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Breath of Fire


“Breathing control gives man strength, vitality, inspiration, and magic powers” 

~Zhuangzi

 

Last week we talked about the renewal and rebirth that Easter represents. All around us nature is waking up. Maybe this is an opportunity for us to examine what is going on for ourselves. Where are we focusing our attention? What are we manifesting for ourselves? Are we awake to our own responses making them conscious choice, or are we defaulting to knee jerk, unconscious reactions that are about surviving rather than thriving?

 

Life is complicated and fast paced and our survival instincts are deeply ingrained. It can be easy to slip back into this way of being. Our whole website and the work we do is about sharing tools and techniques to keep us in the present moment, observing our thoughts feelings and behaviours, and making positive, conscious choices.

 

This week we offer Kapalbhati Breathing, or the Breath of Fire, as a technique to help cleanse the body and mind.

 

Normally when we breath, the focus is on the inhalation and this is the active part of the cycle. The exhale is passive, it happens automatically. In Kapalbhati Breathing the exhale is the focus of the breath and it is forceful. We use the abdominal muscles to produce that force.  

 

This technique might be confused with Bellows Breathing which also uses the abdominal muscles but in Bellows Breathing there is equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale.

 

Kapalbhati is a fast breathing technique with a passive inhale and forced exhale. The shoulders and accessory muscles remain still, the abdominal muscles do all the work. It might feel like you will hyperventilate but it does not affect the carbon dioxide in your bloodstream.

 

Studies of Kapalbhati Breathing have shown it has a beneficial effect on us that has been classified as energizing and cleansing. Physiological measurements including oxygen levels, autonomic activation and brain waves showed that the practice produced positive effects both physically and psychologically. It down regulates the sympathetic nervous system which produces our fight-flight response and so reduces our stress level. It also allows greater oxygenation of tissues leading to improved metabolic control and in addition it helps tone the abdominal muscles[1].

 


Try this:

 

To have a go at Kapalbhati Breathing follow the instructions below:


Sometimes this technique can make you feel light headed, if that happens just stop and breathe slowly and deeply until it goes away.

 


Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight

 

Take 2 deep breaths to centre yourself

 

Relax your shoulders

 

Place both hands on your belly

 

Bring your attention to your belly button

 

Breath in through the nose

 

Feel your belly expand and the belly button come up and out 

 

Breathe out sharply through the mouth as an explosive huff

 

Feel the belly button push back towards the spine

 

Speed up the breaths aiming for 120 exhalations per minute (2 per second)

 

As the breaths get faster it is easier to inhale and exhale though the nose

 

Remember to keep the forceful element in the exhale

 

Complete 60 breaths

 

Take a deep breath

 

Check in with your body, how do you feel?

 

Complete 60 breaths

 

Take a deep breath

 

Check in with your body

 

Complete 60 breaths

 

Enjoy the calm, cleansed feeling in your body

 

 

Here is a link to a great YouTube video demonstrating this wonderful breathing technique.

 

For other tools and techniques foster self-awareness and conscious responses have a look at the other articles on the website or try our book:


[1] Ansari RM. Kapalabhati pranayama: An answer to modern day polycystic ovarian syndrome and coexisting metabolic syndrome? Int J Yoga. 2016 Jul-Dec;9(2):163-7.

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