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Kapalabhati is the first part of the Bhastrika Pranayama; though it can be practised independently.PART ONE
“Kapal” means the frontal lobes, or the sinuses. “Bhati” means to shine.
In the same way as a blacksmith uses bellows to invigorate his fire, this technique uses breath to stimulate and cleanse the lungs and sinuses. Kapal Bhati alleviates the Kapha Dosha, which is the mucus, cold, and cough in the body; which has its seat in the lungs and upper respiratory passages of the nose. Thus, this technique unblocks the congestion necessary for oxygen and prana to flow properly.
The practise of Pranayama depends largely on the capacity of the lungs; which improve through this practise. It strengthens the abdominal muscles as well as increasing the absorption of oxygen.
The practise of this technique increases the vital capacity of the lungs. The speed of the practise is not as important as the correct execution of the technique.
In the beginning, it may be difficult to produce enough strength in the abdomen, but it will get stronger. Also, beginners may experience some light pain; this will disappear with practise (if it persists, consult your doctor). The best way to approach this is to practise steadily, with awareness; and never to overdo it or become tired.
Each stroke of this technique must be below the navel, and cause a muscular contraction of the anus; which, upon exhalation, is released. If the strokes of this technique are practised above the navel, it will cause headaches. The anus is contracted in order to push the eliminating, Apana, current up and out of the body. While the proceeding Pranic current is naturally drawn down into the navel region, where the Apana current has been expelled. The importance of this technique lies herein; the Prana and Apana currents begin to be fused, thus, awakening the Kundalini in the Sushumna, causing it to rise, like an “upward flowing Ganges” toward the crown Chakra. Therefore, it is better to practise this Pranayama slowly and correctly in order to gain the maximum benefits.
When we inhale our abdomen naturally extends slightly; and when we exhale it gently contracts. This method is simply a stronger consciously controlled variation on this theme.
Sit straight in a good posture. This is extremely important, as it allows the diaphragm and lungs to be kept open. Keeping the mouth closed, quickly contract the abdominal muscles, thus prompting the air in the diaphragm to be exhaled from the body, through the nostrils. This will be noted as a short sharp out-breath. The following inhalation will happen naturally, and must not be forced. Once the abdomen is extended again, repeat the process.
The rate of practise is variable, but one can follow the pulse rate, or throw the breath out at the rate of one or two exhalations per second. Either way, it is better to practise slowly and carefully, rather than rushed and mindlessly.
Each stroke must come from below the navel; there must be a contraction at the navel floor.
The exhalation is the active part of this Pranayama, when sound is produced; the passive part is the inhalation, when no sound is produced.
First, practise 3 x 15 strokes, with an adequate pause (half a minute) in between. Then as your practise improves, increase the amount by 5 strokes every time. When your abdomen is strong, you can do up to 150 strokes x 3.
- The first part prepares the body for longer retention of breath. The inhalation time can be half the retention time, and the exhalation time can be either the same as the inhalation or retention time i.e. 5 sec. – inhalation, 10 sec. retention, 5/10 sec. exhalation.
This procedure can be repeated safely 10-15 times after part one has been completed.