Breath of Fire 101
Yoga is synonymous with breath and as we develop a deeper practice we learn about different breath techniques and the purpose they serve in the body and mind.
Kapalabhati, or as it's more commonly known, "breath of fire", is practiced by breathing rapidly equal parts in and out through the nose by pumping your stomach to create oxygen in your blood and charge your electromagnetic field. Most commonly practiced in Kundalini Yoga, breath of fire internally cleanses and tones the respiratory system of toxins while purifying, rejuvenating, and refreshing the body and mind. It is one of the six Shatkarmas (cleansing techniques) of yoga. Since this involves breath focused technique, some yoga practitioners classify this as pranayama too.
Build heat with Breath of fire
Yoga Wake Up teachers such as Vance Vlasek, Fern Olivia and Kim Holton all incorporate breath of fire into their wakeup offerings because of its natural way of building heat and energy in the body quickly and efficiently. This is why especially in the colder, winter months, many yogis will begin their practice with breath of fire.
How to do it
Sit in a comfortable position such as virasana "hero" pose (with a block under your bum if that serves you) but most importantly, with your spine straight. Place your hands on your knees, palms facing the sky.
Take a deep breath in.
As you exhale, contract your lower belly, forcing the breath out in a short burst. You may keep a hand on your stomach to feel your abdominal muscles contract.
As you quickly release your abdomen, your breath should flow into your lungs automatically.
Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapalabhati pranayama.
After completing one round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.
Do two more rounds to complete your practice.
Note: The exhalation in Kapalabhati is active and forceful. Don't focus too much on the inhalation. The moment you relax your abdominal muscles, inhalation will happen naturally. Just keep your awareness on breathing out.
Clears the nadis (subtle energy channels) as well as the sinuses, lungs, and respiratory system of allergens
Invigorates and warms the system
Increases metabolism, reduces weight, and tones the abdominals
Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
Calms and uplifts the mind
Increases oxygen supply in the body, which energizes the nervous system and rejuvenates brain cells
Note: Kapalabhati is an advanced technique, so you should be comfortable with other basic breathing techniques, such as Ujjayi pranayama (ocean breath), before attempting.
Also, a few precautions to keep in mind when practicing this, women who are pregnant, have just given birth, or are menstruating should avoid practicing Kapalabhati. People who are on an artificial pacemaker, have had recent abdominal surgery, or who are suffering from epilepsy or hernia should also avoid practicing this breathing technique. People with high blood pressure, heart conditions, asthma, emphysema, or any other respiratory condition should use caution when practicing Kapalabhati and seek the guidance of a professional yoga teacher. You can always direct any questions or concerns to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect you directly with one of our instructors.
Have you tried Kapalabhati?
Let us know why you like and how you practice it, and if you've used it before to heat up the body. Have you tried it using Yoga Wake Up? We'd love to hear from you. Get in touch!