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Kapalabhati Pranayama

Blog post by Chef Lisa of Free Flowing Health

Kapalabhati pranyayama, also referred to as “skull shining breath,” is a warming, cleansing and invigorating yogic breath technique is best practiced in the morning on an empty stomach for optimal results. This cleaning technique, or shatkarma, utilizes short, explosive exhales that are generated by contracting the navel center (lower belly) followed by alternating gentle, passive inhales. When practiced regularly, this technique is said to expand lung capacity, cleanse the respiratory system of toxins, increase energy, build heat and improve circulation in the body, help strengthen the lower abdominal muscles and aid in digestion, and last but not least, purify and clear the mind.


Start off slow and gradually work your way up to a quicker speed as you see fit.

  1. Sit comfortably in an upright posture with a tall, straight spine and rest your hands on your lower belly or on your knees. If you’re sitting in a chair, make sure to place both feet flat on the ground.

  2. Take a deep, cleansing breath before you begin, in through your nose and exhale completely out of your mouth.

  3. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your belly with air about ¾ way full.

  4. In a quick motion, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine.

  5. Allow your lungs to fill up naturally, with no effort as your belly expands.

  6. Starting off slow, perform this cycle 10 times.

  7. Repeat these cycles of 10 movements, 3 to 4 times, resting in between rounds as needed.

  8. Allow your breathing to return to normal and observe any sensations in your body and mind without judgment.

Precautions & Contraindications

Please seek the guidance of a professional yoga teacher before attempting this technique. Because Kapalbhati is considered an advanced technique, make sure you are comfortable with other basic breathing techniques, like Full Yogic Breath, first.

Avoid this technique if you:

  • are pregnant, menstruating, or within 6 weeks of postpartum

  • suffer from high blood pressure, have an artificial pacemaker or any heart, lung or respiratory conditions

  • have had recent abdominal surgery or are suffering from epilepsy or hernia

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