kapala bhati - skull shining breath


Classified as a pranayama practice as well as one of the six shatkarma or purifications in Master Swatmarama’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika, it is called Skull Shining Breath because it purifies the frontal sinus regions of the inner skull. It is intended as a preliminary to pranayama, and paves the way for a safe and effective kumbhaka or retention practice - but only under the direct guidance of a teacher. As with all the shatkarma and pranayama practices, there is a delicate and fine line between just enough and too much. The risks inherent on the "too much" side make it absolutely essential to have guidance.

Physical Benefits

Cleanses the lungs and respiratory tract, clears excess mucus from the nasal passages, balances the nervous system, tones the digestive system.

Mental Benefits

Removes drowsiness and sluggishness, makes the mind clear and alert, improves ability to focus and concentrate.

Subtle Body Benefits

Purifies nadis – and in so doing, it decreases sensory distraction and clears the nadis of pranic congestion and obstructions, facilitating the ascent of shakti kundalini through sushumna nadi.

Karmic Benefits

Yields a very pure body and mind if our practice is karmically clinched by always conducting ourselves with perfect integrity in interactions with others.

Tips from Deep Retreat

  1. Kapala bhati causes a reduction in the earth and water elements of the body, resulting in increased fire and wind elements. This translates to “thirsty” - drink plenty of fluids when doing intensive kapala bhati practice.

  2. Too much of this practice will cause severely dehydrated skin, hair and nails. You’ll know because you will look a bit like a prune! Back off, no matter how much you enjoy the practice!

  3. Don’t do too many rounds or repetitions of this practice initially, 2-3 rounds of 10-15 repetitions is sufficient. Best is to get the instruction from your teacher.

  4. Kapala bhati, and in fact all the pranayama practices are the "language of the brain." And the brain likes a perfectly regular rhythm! So the tempo and duration of each forced exhale and each reflexive inhale should be exactly the same. Check with your teacher if this is unclear.

  5. Always seek instruction from a qualified teacher before attempting kapala bhati.


Practice kapalabhati prior to other pranayama practices or meditation.


ONLY on empty stomach – 4 to 12 hours after meals. Don’t do late at night – can cause insomnia. Avoid if you are pregnant, or have hernia, gastric ulcer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, dizziness, epilepsy.