Kapalbhati Pranayama: Steps, Benefits & Precautions

We normally inhale 500 ml of air & approximately exhale the same volume in one breath 1. What special in Kapalbhati breathing is, it increases the amount of air lungs expel in every breath.

Exhaling breath is actually the process of detoxification & cool down the brain from hot gases. So, with longer exhalation, you can expel a larger amount of CO2 (a stressor gas) & other impurities out of your body.

During kapalbhati pranayama, we expel 100 ml extra (600 ml) air as compared to normal breathing. This practice is very helpful for Shallow/Chest breathing 2.

What is Kapalbhati?

Kapalbhati is a yogic technique in which belly intentionally draws in to produce forced & sharp (active) exhalations through nostrils followed by automatic passive inhalations.

When pranayama added in Kapalbhati, it becomes a practice to consciously watch your breath and movements of inner organs while Prana drawing in and out of the body.

Although, In Hatha yoga pradipika, kapalbhati’s picture depicts like this so it’s also called “breath of fire“.

Perform exhalation and inhalation rapidly like the bellows (of a blacksmith). This is called kapalbhati and it destroys all mucus disorders.

Kapalbhati is one of 6 Yogic kriyas (Shatkarma) mentioned in ancient yogic text Gheranda Samhita.
Kapalbhati is for purification of the head region

What is the meaning of Kapalbhati?

Sanskrit word kapalbhati is the made up of ‘Kapal’ & ‘Bhati’. Kapal means ‘Skull or Frontal head‘ & Bhati means ‘Shinning‘.

Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama

1. Massages the Brain & Hence Control Stress Response
Kapalabhati is a reversible process of normal breathing & hence, as compare to usual breath it affects in the brain different way.

According to a Belgian yoga instructor Andre Van Lysebeth,3 During normal breathing fluid around the brain is compressed and so that brain contracts.

Scientific Explanation
Rapid or active exhalation of kapalbhati creates a pressure difference in the belly 4. The belly pressure reduces the permeability of inhaling air which further makes the effect of exhaling air twice strong.

On an exhalation of Kapalbhati, fluid around our brain (Cerebrospinal Fluid) decompressed. The way massage therapy works on cerebrospinal fluid 5, the same way rapid exhalation of kapalbhati function. This is called the massaging effect of kapalbhati on the brain.

The massaging effect helps the brain to calm and relax even in adverse conditions, which is a controlled stress response.

2. Strengthen Respiratory Muscles & Avoid Asthma, Lung Cancer Like Diseases
In normal breathing, we rarely fully optimize our respiratory organs because of shallow breathing. Kapalbhati is like a warm-up exercise for respiratory organs that utilize maximum muscles in the breathing process. Thus, kapalbhati breathing strengthens the respiratory muscles.

Further, when your respiratory muscles are strong enough, this makes the system efficient to avoid any respiratory diseases like Asthma, lung cancer, & COPD.

Scientific Study
To assess the effect of kapalbhati pranayama on the respiratory system, peak expiratory flow rate measured 6 in adults.

In this study, 60 subjects randomized into 2 trail groups, namely pranayama (n=30) and control groups (n=30). Control group subjects haven’t participated in kapalbhati while to pranayama group supervised training was given. Peak expiratory flow rate in both group’s subjects measured before & after the 6 weeks.

In kapalbhati pranayama group, the highest value of expiration recorded at the end of 6 weeks was around 300-350 M/L and in the control group, it was around 200-250 L\M.

This study shows that regular practice of kapalbhati pranayama makes your respiratory organs work more efficiently & hence strengthens its muscles.

3. Helps in Getting Glowing Skin by Purification of Blood
Our skin color depends upon a pigment called melanin 7. For glowing skin, melanin should present in a balanced proportion in the organs. Its availability can be easily regulated by the oxygen flowing in the blood.

Scientific Explanation
So simply, If you want glowing skin, there must be better oxygenation of blood flowing through your veins. More oxygenation means better your skin tissue revival will be, which makes skin glow 8.

Regular & consistent practice of kapalbhati increases the circulation of oxygen-rich blood in the body. This blood helps to cure acne, wrinkles, dark circles, and other skin disorders completely.

Kapalbhati becomes more beneficial for glowing skin when it’s practiced in conjunction with Varun mudra (gesture of water). Sufficiency of water comes through this yoga mudra nourishes the dry skin & makes skin glow.

Different impurities present in our blood cells are also the cause of dull, blotchy, and lackluster skin. Rapid strokes of kapalbhati pull out these impurities in the form of CO2. Hence, kapalbhati stimulates cellular regeneration to bring back skin’s natural glow.

4. Prevents Hair Loss & Improves Hair Growth
The common cause of hair loss could be pregnancy, menopause, thyroid, stressful experience, depression & high blood pressure. Among all the cases, most of the time it happens because of limited or restricted supply of oxygen to the scalp.

In kapalbhati pranayama, by short & forceful exhalation, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the head area (or scalp) gets increased. This is the same as the massaging effect of kapalbhati.

Massaging effect stimulates the secretion of pituitary and thyroid glands. On secretion of these hormones, a better connection gets established between our skin & the hair. In this way, kapalbhati can prevent hair loss & helps in the growth of new hair.

5. Helps in Weight Loss
Excess fat accumulated in the body has become a problem in general in today’s era. You can imagine from this statistic only, 70 million adults in the U.S are obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2) 9.

Kapalbhati’s mechanism of rapid exhalation, one after another, let you expel out extra accumulated fat from your body. In this way, kapalbhati is considered a purificatory exercise (Shuddhi Kriya/Shatkarma) rather than just a Pranayam.

To understand how kapalbhati works for weight loss, one can easily relate Kapalbhati with any other physical workout. The way any physical exercise increases our metabolic rate 10 the same does the kapalbhati. This increased metabolism is a key that decides how fast our body will process the raw food & convert it into energy our cells need. This increases calorie consumption and further, decrease in fat deposition.

Hence, in simple words, it can be understood by increasing metabolic rate, kapalbhati helps in weight loss.

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