facial Beauty: Brings oxygen rich blood on face thereby increasing facial glow and bringing natural facial massage.
  • Endurance / Aerobic: (Runners / Swimmers / Cyclists)


Kapalbhati increases Minute Ventilation from 7.5 liters per minute to 20.5 liters per minute (minute Ventilation refers to the amount of air reaching lungs each minute).
Kapalbhati definitely increases oxygen consumption by 10-35%. However, the important point to note here is that it reduces carbon dioxide from the blood in larger quantity. In fact, there comes a stage when there is zero carbon oxide and that is the time when “Breath Retention” takes place.
Aerobic athletes can gauge the kind of performance they can get with regular practice of Kapalbhati.

Contraindications

  • Kapalbhati increases the heartbeat by 15-20 counts and systolic blood pressure by 7-10 mm Hg. Hence, people with high blood pressure, vertigo, hernia and heart problem are not recommended to perform Kapalbhati.
  • Person with blocked nostril should avoid this.
  • One may feel low back pain if the neutrality of the spine is not maintained throughout the practice.
  • If you feel dizziness, it means you are breathing too forcefully so relax for few moments and restart. 
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