Kapalabhati is one of the six Kriyas or purification practices, besides being a pranayama. The forced exhalation rids the lower lungs of stale air, making way for a fresh intake of oxygen-rich air and cleansing the entire respiratory system.
Translated, literally means “skull shining” exercise and indeed, by increasing he amount of oxygen in the body, its effect is to clear the mind and improve the concentration.
Start w/ 3 rounds, gradually work up to rounds of sixty. ~ Comfortable seated position. (I like my palms up, receiving) Take two normal breaths. Inhale. Now exhale, pulling in your abdomen and inhale relaxing your abdomen. Repeat, keeping a steady rhythm and emphasizing the exhalation each time. Then inhale exhale completely, inhale fully and hold your breath for as long as you comfortably can. Slowly exhale.
Ujjayi strengthens the nervous and digestive systems and gets rid of phlegm. According to the ancient yogic texts, disease is caused by an excess of either pglegm, wind or bile. Both Ujjayi and Surya Bheda are body-heating pranayamas and so exhalation is confined to the cooling left nostril, path of the Ida nadi.
To practice Ujjayi, inhale fully through both nostrils while slightly closing the glottis. This makes a faint “ocean-like” sound, as the air is drawn past the back of your nose.
Apply the Bandhas – Mula Bandha, contraction of the perineum. Uddiyana bandha, contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage.
In Surya Bheda, you inhale slowly through the right nostril, closing the left nostril with the ring and little fingers of your right hand; hold the breath, closing both nostrils and pressing your chin towards your chest as in Jalandhara Bandha; then, keeping the right nostril closed with your thumb, exhale through the left nostril.
You should gradually increase the period of retention. Surya means sun, referring to the right nostril, path of Pingala nadi. When you inhale solely through this nostril heat is created in the body and the impurities that impair the flow of prana are dispelled. Repeat 10 times at first & slowly build up to forty.
Bhastrika is the most powerful of all breathing exercises for raising Kundalini. Bhastrika (which means “bellows”) consists of a series of pumpings followed by a retention of breath like Kapalabhati. But there are 2 important differences between the two: here you pump the lungs faster and more forcefully, using all the muscles of the respiratory system; you close both nostrils and apply Jalandhara and Moola Bandha while retaining the breath; and you exhale through the right nostril only, as during theis exercise the body is heated then cooled by perspiration. Then perform Uddiyana Bandha.
Bhastrika is the best pranayama for the nervous and circulatory systems making the mind clear and focused. Start with 3 rounds of 10 pumpings and work up slowly to a hundred pumpings and a max of 8 rounds. (always just a suggestion, I’ve never made it to a hundred… – kinda like I’ve yet to do 108 sun salutations on the winter equinox… but that’s another post…)
Samanu is an advanced practice for purifying the nadis that combines pranayama with chakra visualization and japa on the bija mantras of air, fire, moon & earth.
- Focus on Anahata Chakra, mentally repeat “Yam” 8 times while you inhale throught the L nostril, 32 times while you retain, and 16 times while exhale through the R nostril.
- Focusing on Manipura Chakra, mentally repeat “Ram”, using the same ratio but inhaling through the R and exhaling through the L nostril.
- Proceed as in 1, but focus on the moon centre at the tip of the nose and mentally repeat “Tam”. While you hood the breath, imagine the nectar of the moon suffusing the entire body. Exhale slowly, focusing on Muladhara Chakra and repeating “Lam”.
To practice Brahmari, you partially close the glottis and you inhale through both nostrils, making a snoring sound, then exhale slowly, humming like a bee. The inhalation clears and vibrates the throat area. Humming while you breathe out enables you to spin out the breath and make a longer exhalation. This extended exhalation makes it a very beneficial exercise for pregnant women in preparation for labor. Sometimes known as the humming breath, Brahmari also gives a sweet clear voice and is highly recommended for singers. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Sitkari and Sithali are unusual among yoga breathing exercises in that the inhalation is through the mouth rather than the nose. In Sitkari you press the tip of the tongue against the upper palate as you slowly inhale through the mouth, making a hissing sound. After retaining the breath as long as possible, you exhale slowly through the nose. Repeat 5 to 10 times. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika prescribes: “By practicing in this way, one becomes next to the God of Love in beauty.” Both Sitkari and Sithali cool the body and relieve hunger and thirst. Very useful in hot weather.
Sithali: Here you stick your tongue out a little way and curl the sides up, making a “straw” to sip the air though as you inhale. Close the mouth while you hold the breath then exhale slowly through the nose. If you are unable to curl your tongue round at first, just extend it slightly through your lips and sip the air across its upper surface. Repeat 5 to 10 times.Tweet