Breath of Fire

Relaxation is the first benefit most people think of when considering the physiological changes that occur with pranayama, (yogic breath control).  While many techniques are very relaxing, Kapalbhati (breath of fire) is invigorating and provides some unique health benefits.  Breath of fire is considered a cleansing technique that helps to pull stale air out of the lungs while training the diaphragm  and abdominal muscles to work more efficiently.

A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology demonstrated significant increases in heart rate and significant decrease in coherence between heart rate and breathing when compared to segmental breathing. (Peng, 2004)

Another study compared the benefits of the breath of fire vs. breath awareness.  Both groups demonstrated similar gains in sustained attention and verbal and spatial memory, but only the breath of fire group demonstrated statistically significant changes for State Anxiety. (Sushil, 2010)

Kapalbhati is an intermediate breathing technique, so I do recommend practicing some of the other pranayama exercises I have mentioned in earlier posts for at least a few weeks prior to trying this technique.
Contraindications: cardiac problems, nasal obstruction, cold any severe respiratory infection, high blood pressure, diabetes or abdominal ulcers


Begin in a comfortable cross-legged position with your spine erect.  Bring attention to your breath and breathe deeply for several minutes.

Once composed, you can begin. First, exercise the diaphragm by exhaling suddenly and quickly through both nostrils, producing a “puffing” sound. Don’t focus on inhalation. It will be automatic and passive.

The air is exhaled completely from the lungs with a sudden, vigorous stroke while simultaneously drawing inwards the abdominal muscles. The breath should be expelled fully. Inhaling is automatic – the abdominal muscles will relax automatically. This exercise should be done in three rounds, each consisting of 11 strokes (for the beginner).

Please watch this video link to understand how to contract your abdominal muscles prior to attempting.


  1. Peng, C.K., et. al. Heart rate dynamics during three forms of meditation. International Journal of Cardiology. 2004: 19-27.
  2. Sushil, S.K., et. al.  Immediate effect of stimulation in comparison to relaxation in healthy volunteers.  Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 2010: 606-610.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Josef
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 11:19:46

    Great blog post, refreshing webpage theme, maintain the good work


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