Kapalabhati fire breathing: how to do it and difference with Bhastrika

The practice of Kapalabhati is one of the oldest and most popular yogic breathing techniques in the world. This practice, which means“cranial cleansing” in Sanskrit, is often used to improve physical and mental health, and is considered a powerful way to purify the subtle channels in the body. Although it is a simple exercise, it can be difficult for beginners to master and often requires proper supervision from an experienced yoga teacher. In this article, we will explore the history of Kapalabhati, its benefits, the step-by-step instructions for properly performing this technique and the difference with Bhastrika.


Origin and history of Kapalabhati

It is a yogic exercise that has its origins in the ancient tradition of hatha yoga in India. Kapalabhati means “cranial cleansing” in Sanskrit, and the practice is often associated with the purification of the subtle energy channels (nadis) in the body.

Its history goes back thousands of years, and it is difficult to trace its exact origin. However, it is known that yogis in ancient India practiced many techniques, called pranayama, to improve their physical and mental health and achieve a higher state of consciousness.

Kapalabhati is often mentioned in ancient yoga texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which is considered one of the main works of hatha yoga. In this text, it is described as an exercise that purifies the nadis and prepares the practitioner for meditation.

Today, it is a popular exercise worldwide and is often used in yoga classes to improve breathing and overall health. Although it is important to do it under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher, it can offer many benefits.

How to perform fire breathing?

Fire breathing is a fast and powerful technique that can be performed in a sitting or standing position. Here are the detailed steps to perform it:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight, shoulders relaxed and hands resting on your knees. If you prefer a standing position, place your feet hip-width apart with your knees slightly bent and your back straight.

  2. Breathe in deeply through your nose while inflating your stomach. Then exhale quickly and loudly through the nose, contracting the diaphragm to empty the air from the lungs. This expiration must be short and fast. The contraction must be fast and vigorous to expel the air.

  3. Repeat this quick, jerky exhalation, keeping the same rhythm throughout the session. You can start with 10 to 15 reps, then gradually increase to 50 or 100 reps. Keep your eyes closed and focus on your breath.

  4. After the last exhalation, inhale deeply through your nose and hold your breath as long as you can comfortably. This will allow oxygen to circulate throughout your body and revitalize your system.

  5. Finally, exhale slowly and deeply through the nose to complete the exercises. Relax for a few moments and feel the effects of fire breathing on your body and mind.

It is important to note that fire breathing can cause dizziness, nausea or a feeling of fatigue, especially if you are a beginner. Therefore, it is recommended to start slowly and gradually increase the number of repetitions as you feel comfortable. When in doubt, it is always best to consult a qualified instructor.

What are the benefits of practicing kapalabhati?

Its regular practice can offer many benefits for the mind and body. Some of the potential benefits of this technique include:

  1. Improved blood circulation: can help stimulate blood flow throughout the body, especially in the abdominal and pelvic area.

  2. Organ detoxification: can help eliminate toxins from the body, especially from the lungs and respiratory tract.

  3. Improved digestion: can help stimulate digestion by increasing blood flow to the abdominal area and activating stomach and intestinal muscles.

  4. Strengthening abdominal muscles: Rapid and repeated contractions of the diaphragm during fire breathing can help strengthen abdominal muscles.

  5. Stress reduction: can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels by regulating breathing and stimulating the production of endorphins.

  6. Increased energy: can help stimulate the nervous system and increase vitality levels.

  7. Improved concentration: can help improve focus and mental clarity by regulating breathing and reducing stress levels.

If you have respiratory problems, such as asthma or bronchitis, or if you are pregnant, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before performing this technique.

What is the difference between Kapalabhati and Bhastrika?

Kapalabhati and Bhastrika pranayamas are two techniques used in yoga to stimulate energy (kundalini) and vitality in the body. Although they have similarities, there are key differences between these two breathing practices.

Kapalabhati, also known as “shiny skull breathing”, involves rapid, rhythmic nasal breathing, with the exhalation stronger than the inhalation. This breathing technique is often used to clean the airways, improve digestion and stimulate blood flow. Fire breathing is also known to have a stimulating effect on the brain and can help improve focus and mental clarity.

On the other hand, Bhastrika, also known as “forge bellows breathing”, involves rapid and powerful nasal breathing, with rapid and rhythmic movements of the diaphragm. This breathing technique can help strengthen the respiratory muscles, increase lung capacity and improve blood flow. Bellows breathing is also known for its benefits to the immune system and can help reduce stress and anxiety.

In summary, Kapalabhati and Bhastrika are two different breathing techniques, each offering unique benefits for mental and physical well-being. While fire breathing focuses on a quick and strong exhalation, bellows breathing focuses on a quick and powerful exhalation. Whichever technique you choose, it is important to practice them carefully and under the supervision of a qualified instructor.

See the complete file on Pranayama.