Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kapalabhati & Bhastrika Breathing

Bhastrika means a bellows used in a furnace. Here the air is forcibly drawn in and out as in a blacksmith's bellows. Hence the name.

The process or kriya of Kapalabhati (kapala=skull; bhati=light, lustre) is a milder form of Bhastrika Pranayama.  In Kapalabhati, the inhalation is slow but the exhalation is vigorous.  There is a split second of retention after each exhalation.  Do a few cycles of kapalabhati instead of Bhastrika if the latter breathing proves too strenuous.

Kapalabhati breathing exercise purifies the nasal passage and the lungs, helping the body to eliminate large quantities of carbon dioxide and other impurities.  The added intake of oxygen enriches the blood and renews body tissues, while the movement of the diaphragm massages the stomach, liver and pancreas.


Both Bhastrika and Kapalabhati activate and invigorate the liver, spleen, pancreas and abdominal muscles.  Thus digestion is improved, the sinuses are drained, the eyes feel cool and one has a general sense of exhilaration.

  • As a locomotive engine is stoked with coal to generate steam to pull the train, so Bhastrika generates prana to activate the entire body.  Too much stoking burns out the boiler of the engine.  So also too long a practice of Bhastrika wears out the system as the breathing process is forceful.
  • Persons with a weak constitution and poor lung capacity should not attempt Bhastrika or Kapalabhati.
  •  Those suffering from ear or eye complaints (pus in the ear, detachment of the retina or glaucoma) should not attempt them either.
  • Nor should persons with high or low  blood pressure.
  • If the nose starts to bleed or the ears to throb and ache, immediately stop Bhastrika or Kapalabhati.  Do not practise either for some time.

Source from Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
                Yoga Mind & Body by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre

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