Kapalbhati Pranayama: Steps, 8 Benefits & Precautions

kapalbhati pranayama, steps, benefits & precautions

Do you know the importance of exhaling breath while we normally breathe?

Exhaling breath is actually the process of detoxification & cool down the brain from hot gases. So, with longer exhalation, you can expel a larger amount of CO2 (a stressor gas) & other impurities out of your body.

A healthy adult normally takes 500 ml of air & approximately exhale the same volume of air. What special in Kapalbhati breathing is that it increases the amount of air lungs expel in every breath.

According to a fact
During kapalbhati pranayama, we expel 100 ml extra (600 ml) air as compared to normal breathing. This practice of exhaling more than inhale is very helpful for shallow breathers.

What is Kapalbhati Pranayama?

Kapalbhati is a technique in which belly intentionally draws in to produce forced & sharp (active) exhalations through nostrils followed by automatic passive inhalations.

When pranayama added into Kapalbhati, it becomes a practice to consciously watch your breath and movements of inner organs while Prana drawing in and out of the body.

Although, In hatha yoga pradipika, kapalbhati’s picture depicts like this.

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

Kapalbhati’s rapid exhalation functioning release about 80-90% of body toxins. Another name of Kapalbhati is ‘Bhalabhati’ (Bhala means Head) in a way to cure anemia.

Kapalbhati is also one of 6 kriyas or Shatkarma mentioned in ancient yogic text Gheranda Samhita. Other 5 Kriyas of Shatkarma are:

  1. Dhauti – For purification of the food pipe
  2. Neti – For purification of nasal cavities
  3. Nauli – For purification of the digestive organs
  4. Trataka – To strengthen eyes
  5. Basti – For cleaning large intestine

Kapalbhati – For purification of the head region

Meaning of Kapalbhati

Sanskrit word kapalbhati is the made up of  ‘Kapal’ & ‘Bhati’.

Kapal means ‘Skull or Frontal head‘ & Bhati means ‘Shinning‘.

In this way, combining terms together

Kapalbhati means skull shinning. It’s a yogic breathing technique which makes the forehead shine as well as influences the working of the small brain.

Eyes muscles which are connected at the backend of small brain also has a relaxing effect by exhaling action of kapalbhati.

8 Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama

Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama

1. Benefits for Brain

Kapalabhati is a reversible process of normal breathing & hence, as compare to usual breath it affects the brain different way.

According to a Belgian yoga instructor Andre Van Lysebeth

During normal breathing fluid around the brain is compressed and so that brain contracts.

Rapid or active exhalation of kapalbhati decompressed brain fluid and let it expand along with internal brain 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 conditions.

2. Benefits for the Respiratory System

As we already know, kapalbhati emphasize on exhalation (active) rather than inhalation (passive).

With every exhalation, we actually expel more impurities (in the form of CO2 and waste gases) in Kapalbhati 1, compared 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 increases the circulation of oxygen-rich blood in the body. This blood helps to cure acne, wrinkles, dark circles, and other skin disorders completely 2.

4. Kapalbhati for Hair Growth

  • Massaging affect 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.

How To Do Kapalbhati Pranayama: A Step By Step Guide

Traditionally, the practice of kapalbhati is preferred in some seated yogic asana while maintaining a balance of ease and effort. For those who suffer to get into the seated postures, can also perform it on a chair or in lying down positions.

After getting comfortable into the pose, begin kapalbhati breathing, draw your belly in to force your breath out in shorter intervals of inhaling.

Steps of Kapalbhati Pranayama

Follow the following steps to perform the kapalbhati pranayama.

1. Sit in a comfortable yogic posture

kapalbhati - sitting in padmasana

Relax your body, close your eyes & sit in a cross-legged position on the floor. Bring your focus completely on the breath going in and out of nostrils.

One can also sit in yogic postures like padmasana & sukhasana, if comfortable.

2. Make a suitable hand gesture

kapalbhati pranayama step 2

Make Gyan mudra with your fingers and place it over the kneecap. Hand gestures, also known as mudras help to concentrate the mind when doing a yoga kriya.

3. Inhale deep (First breath)

kapalbhati pranayama - step 3 - inhale deep

Now bring your awareness to the belly region by syncing normal breathing with belly movements.

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

4. Exhale active & Inhale passively

kapalbhati pranayama - step 4 - exhale rapid

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 automatically a lighter breath draws in at the same instance.

5. Repeat & Relax

kapalbhati pranayama - step 4 - exhale rapid

One forced exhale with lighter 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 a few minutes & 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 muscle movements. Keep the 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. Vyutkarma Kapalbhati

Vyutkrama Kapalbhati is similar to Jala Neti (a type of neti – nasal cleaning technique). This practice consists of sniffing water from a pot through both nostrils and expelled through the mouth. It helps to clean the 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.


  1. Kapalabhati–yogic cleansing exercise. I. Cardiovascular and respiratory changes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1818666 
  2. What to know about skin paleness https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325562.php


  1. Total Yoga
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  3. Sarah Joseph
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