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Kapalbhati is a pranayama technique, which involves the modulation of the breath, also known as the ‘prana’ in Sanskrit. It is a yogic practice, which is considered an internal purification technique. It is derived from the words ‘kapal’ meaning skull, and ‘bhati’ meaning to shine, which implies that it is a purifying and energy releasing technique.

The main function of kapalbhati is to cleanse internal organs and improve metabolism. But, it has several other benefits which will be discussed in this article along with the correct steps of this technique.

  1. Kapalbhati precautions
  2. Kapalbhati benefits
  3. Kapalbhati steps

Kapalbhati technique, though, generally safe must not be begun without the supervision of a trained expert. Beginners must avoid straining while performing this exercise, and individuals affected by the following conditions or disorders must refrain from its practice:

It is equally essential to note that you must not perform this exercise if you experience fatigue, blurred vision or nausea. A single study has also reported a risk of pneumothorax due to the practice of kapalbhati, so, sufficient care must be taken.

By aiding in the purification of the frontal air sinuses and by increasing the levels of body energy and heat, kapalbhati has several; benefits, which have been discussed below.

  1. Kapalbhati for digestion
  2. Kapalbhati for cardiovascular health
  3. Kapalbhati for weight loss
  4. Kapalbhati for the prevention of polycystic ovarian disease
  5. Kapalbhati benefits for the skin
  6. Kapalbhati for better respiration
  7. Kapalbhati for stress reduction and mental health

Kapalbhati for digestion

As it aids in the flushing of toxins, kapalbhati has an obvious role in the process of digestion and elimination. It has been recognised to tone the muscles of the digestive system. Further, a 2013 study suggested a possible role of kapalbhati pranayama technique in the management of gastroesophageal reflux disorder or GERD. This study determined that kapalbhati combined with the medicinal treatment of GERD was far more efficacious than just the conventional treatment for the management of severe cases.

Kapalbhati for cardiovascular health

Stress has a significant role in the pathogenesis of hypertension by causing a repeated elevation in the levels of blood pressure, which ultimately causes this condition. By facilitating the elimination of stress, the kapalbhati technique has the potential to lower blood pressure.

Hypertension, which further increases the risk of several cardiovascular disorders like heart attackcoronary artery diseases, etc and cerebrovascular diseases like stroke, is best managed at the earliest. So, this technique has been suggested to be used as an adjuvant to conventional medicine for the procurement of best cardiovascular health.

Kapalbhati for weight loss

Kapalbhati pranayama has immense potential for weight loss. This notion has been supported by a clinical study involving 60 overweight participants. This study reported a significant reduction in BMI (body mass index) and the thickness of the abdominal fold with regular practice of kapalbhati pranayama. A significant reduction in the circumference of the waist and the hip was also reported. These findings suggest that kapalbhati could be used in the management of obesity along with a balanced diet and exercise.

Kapalbhati for the prevention of polycystic ovarian disease

Polycystic ovarian disease or PCOD is known to affect a large number of women worldwide. Some studies have suggested the role of kapalbhati pranayama in the management of PCOD but the evidence is limited. A possible mechanism by which kapalbhati may aid in its management is through the process of weight loss. Since obesity is a major risk factor for this disorder, kapalbhati may prove to be helpful.

Kapalbhati benefits for the skin

As evident by the name, kapalbhati is a yogic technique which helps in providing a natural shine or glow to your skin by enabling the flushing of body toxins. This helps in keeping your skin youthful, vibrant and glowing for an eternity. Other than this, kapalbhati also helps in rejuvenating the energy levels of the body, which is another mechanism by which it helps you in feeling more youthful.

Kapalbhati for better respiration

By aiding in the clearance of frontal sinuses, kapalbhati profusely helps in a better respiration. So, it is often used for the treatment of coldcough, rhinitis, sinusitisasthma and other respiratory disorders. In fact, a recent study found that kapalbhati may assist in the management of tuberculosis along with the conventional anti-tuberculosis treatment of the patient. However, it is not recommended to perform this technique in a diseased state unless so prescribed. On the other hand, this technique is largely recommended in healthy subjects for the prevention of respiratory disorders.

Kapalbhati for stress reduction and mental health

Like several pranayama techniques, kapalbhati aids in stress alleviation by enabling the mind to be in the ‘moment of the present’. This has been proved by a recent study conducted on healthy subjects, who demonstrated a lower perceived stress scale with the practice of this technique. So, kapalbhati may be an excellent exercise for those suffering from chronic stress.

Other than this, the practice of kapalbhati is also known to improve the overall functioning of the brain. A recent study conducted to study the effects of kapalbhati pranayama on visual reaction time concluded that it helps in enhancing this function when combined with eye exercises.

This implies that the time with which you react to a visual stimulus will be reduced with the help of kapalbhati technique. A reduction in the visual reaction time will also warrant an improvement in the level of concentration. All these benefits of this technique suggest that it must be immensely practised by scholars.

Follow these steps to correctly perform kapalbhati pranayama at your home:

  • Sit in a comfortable meditation position.
  • Close your eyes and relax.
  • Now, inhale deeply through your nose until your chest expands.
  • Expel this inhaled gush of air by performing forceful contractions of the abdominal muscles.
  • Continue forceful exhalation and passive inhalation for up to 40 cycles.
  • Now, take a deep breath completing one cycle of kapalbhati.
  • Perform 2 more rounds.

As beginners, it may not be able to achieve a cycle of 40 breaths in one round, so, you may aim for 10. You may also note that it is important to not strain yourself while performing this technique and it is the best to perform under the guidance of a trained expert.

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References

  1. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. NTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA Common Yoga Protocol. [Internet]
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  3. P. Shyam karthik et al. Effect of Pranayama and Suryanamaskar on Pulmonary Functions in Medical Students . J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Dec; 8(12): BC04–BC06. PMID: 25653936
  4. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:54-62. PMID: 19735239
  5. Vivek Kumar Sharma et al. Effect of fast and slow pranayama on perceived stress and cardiovascular parameters in young health-care students . Int J Yoga. 2013 Jul-Dec; 6(2): 104–110. PMID: 23930028
  6. Nitin B. Gosewade et al. Effect of Various Eye Exercise Techniques along with Pranayama on Visual Reaction Time: A Case Control Study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2013 Sep; 7(9): 1870–1873. PMID: 24179885
  7. Dharmesh Kaswala et al. Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? Int J Yoga. 2013 Jul-Dec; 6(2): 131–133. PMID: 23930033
  8. Kulkarni S et al. Stress and hypertension. WMJ. 1998 Dec;97(11):34-8. PMID: 9894438
  9. Stancák A Jr et al. Kapalabhati--yogic cleansing exercise. I. Cardiovascular and respiratory changes. Homeost Health Dis. 1991;33(3):126-34. PMID: 1818666