Kapalabhati – (Frontal Brain Cleansing Breathing)
By Dr. Rita Khanna
“Kapal” is a Sanskrit word; it means forehead / skull and “Bhati” means shine / light. Thus, Kapalbhati means an exercise that makes the skull shine. It also means that Kapalbhati is the practice, which brings a state of light and clarity to the frontal region of the brain with the inner radiance.
Kapalbhati is highly energizing abdominal breathing exercise. Actually, this is a cleansing exercise; it purifies the blood, removes toxins from the body, cleans the nasal passages and removes bronchial congestion. In this Pranayama, complete attention is given to exhalation only and hardly any effort is applied to inhale. Inhalation is mild, slow and longer than the exhalation. Quick exhalation and natural inhalation follows each other. Kapalabhati should be practiced on an empty stomach or three to four hours after a meal.
Sit on the floor in any comfortable and simple posture or if you prefer, sit in a chair. Keep your spine and head erect and the hands on knees. Close the eyes. Make sure the body and mind are relaxed.
Step 1. After taking a comfortable sitting position, take a few deep breaths consciously. See that the diaphragm is moving properly.
During inhalation, the diaphragm descends and the abdomen is pushed out. During exhalation, the diaphragm pushes the lungs up and the abdomen goes toward the spine. This constant up-and-down movement of the diaphragm throws the air in and out.
Step 2. Inhale slowly and comfortably, relaxing the abdomen allowing the air to return gently to the lungs.
Step 3. At the end of each inhalation, exhale rapidly and forcefully through the nostrils by contracting the abdominal muscles quickly with a backward push causing the diaphragm to rise and force the air out of the lungs. This completes one cycle of Kapalabhati exercise.
Repeat this several times slowly (up to 5 rounds of 10 breaths). When you are comfortable, increase this to 20 breaths. Under the guidance of a teacher, you can extend the number of rounds each week. But under no condition should one go beyond one’s capacity.
- It is important that the rapid breathing used in this technique be from the abdomen and not from the chest.
- If you start experiencing any pain or dizziness, stop the practice immediately and sit quietly or just lie down in Shavasana for some time.
- When the sensation has passed, recommence the practice with more awareness and less force. If the problem continues, consult a yoga teacher.
Benefits of Kapalabhati:
- Kapalabhati is the best exercise to stimulate every tissue of the body. It activates, energizes, revitalizes and recharges the entire body. After and during the practice, a peculiar vibration and joy can be felt, especially in the spinal centres. When the vital nerve current is stimulated through this exercise, the entire spine will be like a live wire and one can feel the movement of the nerve current.
- The constant movements of the diaphragm up and down act as a stimulant to the liver, spleen and the abdominal muscles. It balances and strengthens the nervous system, tones the digestive organs and improves digestion. It develops strength and stamina and coordinates the abdominal muscles.
- Kapalabhati Pranayama is especially effective in lowering carbon dioxide (CO2) in the lower parts of the lungs. It cleanses the lungs and entire respiratory system. The blood is purified and body gets an increased supply of oxygen to all cells.
- This is highly effective in controlling illness, allergies, obesity, constipation, diabetes, kidney / prostate / uterus diseases, lung problems and many other diseases. This technique increases the glow on the face of the practitioner.
- On a mental level, it energizes and prepares the mind for meditation by removing laziness and sensory distraction from the mind. It also brings mental clarity and alertness.
- While exhaling, do not use the body force and there should not be any strain or jerk on the muscles of the face. Keep your facial muscles relaxed, especially corner of the lips, nose & eye muscles. Thus, ensure that breathing is very- very slow and the release of the breath is at a great speed. Tensed muscles may cause you epilepsy, high blood pressure & paralysis.
- In this process, shoulders or any other part of the body should not move up and down. Normally when people breathe out, they bend the body to the front from the waist and give a jerk, or shake the shoulders and head violently which would be highly incorrect. Body must be steady and quite peaceful and the face must be pacific.
Although Kapalabhati has tremendous benefits to a practitioner, there are, however, some health conditions in which this breathing technique should not be practiced without supervision. Those suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, vertigo, epilepsy, hernia, gastric ulcer & recent surgery should take advice from a Yoga expert. If any of the above diseases are in an acute form, I would recommend abstaining from Kapalbhati.
Now a question arises in most of our minds. Since this form of pranayaam is taboo for so many physical conditions and it can also have many side effects, how should one go about it? Also is it advisable and safe to learn and practice this form after learning from books or from watching certain TV programmes.
Pranayama is a science & needs to be done with accuracy as also with precautions. As we all have different body structures and varying fitness level, conducting these exercises without pre checking medical conditions can be quite counterproductive & even risky.
I have come across scores of people who have been doing this pranayama in a very wrong manner after learning from TV / DVD / Books. Seeing them, one really felt scared. Not only are they harming themselves, they are also propagating the same to others.
My earnest request to each one is that this pranayama should be done with guidance from qualified & experienced yoga experts.
Always check with your doctor if you have any doubts or concerns regarding the suitability of this breathing technique for you.
Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into his discipline over two decades ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh.
She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients.
At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is teaching Yoga in Secunderabad. She has been treating and curing various diseases and disorders through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy and has been achieving tremendous satisfaction in disseminating this virtue.
From Joseph McNulty
A good set of reading as usual this month (January). Just a few words about the High Blood Pressure (HBP) or Hypertension. I should like to add to the list of advice points.
Of course meditation is a great help. Clinical studies by Wallace and Benson the ground breaking paper on the efficacy of meditation shows clearly that amongst other factors HBP has a definite drop after meditation.
Another point to note is that total abstention from alcohol is essential and of course smoking. It may be of interest to note that after a lifetime of yoga and meditation my blood pressure is measured every year and I have had no medication on this account whatsoever. My blood pressure is 119/68 on average over the year and my doctor concludes it is excellent.
Hence my advice: Yoga and meditation every day of your life and no alcohol or smoking.
Keep up the good work.
Teaching Yoga for Stress Management – Stress Relief for Teenagers
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Yoga practice has realistic solutions for stressed-out teenagers. Young people need to take time out for non-competitive and wholesome activities, such as Yoga. When teens have a chance to explore themselves from within, this is time well spent.
There has never been a time when teenagers were subjected to more stress than right now. Reuters Health reported, “One third of US teens say they feel stressed-out on a daily basis.” This was based upon a study of over 8,000 teens, and young adults, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
For adults who lack compassion, for young people trying to cope in our society, consider this: The leading cause of death in teens and youths, ages 10 to 19 years old, is “teenage suicide.” Stress can place young people at risk. According to the US Department of Justice, “It is estimated that 500,000 teenagers try to kill themselves each year.”
The sources and the reasons for teenage stress, on such a massive scale, are subject to theory, but let’s take a look some of the reasons why so many young adults and teenagers are at risk. Family units are challenged, because many teens live in single parent families.
Parents work so much that “bonding time” is compromised. Peer pressure has always been part of the back drop in finding one’s self as a teenager. Technology also plays a role in pushing teens further than ever before.
Sure they are privileged to have access to so much information, but they also suffer from information overload. On top of this, high expectations are placed on teens for social status, academic performance, athletic performance, performance in the entertainment industry, etc.
So how can Yoga help teens to cope with stress? Regular teen Yoga sessions, or classes, should contain physical posturing (asanas), Yogic breathing (pranayama), laughing, positive affirmations, and learning to create an automatic relaxation response on a daily basis.
Teens must learn to reserve regular “Yoga time” for themselves. Working part-time, studying for SATs, getting a date for a prom, and preparing for college, are part of becoming a young adult, but there needs to be time to constructively “unplug” from all of it. Yoga delivers mental clarity to all practitioners, regardless of age. Teens can learn to pursue one short-term goal at a time. This will make daily life much more manageable. Teens should learn various Yogic relaxation techniques, such as body scanning, stage-by-stage relaxation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health, can be restored by learning to accept oneself, as is. Teens can condition and prepare themselves to realize that they will not be in control of every situation life throws at them. Open discussions with their peers, after a Yoga session, in support groups, teen meetings, after school activities, or a public speaking class, will strengthen teen social skills and character.
There is a huge demand for teen stress management services, and Yoga teachers are sitting on a multitude of solutions for teens and their families. The reason is simple: Teens are at risk because of internal and external pressure.
This may seem like it is nothing new to most parents, but according to a survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), at Columbia University, teens are more likely to resort to illegal drugs or alcohol, due to high levels of stress.
Again, this should come as no surprise to adults, as the adult behavior is identical. Many adults use illegal drugs or alcohol, due to excessive stress. Teens will naturally copy familiar adult examples, which they have observed, over time.
On another note: If young celebrities, and professional athletes, are abusing themselves, why should we expect teens to be any different? These are who our children perceive to be role models.
The television is no longer a reliable “babysitter,” for young children or teens. Parents are challenged to censor entertainment, and become better examples than traditional role models. This comes at a time, when many middle-class parents may be working two jobs each, just to make ends meet.
What difference can Yoga make in the daily lives of teens? One major difference is bonding time with family and parents. Many families do not eat their meals together. This turns contemporary families into strangers, who live in the same home. From the time a child is born, there is a need to develop solid relationships, with the rest of the family unit.
If relationships within the family have become strained, due to divorce, separation, death, fighting, or illness, there is still time for mending family ties. Professional counseling should be a consideration, as well as, participation in non-competitive activities. This is where Yoga can fit into the family’s weekly schedule. When families make an appointment to practice Yoga together, this will solidify the individual relationships within.
Yoga teachers and studios should run workshops or surveys to monitor local demand for family, teen, kids, or “mommy and me” Yoga classes. These classes make a difference in your community and will save the lives of “at risk teens.”
For parents who are seeking family-oriented classes, but cannot find them in their area, they can learn what they need to know from local Yoga teachers. If this is not possible, learn to develop a safe practice from Yoga books, videos, and courses. Your children can learn with you, as there are a number of videos and books designed for their age. Make sure that safety is your primary concern, and you will enjoy your bonding time.
© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications