Kapalabhati is described here for those participating in Yoga Mentoring with Radhika-ji.

Kapalabhati means "makes the forehead shine". It is one of the Shatkriyas or cleansing practices. It is not only useful for cleansing the body of kapha (phlegm), but purifying and energizing  the nadis or energy channels. In addition to purifying the nadis, the subtle energy channels, the nervous system is balanced. Even though strictly speaking Kapalabhati is not a pranayama practice, it is practiced as part of pranayama in our Tradition.

How to practice Kapalabhati

Sit with the head, neck and trunk in a straight line. Sit in your chosen meditative posture. You may sit in:

  • Maitri Asana - the Friendship pose 
  • Sukhasana - the Easy Pose 
  • Svastikasana - the Auspicious Pose or 
  • Siddhasana - the Accomplished Pose

Using the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles, quickly and forcefully expel the breath. This is followed by a slow and spontaneous inhalation as the abdominal muscles are relaxed. This is one cycle. 

Begin with 10 cycles in rapid succession. This is one round. 

Do 3 rounds of 10 expulsions each. 

The system should not be strained. Between each round, rest and allow the respiration to return to normal. This period of rest between rounds varies according to need. This may not seem to make a difference initially, but as you increase the cycles, you will find these short breaks of normal breathing useful.

Whilst doing Kapalabhati pay attention to the abdominal muscles. Great quantities of carbon dioxide are eliminated as a result of this exercise. 

Increasing the number of expulsions 

You can increase the number of expulsions by 10 every 2 weeks until you have reached 120 expulsions per round. This will take between 6 - 8 months. 

The speed with which one performs kapalabhati should not be increased at the cost of technique. Beginning with one expulsion per second, the practice may be increased to two per second.

120 expulsions per minute is a good rate to maintain. 



Dangers of Pranayama

There are serious dangers involved in doing pranayama practices without a trained teacher from an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 

Swami Rama says in Lectures on Saundaryalahiri, "Many teachers do not practice and then teach others just to do experiments. That's a very dangerous thing to do.  In books there are many things written. Some of the writers wrote them without knowing.  They took from here and there and wrote a book. Bad yoga practice can lead you to very dangerous situations for which there is no medicine. Suppose your pranic vehicles are disturbed because of your foolish practices that you have read through books. Where is the medicine for that? Therefore, a teacher is needed, and the teacher should be skilled enough not to mislead their students, not to make experiments on them. Let teachers make experiments on themselves. So, we have always in the scriptures, warnings, yellow mark on the scriptures, 'Don't do it!' It's a tradition."

Disturbance of pranic vehicle due to wrong Pranayama practice can lead to many imbalances causing, among other things:

  • Headache
  • Erratic mood change
  • Depression
  • Tendency to colds and congestion
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

Prolonged practice of incorrect pranayama techniques can lead to serious and permanent disturbance or imbalance of the nervous system. The only practice you can do safely without guidance is Diaphragmatic Breathing.

Our YouTube Channel THATfirst English has many clips arranged topic-wise in the playlist. Topics include: Samaya Srividya, Pranayama, Self-Enquiry, Schools of Tantra, and many more. Subscribe to the channel!


Precautionary Measures

  • Pranayama practice should not be done out of books, websites or videos.
  • Pranayama practice should be undertaken only with highly experienced and qualified teachers of an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 
  • Avoid teachers that mix practices from different traditions.
  • If you do not find an experienced and qualified teacher, then it is better not to do any pranayama practice. 
  • Retention (Kumbhaka) is not recommended. 


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