Kapalabhati (“shining skull”) is a yoga technique that helps to clear the sinuses, coordinate breathing, and improve the tone of your diaphragm and your abdominals. Though some yogis consider kapalabhati a pranayama technique (that is, a breathing technique that will direct the body’s energetic flow), it is more commonly understood as akriya,or cleansing technique.
Kapalabhati is performed by directing a short, sharp exhale through the nose, and then allowing the inhale to occur passively. The exhale is assisting by the lifting in and up of the abdominal wall. The abdominals then relax as the breath drops back in.
Steps to Kapalabhati:
- Grab a tissue! Blow your nose first to clear any mucus and congestion.
- Find a tall seat, positioning your rib cage over your pelvis. Good alignment will help the diaphragm (the primary muscle of respiration) to work well. Relax the face, neck, throat, jaw, and shoulders.
- Inhale naturally.
- Exhale completely.
- Inhale halfway.
- Exhale sharply through the nose by drawing the abdominal wall in and up.
- Allow the inhale to drop in.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
Start with a slow pace until you feel that you can gracefully and easefully coordinate the inhalation and exhalation (starting with one breath every 1-2 seconds is usually appropriate). Over time, you may increase the pace of your exhales (2 breaths every second) and increase your repetitions (up to fifty). However, you should never feel anxious, light-headed, or panicky during the practice. If you do, stop and take a few, slow natural breaths until your body settles.
Start slowly, and enjoy the practice!
A yogi, writer, and educational designer, Rachel loves helping others explore and express their passion and potential. As a designer, she helps studios and yoga teachers create their dream teacher trainings. As a writer and speaker, she continually wrestles with the juicy bits of life: relationships, anxiety, depression, and discovering meaning in this crazy, wildish world. Author: Wit and Wisdom from the Yoga Mat, Head Over Heels: A Yogi's Guide To Dating. E-RYT 500, YACEP, MFA, MSci. Meet her at Rachelyoga.com.