Is the Way You Do Kapalbhati Killing You?

While breathing exercises come with unlimited benefits – enhancing optimum lung functioning, reducing brain fog and improving blood circulation, practicing them the wrong way could result in more harm than good.
While breathing exercises come with unlimited benefits – enhancing optimum lung functioning, reducing brain fog and improving blood circulation, practicing them the wrong way could result in more harm than good.

Do you depend on TV-taught Pranayam for your daily dose of exercise?

Today many experts are concerned about the dangers of the TV-yoga craze. You find people selling “Kapalbhati” as a short cut to improved health, as it has grown immensely popular because of its merits as a potent stress reliever.

However, the truth is that Kapalbhati is a complex form of Pranayam, and rather than being the perfect introduction to Pranayam as it is commonly believed to be, it is in fact an advanced 4th stage of Ashtanga yoga.

So if you thought that Kapalbhati could be your secret mantra to say goodbye to Monday blues, a quick-fix for sinusitis or to build 6-pack abs, think again!

Shocking Facts about Kapalbhati

You see so many people follow Baba Ramdev and practice Pranayam early morning in parks, without any real supervision to ensure that they are in fact doing the exercise correctly. He claimed in 2009 in a TV show that Kapalbhati had the potential to cure cancer, heart ailments, blood pressure disorders, baldness, impotence and surprising, even homosexuality!

As a result, thousands of ignorant Indians consider Kapalbhati as the secret formula for all ills, forgetting that this complex yogic tool could also come with adverse effects, especially for the inexperienced.

Like all other forms of exercise, there is a RIGHT way and a WRONG way to practice Kapal-kriya as well. When done incorrectly, Kapalbhati can make one seriously ill.

This is because this breathing exercise aims to master the technique of releasing ‘Prana’ or “Life force’ from the body, in a controlled manner. Therefore, if you are practicing Kapalbhati excessively and aggressively, thinking it will help you fight belly flab, it could be adversely affecting your life.

The Asian Heart Institute (AHI) in Mumbai linked over 31 cases of heart attack to reckless practice of Kapalbhati in 2008.  “An independent yoga instructor affiliated to our cardiac rehabilitation department had conducted a study correlating 31 cases of heart ailments with improper practice of yoga. While we have not continued the study, we have found a 100% correlation between ‘unsupervised exercise’ and cardiac failure,” said Vijay D’Silva, the medical director of AHI, in an interview.

The Good and the Bad

When Kapalbhati is taught under guidance of a yoga expert, its benefits are immense. These have even been published in Journal of Association of Physicians of India, 2004, after a panel of senior doctors studied the positive effects it had on the human mind and body on a controlled group.

Studies show that when done correctly, Kapalbhati can alleviate symptoms of medical problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and can even help lose weight.

However, when practiced without supervision, the very same exercise can increase risk to heart problems, vertigo, hernia, high blood pressure, epilepsy and brain related problems.

“I have seen a lot of patients come in with problems caused by overdoing or incorrectly doing Kapalbhati. I recently had a patient with a lapsed abdominal wall who developed a hernia. Firstly, yoga is a way of life, not just some generalized exercise. The benefits need to be validated before people believe them blindly”, states Shashank Joshi, a consultant endocrinologist with Leelavati Hospital, Mumbai

The Verdict

One needs to understand that the progress from basic asanas to complex Pranayam in Ashtanga yoga must be slow. Never begin any form of Yoga without supervision, especially Pranayam.

Yoga asanas effect physical and glandular changes even at the basic level, so starting slow and gradually progressing to something as complex as Kapalbhati is the best practice to follow.

Also Read: Eat Like A Yogi

10 Comments Add yours

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      1. Amzad says:

        Hi Blogger ! don’t you realize most of the above comment to which you are replying are just spam comments ? May be a newbie you are. And about pranayam, Ramdev and his teachings have cured thousands of people across the globe. I had an eight year old sinus allergy, cured like a magic with kapalbhati without a supervision.


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