Interesting studies on Kapalabhati

According to the Yoga Sutras, an ancient text compiled by Patanjali in 150 BCE, pranayama is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Referring to the extension or regulation of life force (known as ‘prana’ in Sanskrit), implementing pranayamas to our yoga practice is said to help us stay healthy, cleansed and balanced.

 

Amongst the 120 pranayamas, an important pranayama is Kapalabhati, also known as skull shining breath. Involving short, powerful exhales and passive inhales, Kapalabhati forcefully expels breath out through the nostrils using the lower transverse abdominus muscle and serves as a traditional internal purification practice (kriya), removing toxins from the body and cleansing the respiratory system. Personally, practicing Kapalabhati has led to me feeling more refreshed, alert and invigorated and I thoroughly enjoy starting the day with the Kapalabhati exercise.

 

The health benefits of Kapalabhati are numerous. In fact, a coronavirus survivor has even stated that practicing pranayama as a COVID-19 patient was very effective for him in complementing his treatment for the respiratory illness. Some of the common benefits of Kapalabhati include:

  • Improving lung capacity
  • Clearing mucus in the air passages and relieves congestion.
  • Clearing nadis (energy channels)
  • Reducing bloating
  • Promoting digestion
  • Improving blood circulation
  • Refreshing the brain and calming the mind

 

Upon further study, here are a few pieces of interesting research that showcase the benefits that Kapalabhati can bring:

  1. Kapalabhati combats metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of conditions (e.g. being overweight, high blood pressure) that puts one at risk of having serious chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In an article published by the International Journal of Yoga, it is stated that Kapalabhati accelerates fat metabolism as it stimulates vital areas of the brainsteam, cortex and effector organs, regulating the endocrine and metabolic processes. Studies have also found that Kapalabhati results to a change in body fat distribution and reduced waist and hip circumference. Furthermore, being an abdomino-respiratory exercise, Kapalabhati is shown to directly stimulate the pancreas to release insulin and counteract hyperglycemia (high levels of glucose in the blood).

 

  1. Kapalabhati improves reaction time

A 2013 study published by the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic research suggests that simple eye exercises along with kapalabhati helps in improvement of visual reaction time.

The study proposes that Kapalbhati improves the oxygenation of blood in the body which hence facilitates visual reaction through better nourishment of all the nerves and structures of the eyeball. The decrease in mental fatigue after performing pranayama is also hypothesized to lead to the improvements in visual reaction time.

 

  1. Kapalabhati can help children with ADHD

According to Gosewade et al. (2015),  practicing pranayama such as kapalabhati can help to calm the mind and even increase attention span for it helps to absolve and remove distractions from the mind. Its soothing effect can greatly help children and adults calm overly excitable behavior. Overall, the study suggests that all individuals can benefit from high levels of concentration and reduced stress.

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