Pump yourself up and freshen your mind using just the power of your breath. With this video you will basically be using AIR in order to create HEAT in order to experience your own brightness before you walk out the door in the morning.  

DON’T DO THIS BREATHING PRACTICE IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR THINK YOU MIGHT BE.

This breathing practice is called KAPALABHATI. Kapal means “skull” and and “bhati” means  to shine, so it translates to “skull shining” practice. Kapalabhati is a “kriya” or cleansing practice that purifies your body by emphasizing on the exhale of the breath. It’s the kind of breath that you would do when you blow your nose: short sharp exhales through the nose, with the mouth closed. The inhale will happen as a natural rebound of the exhale, but there is no need to focus on the inhale. You will focus on the exhale which is the opposite of the tendency most of us have: the need and attachment to draw things towards us. In a way, kapalabhati can be seen as a technique to help us let go.

Kapalabhati also has a warming effect on the body which is why it’s recommended that you do it before you start your day or before asana practice.

How to do kapalabhati:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, with a relatively straight back. Place your left hand on your abdomen.
  2. Inhale and feel your abdomen expanding out. Exhale feel it moving in. Now keep exhale and contract your stomach, feel the abdominal muscles squeezing in each other then relax them
  3. Now squeeze abdominal muscles again – squeeze, squeeze – and exhale every last bit of air out. Without trying to inhale release abdominal muscles. Do you notice how the inhale comes automatically? Do you feel that action happening without you doing anything? It’s a vacuum. So when you release the muscles, the diaphragm drops down, pulls on the lungs like an accordion drawing air into them.
  4. Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand in front of the nose and a little bit down. Inhale and exhale sharply into the hand in front of the nostrils (as if you were blowing your nose). See how far away from the nose you can move your hand and feel the exhale breath striking it.
  5. Now inhale fully, and exhale. Inhale to a comfortable position and exhale sharply through the nose.  START with the 3 rounds of short sharp exhales through the nose. The first round you will count to 21 breaths, the second round to 36, and the third one to 50. If this is too much, you can start with 10 breaths, then 20, and then 20 again.

Why practice kapalabhati?

  • Cleans/polishes your nasal passages: moves dust, excess mucus and other foreign matter out of the nasal passages. What happens is that your nose humidifies the air (making it moist) and so when the air strikes up and comes out, it has the same effect on the nasal passages as the water in a river would have on a rock over time – it polishes it.
  • Energize and bring clarity: the short sharp exhales pump the diaphragm up, brining energy up, awakening the dormant centers of the brain. Due to the proximity of the nasal passages to the brain, this type of breathing is said to have a powerful effect on the mind and purifies it.
  • Shine your skull: you are literally shining the skull, by allowing a halo or special kind of light to come out of you. Your brightness emerges; you can experience this if you put your attention to it.
  • Reverse our habitual pattern of favoring the inhale over the exhale. We tend to believe that it is in taking things in and holding on to these (grasping them) that we stay happy in life.  By emphasizing the out-breath, we are able to let go and renounce to this pattern; it confirms our willingness to let go of this tendency.
  • Crack your heart open: with every exhale, the diaphragm moves up and knocks at the door of your heart. You can even see this as a practice of breaking your heart a little more open with every breath.
  • Rise up to your highest Self: move the small self and lift it up with the help of the air towards the higher Self.

Common tendencies in Kapalabhati to be aware of:

  • Don’t bring your shoulders up to your ears, that is, don’t exhale with your shoulders, moving them up and down. Keep them at a comfortable place.
  • Don’t squeeze your face, don’t frown!
  • Don’t slouch. Slouching doesn’t allow the full movement of the diaphragm to go up and down.
  • Don’t breathe through the mouth. Keep your mouth closed for once! You’ll thank me for it 🙂
  • Don’t focus on the ingale: inhaling too much can lead to hyperventilation or over-breathing which can make you feel panicked. So focus on the exhale!

Finally, just remember that Kapalabhati is all about the out-breath: the inhale is very small and exhale is very forceful.

Head of Video: Tina Rosh DP: Paul Terrie

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