Kapalabhathi Pranayama

Kapalabhathi was one of the first few terms taught to us on the first day of this TTC course and I became fascinated by this whole new world of breathing techniques. There are many different types of kriyas and they are devised to help one with their overall well-being.

 

Kapalabhathi in direct translations means “Skull Shining”. With regular practise of this pranayama, your forehead is said to glow not only from the outside, your mind also becomes sharp and clear.

 

How to do Kapalabhathi?

  1. Sit up tall in Sukhasana, place palms on your knees.
  2. Inhale deeply through both nostrils and expand lungs with air. (Passive inhalation)
  3. Exhale quickly and sharply as you pull your stomach in towards your back. (Active exhalation)
  4. Immediately start to inhale again after exhalation
  5. Repeat this cycle for 20 times before coming to regular breathing

This exercise definitely required some getting used to, or at least for myself.

 

Benefits of Kapalabhathi Pranayama

  • This exercise generates heat, which helps to dissolve toxins in the body
  • It improves blood circulation and digestion
  • It improves the function of kidneys and liver
  • It will help to activate the chakras in your body
  • Your mind will be clear and concentration levels will improve

 

Precautions

Ensure you are well before practicing Kapalabhathi. It can cause dizziness, hypertension or hernia.

Heart patients should go slow on exhale

It is encouraged to have an empty stomach before practising this Kriya

Avoid this technique if you are pregnant or menstruating

Be careful during this exercise if you suffer from respiratory issues or high blood pressure

 

Yoga for Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the intervertebral discs become compressed and bulge outward or in some cases rupture, causing a severe lower back pain. This slipped disc may occur in any part of the spine. In most cases, it is frequently affected in the lumbar spine.

 

What causes a herniated disc?

  1. Degeneration of the spine with age, wear and tear.
  2. Accident and resultant injury.
  3. Sports related injuries.
  4. Sedentary Lifestyle

 

How can yoga help?

When done correctly, yoga can help to relief pain from herniated disc. Emphasis is placed on the extension of the bones in specific yoga poses and the same time, strengthening your back. Ensure to move from each sequence slowly and intentionally. Here are some great poses to ease the discomfort in the back.

  • Bhujangasana (Sphinx or Cobra pose)
  • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge pose)
  • Virabhadrasana (Warrior 1 and 2)
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

 

What to avoid?

A herniated disc can cause more damage if not taken seriously and treated carefully. Do not perform poses which encourages flexion, the rounding of back. These may often aggravate the discs even further. Here are some common poses which should be avoided.

  • Uttanasana (Standing forward bend)
  • Paschimottanasana (West posterior stretch pose)
  • Prasarita Padottanasana (Spread legs stretch pose)
  • Padangusthasana (Forward bend with bound toe)
  • Padahatasana (Forward bend with palms under feet)

Is a Sattvic diet the way to go?

A sattvic diet is a high fiber, low fat nutritious vegetarian diet. Apart from promoting a healthy living, a sattvic diet helps to keep our minds clear to function at its full potential and be at peace. Yoga practitioners follow this diet to contribute in the development of higher consciousness.

Foods that are natural, fresh and organically grown fall into this sattvic food category. Canned or processed food, and food prepared with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, irradiation and hormones should be avoided. Adding these substances into whole foods diminishes them of their prana.

 

Here are some examples of sattvic foods:

Fruits – Apple, apricot, banana, lychee, papaya, mango, orange, watermelon, berries, dates, peach, pear, plum, prune

Vegetables – Eggplant, lettuce, asparagus, bitter gourd, carrots, lotus root, artichoke, spinach, broccoli, radish

Whole Grains – Barley, rice, quinoa, amaranth

Oils – Almond oil, coconut oil, ghee, macadamia nut oil, mustard seed oil, sesame oil, olive oil

Spices – Nutmeg, basil, coriander, black pepper, parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cumin

Nuts – almonds, chestnuts, gingko, brazil nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachio, cooked cashew nuts

 

We really cannot deny the benefits a sattvic diet will bring to oneself, but it may not be suitable for everyone. Each person’s body is different and has their own dietary requirements to function normally.

In my opinion, the best diet is one that does as little harm as possible to your body. If a vegan diet makes you feel depleted or undernourished, you should listen to your body and stop. Practice Ahimsa on yourself and make changes to your diet accordingly. You will still be able to build your prana and sattva through other means.

Get started with Mudras

“Mudra” in Sanskrit means gesture. With regular and correct practise, mudras are able to balance the energy within the mind and body of oneself. This can contribute to overall well-being or prevent future health problems.

Mudras done using different motions with our hands are called Hasta Mudra. This can influence the cosmic energy within our bodies. The 5 fingers represent 5 key elements:

Thumb – Fire

Index Finger – Air

Middle Finger – Space

Ring Finger – Earth

Small Finger – Water

There are 399 mudras which one can practice. It is a lot to take in, so here are some of the most frequently used mudras that we should be aware of.

1. Gyan Mudra (Wisdom)

By doing Gyan mudra, it will help to increase memory, concentration and improve sleep. This mudra is known to bring peace and calmness during meditation.
Duration of practise: None
When can it be used: Anytime in the day or during yoga

 

2. Chin Mudra (Consciousness)


This mudra helps to lift dull energy and connect to your higher self.
Duration of practise: None
When can it be used: Anytime in the day or during yoga

 

3. Vishnu Mudra (Balance)

When combined with breathing exercises, Vishnu mudra helps to bring balance to the right and left hemispheres of the body. It helps to support the respiratory system, resulting in an overall detox of body.
Duration of practice: Maximum 15 – 20 minutes.
When can it be used: Using only right hand in Nadi Shodana, alternate nostril breathing

I hope this was helpful in helping you get acquainted with the mudras.