Detoxification And Rejuvenation Through Breathing
By Dr. Nishal R.
In yogic science, there are cleansing procedures known as “kriyas”. These practices are used to rid the body of excess mucus, fat and toxic matter in order to prepare the body for proper yogic practices. Yoga focus’s on the union of the body, mind and spirit and by this, one is able to develop the highest level of spiritual evolution (this union require PERFECTION and CONTROL of both body and mind.) Although this is not everyone’s goal or intention, we can however benefit from the health promoting effects of these practices.
Unfortunately, most western “Yoga Practitioners” or so called “Yogis”, don’t really know much about the actual health benefits and rather live off the fitness, flexibility and body shaping benefits (Which does not always result in proper health). However, if you open any of the traditional yogic texts (Gheranda Samhita, Shiva Samhita, Hathayoga Pradipika, etc), you will see that every single Asana (Posture) has a great number of health benefits and can possibly be used for treating many diseases. More importantly, making sure that not only the body is trained but so is the mind with Pranayama (breathing exercises). The actual cleansing of the body is not done by the Postures but by the “Kriya” and “Pranayama” aspects. This is where the more powerful health supporting and disease fighting benefits arise from. However, these procedures are not for everyone. Everything is Yoga, as well as Ayurveda and Jyotish (Vedic Astrology) are based not only on the problem (Vikriti) but on the individuals own nature (prakriti). Therefore, when using Yoga etc, for the health benefits, one must consult a proper Ayurvedic doctor or traditionally trained yoga practitioner/teacher.
In this article i will be discussing just one of the cleansing procedures practiced in yoga, as well as the benefits with my theoretical understanding from a medical/Ayurvedic standpoint.
This kriya is known as “Kapalbhati”.
How on earth do you pronounce that? Simple: “caa-parl-buth-ee”
This is a yogic breathing exercise that emphasizes “exhalation”. Many people use this cleansing procedure for weight loss, and the best part about it is that research supports it:
-Research has shown that when the body breaks down fat stores, it does not excrete it via defecation or sweating. It exits the body as carbon dioxide. Meaning, when all the chemical/physiological processes of breaking down the fat tissue is over, all that is left is carbon dioxide. Which is expelled via exhalation.
(It is also believed that more than 80% of bodily waste is expelled via exhalation)
So if you’re like me, you must wonder “What it i just exhaled more?”, “Could this lead to weight loss?” “Could this lead to better health?”
GOOD NEWS! It can happen, and for many people, it has happened. The exhalation just has to be a bit more emphasized while the inhalation should go on naturally.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
(NOTE: I advise everyone to do this under proper guidance of an experienced yoga practitioner)
1. Sit up straight and make sure the spine is erect. No crouching. Keep that back straight, but not forced straight. The abdomen must be able to move freely.
2. Keep you palms on your thighs or knees
4.Start by taking a deep breath and exhaling to relax, then begin:
-Use your abdominal muscles to perform forceful exhalations.
-Then allow for natural, relaxed and passive inhalations.
-BREATH THRU NOSE ONLY.
5.EXHALE: During exhalation, push out the air with a flap-like movement of the abdomen in an upward direction.
6. INHALE: After each exhalation, allow for the abdominal muscles to relax and natural inhalation to occur.
(Inhalation should be calm, relaxed and not forced like the exhalation. Do not make your body stiff, remain relaxed and calm. No facial movements. Complete relaxation and calmness. Just breathe.)
Rate: Take approximately 1 second to exhale and 2-3 to inhale. Start by doing just 15 expulsions at a time, then rest for a 30-60 seconds or more as needed. Over time, you can increase it to 25 and so on. Eventually, you will be able to continuously do it for 10-20 minutes. But lets start small. Eventually, after much practice over the course of a few days or weeks, the speed and and amount of expulsions can increase to 80-100 per a minute.
Rhythm: Steady, regular, and consistent. Take breaks as required. It will take time to perfect this exercise.
Only practice on an empty stomach. If you have eaten, wait at least 4 hours and make sure that your belching is void of any smell or taste of previously consumed food. Do not practice in improper posture or with non-consistent breathing rhythms. Make sure the exhalation is not so forceful that it causes pain. Do not strain, lift shoulders, or move the chest (Remember, *Abdominal breathing*)
DO NOT PRACTICE:
-After a recent nose bleed or with a history of frequent nose bleeds
-During pregnancy or menstruation
-If suffering from hypertension, vertigo, dizziness, GERD, ulcers, hernia, glaucoma, emaciation, epilepsy, slipped disc, brain injury, hepatitis, jaundice, nausea, heart disease, any infection.
-If dizziness or headache occurs during practice.
-If you have aggravated “Pitta”
-If you are recovering from a major injury
(This is why It is recommended to practice under the guidance of an experienced yoga practitioner as well as a doctor)
Benefits and Theories:
-Rapid, healthy fat loss
My theory is that this is due to direct stimulation of the thyroid gland via forced upward movements of air as well as the propulsion of air and movement against the region between the clavicle and upper palate resulting in pressurization in the form or rhythmic, direct, massage-like effects on the thyroid and parathyroid. Proper function of the thyroid means improved absorption of “Thyroid stimulating hormone” from the pituitary gland and proper formation of the hormone “Thyroxine” from the thyroid itself.
-Reduction of wrinkles and development of smoother facial skin
Due to improved circulation in the facial region from the emphasized upward movement of blood caused by higher pressured exhalations. This results in better nourishment of facial muscles and skin. The face usually gets less circulation due to the effects of gravity, naturally pulling the blood to the lower parts of the body.
-improved memory, alertness and cognitive function
This is possibly due to direct pressure on the frontal lobe of the brain, resulting in subtle compression and decompression. This again, is possibly due to pressurization in a consistent and gentle manner from upward movements. It is the result of the “ripple effect” of direct stimulation on the anatomical structures located beneath.
-Increased core strength
As a result of flap like movements of abdominal muscles during each exhalation.
-Improved appetite and metabolism
Once again, the flap like movements of abdominal muscles constantly pushing in and out during each exhalation resulting in a rhythmic pattern of constant stimuli to the organs beneath (Pancreas, liver, etc). ALSO, most likely due to improved thyroid function as mentioned before.
-Strengthened Immune system
This occurs due to several things, namely: 1) the aided expulsion of toxic matter in the form of carbon dioxide which results in better oxygenation as well. 2) Lymphatic drainage from better circulation and internal massaging of organs. 3)The heart rate increases due to the movements and this together with the effects on the thyroid gland, result in the process of thermogenesis, etc.
Also, improves cellular function from better oxygenation, cleanses lungs of mucus and impurities, improves energy levels, reduces the effects of oxidative stress, , nourishes vocal cords, drains nasal cavity and sinuses of excess mucus, improves nervous system function.
Kapalbhati on its own can and will generate fantastic results, yet for the purpose of detoxification, faster results will be seen with a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables (as a carb source) and well as healthy fats like almonds, olive oil, avocado etc, and a good quantity of high quality proteins from sources like chicken, fish, milk, whey protein supplements or saitan, eggs. Following a yogic diet would be most beneficial BUT not many people are able to do so, therefore we must do what is more suitable for us. It is never advisable to go on a low carb diet long term, so make sure to increase carbs at least one day a week. Use pure honey as a sweetener instead of sugar.
TRY TO AVOID: Red meat, pork, too much meat, soda, chips, too much white carbs and junk food, too much fried foods, candy, alcohol, and fermented foods.
Make sure you get between 6-8 hours of sleep each night to enable the proper secretion of “Human growth hormone and to keep down the stress hormone known as “Cortisol”
No additional exercise is required when doing kapalbhati. However, to speed up results, the practice of “Surya Namaskar” aka “Sun Salutation” will be HIGHLY beneficial in the cleansing process as well as strengthening the body.
Written by Dr. Nishal R.
Copyright © 2015
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