Kapala means “skull” and Bhati means “to shine”. It is one of the six purification exercises known to Hatha-Yoga. The object is to purify the channels inside the nose in addition to all the other parts of the respiratory system, thus allowing the brain to be cleared as well.
Precaution while doing it:
Those in good health may perform this exercise, but those suffering from pulmonary or cardiac disorders should only undertake it under the guidance of experienced teachers of Yoga. All those who practice it should, in any case, stop at the slightest sign of fatigue.
Kapalbhati is a respiratory exercise for the abdomen and diaphragm (to be performed sitting either in the lotus position or simply cross-legged, with hands on knees). In other exercises, the accent has been on inhalation, retention and exhalation; but here, in Kapalbhati, it is solely on exhalation.
It is the only exercise that does not require deep breathing. Once the thoracic cage is expanded, it does not move, only the diaphragm and abdominal muscles do. The air filling the thoracic cage is expelled without pause in continuous, rapid jerks. One should start with 5 to 7 such jerks, but these may subsequently be increased, according to the individual’s capacity.
This exercise enables us to eliminate a large quantity of toxins contained in the body, by filling the blood with oxygen and purifying the tissues and nerves. This Pranayama clears the nasal cavities and lungs. It is a remedy against deficiencies in the lymphatic system, and mucus in the nose and lungs.
The exercise brings relief from asthma and tones up the body. It fortifies the salivary glands and expels bacteria that have penetrated into the nose. The solar plexus is recharged with vital energy, the circulation and digestive system function more efficiently. The exercise also helps develop the powers of concentration.
The distinctive feature of this Pranayama is that the glottis is half-closed, producing a low continuous sound throughout the breathing exercise.
Technique: The Padmasana, Siddhasana or cross-legged position is adopted (can also performed while standing).
Once the breath contained in the lungs has been completely exhaled, the glottis is partially closed and air inhaled through both nostrils, while expanding the thoracic cage.
The abdominal muscles must be kept under control and contracted slightly throughout inhalation. The air should then be exhaled while the glottis is kept half-closed and the abdominal muscles contracted tighter and tighter, until the lungs are completely empty and the thoracic cage sunk inwards.
Digestive and pulmonary complications (like: indigestion, coughing, etc) may be avoided by the practice of this exercise. When performed daily, this Ujjayi has both preventive and curative influence. By increasing the vitality, it strengthens both the circulatory and the nervous system.
Low blood pressure is raised to a normal level; the endocrine glands (especially the thyroid) are greatly stimulated. When practiced under supervision, the exercise is ideal for those suffering from high blood pressure and coronary disorders.