Kapalabhati- a Pranayama, Kriya and Spiritual Practice – Pranayama @ www.rishikeshyogsansthan.com

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The books on Yoga techniques defined “Kapalbhati” as “Pranayama” (manipulation of breath) and a “Kriya” as “Shatkriya” (cleansing technique). As per “Patanjali Yoga sutras”, it comes under the techniques leads to spontaneous stoppage of breath. Among these view,s Patanjali brought the concept as clear as later texts. Modern medicine defines the absolute muscle tiredness as fatigue after an intense work with less fuel. But this state allows the autonomic parts like cardiac (heart) muscle, smooth (blood vessels, stomach, intestine) muscles to react. Hence there is the chance to observe the involuntary functions easily if the person is emotionally strong. This emotional strength represents the “Pratyahara” (withdrawal of breathing sense at required times). Less oxygen to the brain reduces the thought process, lightheadedness, near faint state. So, Kapalabhati is a Pratyahara practice. All these physiological events lead to clarity of mind which can project through the eyes and also the way of conduct, the name given as “Kapala” means frontal skull and “Bhati” means shining.

Stoppage of breath is unnatural but recovers in a few seconds by triggering the respiratory center through chemoreceptor and baroreceptor function. Gaining Mastery on involuntary parts is the eligibility to feel the subtle body. Thus the practitioner can move towards the understanding of own mind easily and perform “Samyama” effortlessly. Powers will be possible as mentioned in the 3rd chapter of Patanjali yoga sutras. This view gives another effect of Kapalabhati as Spiritual practice.

Teaching Methodology:

  1. Patanjali Yoga Sutras (PYS)

The first English commentary was done in 1893. Pranayama was placed at the 4th step and the journey ends with Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.

  1. Ghernda Samhita

The first English translation was done in 1914-15 by Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra Vasu. Pranayama was placed at the 5th step and the journey ends with Dhyana, Samadhi.

  1. Satyananda Saraswati (1969): TTC includes techniques with the flexible position for Pranayamas.

Teaching Technique: “Kapalabhati” is a forceful and quick exhalation followed by passive inhalation. A teacher has to observe the movement of the abdomen and never the chest. The abdomen should move inward quickly and relaxed passively. Give the instructions with tapping sound on the thigh. Each tap indicates second (TIME). Completing the breath cycles in a minute will be like this;

Grade-1: Exhale at every alternate second. This is the mild practice. 30 exhales/minute.

Grade-2: Exhale at every second. This is moderate practice. 60 exhales/minute.

Grade-3: Exhale twice at every second. This is an intense practice. 120 exhales/minute.

Kriya, Pranayama, Spiritual practice

Physiological Changes:

Hypoxia leads to pulmonary vasoconstriction (less blood flow to the lungs and less purification) and systemic and cerebral vasodilation (central circulation)

  1. As the practice exceeds the normal breathing rate, there will be less Oxygen and more workload. This is hyperventilation. Decreased CO2 levels in the blood lead to stimulation of stimulation of Carotid bodies and respiratory center which will stimulate the respiratory muscles. This involuntary function can be only observed with Kapalabhati practice. This is how a yoga practitioner gains awareness on involuntary respiration. The gradual practice also leads to mastery.
  2. Sympathetic nervous system activation leads to more heartbeats and lack of oxygenation to the cardiac muscle. So there is a chance of myocardial ischemia. The trainer has to be careful according to the age and other health issues of the student.

 

Specific Benefits:

  1. Cleanses the body by removing CO
  2. Get a chance of awareness on involuntary respiration.
  3. Spontaneous stoppage and involuntary starting of respiration show the willpower.

General Benefits:

  1. Tones up abdominal muscles and prevents excess fat.
  2. Normalizes the digestive fire and hunger.
  3. Stretching of diaphragm initiates the strengthening.
  4. Initiates energy center called Solar plexus or Manipura Chakra.
  5. Backward pressure helps to reduce the hernia of the intervertebral disc and the Ilio-Psoas muscle pains.
  6. Dries and removes the gases from the mucus layer in smokers and people live in air pollution.

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