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Kapalabhati : a fundamental breathing

We have already written about Pranayama, which is nothing more than a yogic breathing practice, and today we will tell you about the Kapalabhati (also called the fire breathing), which is strongly related to it. Indeed, we will see here what are the benefits of this particular Kriya that is useful to cleanse your mind and your body. This breathing is part of a specific branch of yoga (therefore Pranayama), just like the Kundalini, except that its master is here a certain T.K.V Desikachar.

What is the Kapalabhati?

If you remember our article on advanced Pranayama, we were talking about various breathing techniques that we had not developed (Uijayi Pranayama, for example), which is logical given the existing number. Kapalabhati is therefore one of these techniques, which has already proven itself for a long time. In Sanskrit words, Kapala means skull, and Bhati means light, cleansing. We could translate it literally by “skull shining breath”.

We quickly understand where we are going, we try to «clean our heads» from an abstract point of view, like a brain bath to boost you and clear up your ideas. So we’re going to try to purify our head, through the airways.

The benefits of fire breathing

Through breathing, we try to oxygenate the brain. This relaxes you first, and helps you in terms of concentration as well as memory because you will clean up the parasitic elements that prevent good ideas from getting a place. Your abs are heavily requisitioned, which will tone them up, even strengthen them and the same for your lungs.

As the massage will be internal, your stomach problems will be better, as well as your diabetes and asthma if you have any. In general at the physical level, a good oxygenation can only be beneficial. At the energy level, your 6th and 7th chakras will open a little more, which helps you to reach a higher spiritual state.

When is it better to practise the Kapalabhati?

For Kapalabhati as for Parsvottasana, there are times more interesting than others to practice it. Here, we prefer the beginnings of the Pranayama session, or even the beginnings of the classic session to oxygenate you and be 100% to start.

You can also practice it in low moments, when you no longer have any motivation in your day, such as before getting behind the wheel to return from work, this pranayama will give you the strength and concentration you need to drive safely.

The most important tip is that these exercises are not practiced during periods of digestion. Practice 2-3x per week to start feeling the effects.

 People eating together

How to achieve fire breathing?

Focused on breathing, Kapalabhati is practiced by making small, burst breaths. You inhale calmly, and exhale quickly, which is the exact opposite of what we usually do. Allow about 0.1 seconds of forceful exhalation, and between 0.3 and 0.8 seconds of inspiration. Only your abdominal strap and diaphragm will be in motion, while your curved chest will not move. Here is a typical session:

  • Sit comfortably (cross-legged, on a small cushion, or chair), keeping your back straight, shoulders relaxed and the front of your body clear. Try to give space to the solar plexus and be careful not to lean on it. In the beginning, as well as during the inspiratory phases, the belly is free. Place the centre of gravity well in the lower abdomen, below the navel, as no attempt will be made to retract the stomach during air expulsions.
  • Inhale, then blow through the nose. Feel your stomach, which goes inside, and automatically, the belly swells itself and effortlessly on the inspiration that follows. The abdominal strap contracts towards the lower abdomen (and not towards the solar plexus).
  • Blow again through the nose, and let the belly swell on each passive inspiration that follows. Inspiration is not controlled.
  • Do a cycle of about 15 to 30 breaths, then take a deep breath through the nose, filling the top of the lungs, and hold the breath without breathing for 4 to 5 seconds, before blowing through the nose. Visualize the air that circulates dynamically during Kapalabhati: it enters and exits your lungs. It is a source of energy and purification. This last phase of breath retention brings a lot of peace and counterbalances the tonic effect of this abdominal breathing, so it is to respect.

 Schema showing how to achieve the Kapalabhati

Precautions to be taken

Some situations are contraindicated for the practice of this pranayama. This remains a fairly intense practice, and we must not rush into it at the risk of getting some complications.

So be careful if you have fever, if you are pregnant, if you are extremely stressed or tired, if your respiratory capacity is impaired, if you have heart disease, hernias, eyes, ears, problematic blood pressure, or if you’re recovering.


So here we are at the end of this article, and we really hope you enjoyed it. If you want to know more, we invite you to consult this complementary article which will give you additional keys to achieve this breathing technique.

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