Kapalabati

Ethymology

Kapalbhati कपालभाती kapālabhātī, a particular sort of penance. Kapala कापाल (kāpāla), relating to the skull or cranium; kapāla, skull-bone, skull, assemblage. Bhati भाति (bhāti), to shine; light, splendor, be splendid, be bright, be luminous.

Presentation

Kapalabati, or 'Skull cleaning', is one of the non-silent nasal breathing. The exhalation is strong as if trying to expel air from the sinuses. The eyes are in shambavi mudra and the eyebrows raised. The attention is towards the top to promote an ascending direction to the sitting posture. The belly has little involvement in the breathing movement. On the contrary it should be pushed inwards. In addition, a strong mula bandha is applied as if trying to draw the root towards the fontanel.

In this breathing, the focus is only on the exhalation: the inhalation occurs as a reaction through a constant inner relaxation. This breathing is understood through practice in order to find the appropriate rhythm and appropriate sequence of air expelled and spontaneously inhaled.

The bija "OM" is enunciated at each exhalation, as if attempting to project it with the breathing towards the upper ocular fixation point, the highest above on the skull. This point must be experienced at the level of the fontanel and the eyes try to look at it above and from inside.

The lotus position is particularly suggested for this pranayama. Regardless of the sitting position, jnana mudra must be applied with palms of the hands upward. The practice is at least 3 minutes. The exit occurs with the eyelids closed and eyes in maddya drishtti. After recuperation and observation, the cycle starts again for a total of three times. With practice, the sequences are increased to go to 3 to 10 minutes.

 

Left and right versions

Kapalbhati, position of the eyes
Kapalbhati, closing of the left nostril Kapalbhati, closing of the right nostril

 

In this version, there is an oscillation between series on the left, rest and observation with hands on the knees, and series on the right. The nostrils are closed with the traditional method: right hand first closing the left nostril, followed by the right one.
In the left series, the point to be gazed at is on the upper left. The bija 'KSHA' is enunciated during each exhalation.
In the right series, the point to be gazed is on the upper right. The bija 'HA' is enunciated during each exhalation.
The gestures in both left and right series are identical to those specified previously.

Classical Sequence

  1. Three times: 1 series on the left followed by an observation of the breathing at rest with hands on the knees and eyes closed in maddya drishti.
  2. Three times: 1 series on the right followed by an observation of the breathing at rest with hands on the knees and eyes closed in maddya drishti.
  3. Three times: 1 series in the center followed by an observation of the breathing at rest with hands on the knees and eyes closed in maddya drishti.

Versions in Hypo and Hyper ventilation

In this version, the previous sequences (left, right and center) are used. However, the rhythm is different here. The hyperventilation classical breathing (quick and strong exhalation) is followed by a hypoventilation breathing (almost inaudible and subtle). all others aspects remain the same. It is only the exchange in air that is reduced to the minimum in this exercise. The hypoventilations must be emphasized until perceiving the mutation of breathing energy, which goes deep inside and involves the whole energetic body. When the lack of air becomes unbearable, the practitioner shifts to a hyperventilation rhythm.

This addition of modification of rhythm increases even more the concentration, the feeling of energy. It also permits the increase in time for each series on the left and on the right. Finally, this series must always end with the hyperventilation breathing.

Sequence:

  1. Three times: 1 series on the left with three successive modifications of the rhythm. This is followed by rest with observation, hands on the knees and eyes closed in maddya drishti.
  2. Three times: 1 series on the right with three successive modifications of the rhythm. This is followed by rest with observation, hands on the knees and eyes closed in maddya drishti.
  3. Three times: 1 series in the center with three successive modifications of the rhythm. This is followed by rest with observation, hands on the knees and eyes closed in maddya drishti.

This practice gives therefore 3 series of 3 modifications of rhythm, or nine sequences of breathing of three minutes each minimum. This totals to about 30 minutes, without counting the periods of rest.