Breath of Fire – Energize Your Day with Kapalabhati Pranayama
If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed, battling to keep your eyes open in the middle of the day, or fighting to stay awake and be productive after work, Breath of Fire is perfect for you! Falling into the energizing category of traditional yoga breathing practices, Breath of Fire is like a caffeine-free pick-me-up. Also known as Kapalabhati Pranayama or skull shining breath, this practice is a staple in Kundalini Yoga.
Breath of Fire is actually what got me hooked on Kundalini Yoga in the first place after experiencing it in a yoga session. After just 3 minutes of rapid breathing, I could feel the powerful effects all throughout my body. All these years later, I barely remember anything else from that session, but this simple practice has made a lasting impact on me.
In this article, you’ll gain insight into the practice of Kapalabhati and explore its multiple benefits. You will also find a step-by-step guide through the process of Breath of Fire so you can start your own practice today.
Boost your energy naturally with Breath of Fire
Kapalabhati involves powerful rapid exhalations followed by short & passive inhalations. Because of this pattern, Breath of Fire activates the sympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to release adrenaline and energy. It also increases oxygen delivery to the brain and helps energize the blood. This natural boost sets in almost instantly, making this the perfect practice to energize yourself whenever you need it.
If you’re looking for some more inspiration, the following three situations are great applications for the natural energy-boosting powers of Breath of Fire:
Morning Wake Up
If you are not a morning person, you can use Breath of Fire to help you get out of bed in the morning. If you’re having difficulty getting up and running in the AM, try Breath of Fire first thing after waking up and experience how it transforms your mornings.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or just looking for ways to exercise smarter, Breath of Fire can help you elevate your exercise routine. Kapalabhati is a conscious way of activating the sympathetic nervous system. Better known as the fight-or-flight response, it increases your heart rate which in turn allows more blood to flow to your muscles. Furthermore, Breath of Fire aids in expanding lung capacity and in increasing vital strength and physical endurance.
Next time you catch yourself reaching for yet another cup of coffee or sugary snack, instead try Breath of Fire for an all-natural jitter-free energy boost at any time of day. Besides improving your energy levels, this type of pranayama also reduces mental clutter and facilitates a focused, concentrated, and neutral state of mind.
When NOT to do Breath of Fire
As amazing a practice as Breath of Fire is, it isn’t right for every situation. If you have certain medical conditions you should be cautious using this technique. Contraindications include high blood pressure, heart disease, and pregnancy.
Remember to listen to your body and know your personal limits. Always check with your primary care physician before beginning new health routines. If in doubt, working with a certified breathwork instructor or yoga teacher is a great way to gain additional information and allow for some extra support.
Benefits of Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire is one of my favorite pranayamas for a reason. In fact, there are many reasons you should give this practice a try. Just three minutes of conscious breathing a day can completely transform your life. Here are some of the most potent benefits of Kapalabhati:
- Detoxifies the body by releasing toxins and waste deposits from the lungs, blood vessels, and other cells
- Expands lung capacity and increases respiratory health
- Strengthens the nervous system to resist stress
- Repairs the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
- Strengthens the navel chakra (solar plexus chakra)
- Increases physical endurance and prepares you to act effectively
- Adjusts the subtle psycho-electromagnetic field of the aura so that the blood becomes energized
- Reduces addictive impulses for drugs, smoking, and unhealthy foods
- Increases oxygen delivery to the brain, facilitating a focused, intelligent, and neutral state of mind
- Boosts the immune system and may help prevent disease
- Promotes synchronization of the biorhythms of the body’s systems
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles, improves digestion, and enhances metabolic activity
How to start your own practice of Breath of Fire
When beginning to practice Breath of Fire, there are three words you should keep in mind: rapid, rhythmic, and continuous. You will always practice through the nostrils with your mouth closed unless stated otherwise. The inhalations and exhalations are equal with no pause between them.
If you’re curious and you’d like to try Kapalabhati for yourself, you can follow these easy steps:
1. Come into a comfortable seated position with your spine upright yet relaxed and shoulders rolled down and back.
2. Place your hands on your knees, palms facing upward, or bring one or both hands on your stomach to feel its movement.
3. Now bring your focus to your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling your belly expand as you do so.
4. As you complete the inhale, without pausing, exhale forcefully through your nose by pulling your navel in towards the spine. (Tip – During your exhale, you should be able to hear a hissing sound from the force applied to exhale from the nostrils.)
5. Quickly release your abdomen, allowing your stomach to return to its natural position. The diaphragm extends down and the vacuum created in the lungs automatically pulls in another breath of air. The inhalation is passive and seems to come as part of relaxation rather than through effort.
6. Repeat this process of active exhalation and passive inhalation. Slowly work up to a pace of one exhale-inhale cycle per 1 to 2 seconds.
For beginners, practicing for a duration of 1 – 3 minutes is recommended to get used to this new type of breath. Keep the stomach’s movement equal and continuous throughout the whole cycle of pranayama. When done correctly, there should be no jerky movements or rigidity of hands, feet, face, or abdomen. Your chest stays relaxed and slightly lifted throughout the practice.
You may find that Breath of Fire creates initial dizziness or giddiness. If this happens, take a break. However, some tingling, traveling sensations, and lightheadedness are completely normal as your body adjusts to the new breath and new stimulation of the nerves. Concentrating at the brow point during and drinking lots of water after practice can help relieve these sensations.
Experience the natural powers of your body
Pranayama truly is one of the fastest and most effective tools to affect changes in your energy state. Using the natural inherent powers of your body, it comes without any side effects when practiced properly. Next time you’re in need of that extra boost of energy, try Breath of Fire. Afterwards, feel free to share your experience with me in the comments below.
And if you’re curious to dive more deeply into breathwork and Kundalini Yoga, my beautiful self-paced Kundalini Beginner Series ‘Journey to Awakening‘ is absolutely perfect for you. This 6-week container will guide you to awaken to your own inner power and experience the joy of movement, breath, mantra, and meditation.
Written by Julia
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