‘Kapala’ is a Sanskrit word; it means skull. ‘Bhati’ means to shine. The term ‘Kapalabhati’ means an exercise that makes the skull shine. This Kriya cleanses the skull. So this is taken as one of the Shat-Karmas (six cleansing processes in Hatha Yoga).
Sit on Padmasana or cross leg position. Keep the hands on knees. Close the eyes. Perform Puraka and Rechaka rapidly. Those who are well-versed in Kapalabhati can do Bhastrika very easily. There is no Kumbhaka in this Pranayama. Rechaka plays a prominent part. Puraka should be done quickly and forcibly by contracting the abdominal muscles with a backward push. When you do Puraka, release the abdominal muscles. The head and the trunk should be erect. Sudden expulsions of breath follow one another as in Bhastrika. To start with, you can have one expulsion per second. Gradually you can have two expulsions per second. To begin with do one round in the morning consisting of 10 expulsions only. In the second week, do one round in the evening. In the third week, do two rounds in the morning and two rounds in the evening. Thus every week, gradually and cautiously increase 10 expulsions to each round till you get 120 expulsions for each round.
It cleanses the respiratory system and the nasal passages. It removes the spasm in bronchial tubes. Consequently, Asthma is relieved and also cured in course of time. The apices of the lungs get proper oxygenation. Consumption is cured by this practice. Lungs are considerably developed. Carbon dioxide is eliminated in a large scale. Impurities of the blood are thrown out. Tissues and cells absorb a large quantity of oxygen. The practitioner keeps up good health. Heart functions properly. The circulatory and respiratory systems are toned to a considerable degree.
Anulom-Vilom (Alternate Nostrail Breathing)
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana, closing the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril. Then close the left nostril also with little and ring fingers of the right hand. Retain the air as long as you can. Then exhale slowly through the right nostril after removing the thumb.
Now the process is almost fifty percent over, pulling the air through the right nostril. Hold air as before and exhale slowly through the left nostril. All these six processes constitute one Pranayama. Do 20 in the morning and 20 in the evening. Then gradually increase the number. Have a mental attitude that all the divine qualities, e.g., mercy, love, forgiveness, joy, etc. Entering the system with inspired air and all bad qualities like lust, anger, greed, etc. Are thrown with the air expired. This Pranayama suppresses all diseases, purifies the Nadis, puts the spirit of concentration, improves digestion, increases digestive fire and appetite.
In this variety both the nostrils are used for inhalation and only left one for exhalation. Sit in any meditative posture. Close the mouth inhale slowly through both the nostril in a smooth, uniform manner. Retain the breath as you can do it comfortably and then exhale slowly through the left nostril by closing the right nostril with your right thumb. Expand the chest when you inhale. During inhalation a peculiar hissing sound is produced owing to the partial closing of glottis. The sound produced during inhalation should of a mild and uniform pitch. It should be continuously practiced.
- Removes the heat from the head.
- Voice becomes clear and melodious.
- The gastric fire is increased.
- It removes phlegm in the throat.
- It is good for Asthmtic patients and also for the patients of respiratory disorder.
In Sanskrit Bhastrika means ‘bellows’. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika.
Sit on Padmasana or cross leg position. Keep the body, neck and head erect. Inhale and exhale quickly ten times. The practitioner should start with rapid expulsions of breath following one another in rapid succession. When the required number of expulsions, say ten for a round, is finished, the final expulsion is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as long as it could be done with comfort. Then deepest possible exhalation completes one round of Bhastrika. Rest a while after one round is over by taking a few normal breaths. This will give you relief and make you fit for starting the second round. Do three rounds daily in the morning. You can do another three rounds in the evening also. Busy people who find it difficult to do three rounds of Bhastrika can do one round at least. This also will keep them quite fit.
Bhastrika is a powerful exercise. It can be done both in the morning and evening in winter. In summer do it in the morning only during cool hours. Bhastrika relieves inflammation of the throat, increases gastric fire, destroys phlegm, removes diseases of the nose and chest and eradicates asthma, consumption, etc. It gives good appetite.
It removes all diseases which arise from excess of wind, bile and phlegm. It gives warmth to the body. When you have no sufficient warm clothing in a cool region to protect yourself from cold, practise this Pranayama and you will get sufficient warmth in the body quickly. It purifies the Nadis considerably. The practitioner will never suffer from any disease. He will always be healthy. The number of exhalations or rounds is determined by the strength and capacity of the practitioner. You must not go to extremes. Some students do six rounds. Some do twelve also.
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana. Inhale rapidly through both nostrils making sound of Bhramara, the bee, and exhale rapidly through both nostrils, making the humming sound.
Fold the tongue so that the tip of the tongue might touch the upper palate and draw the air through the mouth with a hissing sound C C C C (or Si, Si, Si, Si,). Then retain the breath as long as you can without the feeling of suffocation and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. You can keep the two rows of teeth in contact and then inhale the air through the mouth as before. It removes hunger, thirst, indolence and sleep. When you are thirsty, practise this. You will be relieved of thirst immediately.
Protrude the tongue a little away from the lips. Fold the tongue lik e a tube. Draw in the air through the mouth with the hissing sound Si. Retain the breath as long as you can hold on with comfort. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Practise this daily again and again in the morning from 15 to 30 times. You can do this either on Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajrasana or even when you stand or walk.This Pranayama purifies the blood. It quenches thirst and appeases hunger. It cools the system. It destroys inflammation of various chronic diseases, fever, consumption, indigestion, the bad effects of poison, snake-bite, etc. If you feel thirsty and cn not get water practise this Pranayama. You will be at once relieved of thirst. He who practises this Pranayama regularly, will not be affected by the bite of serpents and scorpions.
- In the early morning, answer the calls of nature and sit for the practice. Practise Pranayama in a dry well-ventilated room. Pranayama requires deep concentration and attention. It is always better to have the practice in a steady posture. Do not keep anyone by your side to avoid distraction of your mind.
- Before you sit for Pranayama practice, thoroughly clean the nostrils well. You can take a small quantity of fruit-juice or a small cup of milk or coffee even before the practice. When you finish the practice take a cup of milk or light tiffin after 10 minutes.
- Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body often the mind also is disturbed. Do not stretch the body every now and then. The Asana should be steady and firm as a rock when you do Pranayama and meditation.
- Practice only in the morning during summer. If there is heat in the brain or head, apply Amla oil or butter on the head before you take your bath. Take Misri Sharbat by dissolving sugar candy in water. This will cool your whole system. Do Sitali Pranayama You will not be affected by the heat.
- Be regular in the practice. Regularity in the practice is very necessary if one wants to realise the maximum benefits of Asanas and Pranayama.
- For some days in the beginning you must count the number and see how you progress. In the advanced stages, you need not distract the mind in counting. The lungs will tell you when the required number is finished.
- Do not continue the Pranayama when you are fatigued. There must be always joy and exhilaration of spirit during and after the practice. You should come out of the practice fully invigorated and refreshed. Do not bind yourself by too many rules (Niyamas).
- Do not take bath immediately after Pranayama is over. Take rest for half an hour. If you get perspiration during the practice, do not wipe it with a towel. Rub it with your hands. Do not expose the body to the chill draughts of air when you perspire.
- Patanjali does not lay much stress on practice of different kinds of Pranayama. He mentions: “Exhale slowly, then inhale and retain the breath. You will get a steady and calm mind.” It is only the Hatha Yogins who developed Pranayama as a science and have mentioned various exercises to suit different persons.