Kapalbhati Pranayama: Steps, Benefits & Precautions


In this Article

  1. What is Kapalbhati Pranayama?
  2. Benefits of Kapalbhati pranayama
  3. How to do Kapalbhati Pranayama: A step by step guide
  4. Beginner tips to kapalbhati pranyama
  5. Types of Kapalbhati Pranayama
  6. Kapalbhati side effects
  7. Kapalbhati precautions

What you needed when feeling frustrated, dull and stressful after long hours of work? You are definitely looking for something that can calm your mind and rejuvenate your energy. Then, what should you do with limited resources & time you have to balance your mood in these situations? The answer is a breathing technique called Kapalbhati pranayama. It can swing your frustrated mind into hurray in just 5 minutes of practice within the space you have.

Yoga comprises several practices to make you feel ‘The movements of the inner world’. The practice of Kapalbhati pranayama is the part of it, which flush out toxic air from the cells & filled it up with fresh oxygen. Once this pure oxygen is filled up in the cells through the lungs, you can observe the sensations erupting in your body. Scroll down to learn more about this yogic practice called Kapalbhati.

What is Kapalbhati Pranayama?

Before we explain Kapalbhati, let’s understand Pranayama first. Pranayama, a set of breathing techniques, is one among Eight Limbs of Yoga as compiled in Yoga Sutras by Sage Patanjali. The meaning of Pranayama is simply regulating the flow the Prana without any physical, mental or emotional obstacle.

Perform exhalation and inhalation rapidly like the bellows (of a blacksmith). This is called kapalbhati and it destroys all mucus disorders.Hatha yoga Pradipika 2.35

Kapalbhati Pranayama is a technique of forced & sharp (Active) exhalations while inhalations (Passive) happen automatically. Kapalbhati’s forced exhalation functioning release about 80-90% of body toxins. In yogic text ‘Gherand Samhita’, kapalbhati is mentioned as a part of Shatkarma. It’s also called ‘Bhalabhati’ in a way to cure anaemia.

Sanskrit word kapalbhati is the made up of  ‘Kapal’ & ‘Bhati’. Kapal means ‘Skull or Frontal head’ & Bhati means ‘Shinning’. In this way, Kapalbhati Pranayama is a breathing exercise which makes forehead shine & influences the working of the small brain properly. Eyes muscles which are connected at the backend of the nose also has a relaxing effect by exhaling action of kapalbhati.

Benefits of Kapalbhati pranayama:

Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama

1 – Benefits for brain/mind:

Kapalabhati is a reversible process of normal breathing & hence, it affects the brain differently as usual breath effects. According to a Belgian yoga instructor Andre Van Lysebeth, during normal breathing fluid around the brain is compressed and so that brain contracts. Forcing exhalation of kapalbhati decompressed this fluid and brain expand along with internal organs. This process is called the massaging effect of kapalbhati on the brain.

  • Massaging effect help to calm and relax your mind for more extended periods and in adverse condition.

2 – Benefits for respiratory system:

As we know already, kapalbhati places more emphasis on exhalation. With every exhalation, we actually expel more impurities (in the form of CO2 and waste gases) compare to normal breathing.

  • Kapalabhati pranayama is a cleansing technique of the Respiratory System of the body. It strengthens the lungs and increases its air intake capacity.

3 – Benefits for Skin

  • Regular & consistent practice of kapalbhati improves circulation of oxygen-rich blood in the body. This blood helps to cure acne, wrinkles, dark circles, and other skin disorders completely.

4 – Benefits for Hair

  • Massaging effect of kapalbhati increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the scalp. It strengthens the roots of the hair.
  • It also prevents greying of the hair.

5 – Helps in weight loss

  • Kapalbhati is not less than any other physical exercise, as it requires effort for rapid exhalation. This effort can reduce belly fat when performed in a regular & consistent way.

6 – Benefits for Digestive system

  • Kapalbhati improves the functioning of the digestive system.
  • Kapalbhati is one solution for different abdominal problems like acidity, gas, and indigestion.

7 – Benefits for the nervous system

  • Reversal flow of breath stimulates the nervous system. This stimulation directs the flow of energy from the sushmana Nadi.  

8 – Dissolve body toxins

  • Kapalabhati Heat the body, so toxins and other waste dissolve in that.

So far, we have learned the unique nature of Kapalbhati, now practice Kapalbhati with the simple steps given below.

How To Do Kapalbhati Pranayama: A Step By Step Guide

  • Sit in a posture
  • Make a suitable gesture
  • Inhale deep (First breath)
  • Exhale rapidly & Inhale lightly  
  • Repeat & Relax

 Step-1. Sit in a posture

Kapalbhati-pranayama : sit in a posture

Relax your body & Sit in cross-legged position on the floor. One can also sit in padmasana with spine erect on a flat surface, if comfortable.

Step-2. Make a suitable gesture

Kapalbhati-pranayama: Make a suitable gesture

The gesture is a way to flow energy through Nadis & concentrate the mind when doing a yoga kriya. In kapalbhati, place your hand on knees & make the Gyan mudra. Now bring your awareness to the belly region by syncing normal breathing with belly movements.

Step-3. Inhale deep (First breath)

Kapalbhati-pranayama: inhale deep (first breath)

Inhale a deep breath in a slow & steady manner from both nostrils. This will fill pranic energy into the lungs for further rapid exhale. Concentrate on inhaling quietly.

Step-4. Exhale active & Inhale passively

Kapalbhati-pranayama: exhale active & inhale passive

This is the foremost step of kapalbhati Pranayama. ‘Exhale with stroke through the diaphragm and inhale will become automatically’ it’s the beauty of kapalbhati. A beginner should do it with full attention and with minimal stress on the abdominal region.

  1. While breath is in your lungs, pull your stomach in towards the back. Pull as much as you comfortably can draw but not in a stressful manner. Your excessive stress can put an adverse effect on internal organs.
  2. As you pull the stomach in, breath rapidly comes out of lungs through both nostrils and you automatically lightly inhale at the same instance.

Step-5. Repeat & Relax

Kapalbhati-pranayama: Repeat & Relax

One forced exhale with light inhale is counted as 1 breath of kapalbhati. Repeat in this manner for 20 to 40 breaths, and It will be one round of kapalbhati. After one round, relax abdominal muscles & watch your breath. When you feel a calmness in breathing, repeat the same kapalbhati breath for the next round.

After 3 rounds, keep sitting in cross-legged posture for some time & observe the sensations of the body. Now you can go for some meditation practice.

Beginner Tips for Kapalbhati Pranayama

  1. Put your right hand on the stomach to feel the abdominal muscles movements. Keep stomach’s pulls equal and continuous throughout the whole cycle of pranayama.
  2. If you experience dizziness while practising kapalbhati, you are doing it forcefully. Start practising it with less force and more awareness.
  3. For a beginner, 3 rounds of 20 breath are sufficient in the beginning.
  4. After practicing 1-month increase up to 5 rounds and 10 breaths per week. In this way, at the end of 6 weeks, you will be doing 100 breaths per round, i.e. 500 kapalbhati breaths.

Types of Kapalabhati Pranayama

According to inhalation and exhalation practices at different-different pace, kapalabhati can be divided into 3 parts.

1 – Vatakrama Kapalbhati 

Vatakarma Kapalabhati consists of rapid exhalation one after other through both nostrils where Inhalation will be short & passive. It’s similar like kapalbhati as mentioned earlier except that, exhalation here is done through the mouth with kumbhaka(restraining breath in the nose).

2 – Vyutkrama Kapalbhati

Vyutkrama Kapalbhati is little similar to Jala Neti (one of shatkarma in Hatha yoga). This practice consists of sniffing water from a pot through both nostrils and expelled through the mouth. It helps to clean nasal cavity, throat, and inflammation around the nose.

3 – Sheetkrama Kapalbhati

Sheetkrama Kapalbhati is the opposite process of Vyutkrama Kapalbhati. It requires sucking water in through the mouth and expelled through the nose. Sheetkrama removes the wrinkles of the face, glows the face. It also cleans the mucous membrane of the nose that allows breathing well.

Kapalbhati Side effects

Kapalbhati is a great way to strengthen body, mind and relief stress only when performed in a limit. If it’s performed improperly and excessively, there are some side effects also.

  1. Since kapalbhati is directly associated with the abdominal and respiratory system, it takes overwork from these systems. Therefore it can lead to a hernia, hydrocele, and heart-related problems.
  2. Improper guidance sometimes can cause to spinal disorders.
  3. Performing kapalbhati with excessive strokes can cause dizziness, obstruction in the nasal cavity.
  4. Excessive practice from the first day leads to dry mouth, pain in abdominal muscles and vomiting sensation.

Kapalbhati Precautions

  1. Kapalbhati is an advanced level breathing technique so before start practising it, begin with some basic level pranayama like alternate breathing.
  2. People having abdominal ulcers should avoid performing kapalbhati.
  3. Women during pregnancy and menstruating should avoid kapalbhati.
  4. People suffering from a respiratory issue like asthma & high blood pressure should not do it with much effort.
  5. While starting pranayama, one should know their limit and accordingly decide the working period.



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