Nothing connects the body with the mind like the simple act of breathing. When we're nervous or tense, breathing becomes shallow. When we are relieved or reassured, a big sigh comes naturally. Just as the breath reflects our mental state, we can also use the breath to uplift and refresh the mind, and it only takes moments.
The energizing shining breath is called kapalabhati in Sanskrit. Vigorous, quick exhalations punctuate natural, passive inhalations. Stale air is expelled from the lungs, and freshly oxygenated blood circulates throughout the body. When done correctly, results can be invigorating, warming, and refreshing. This technique is best done on an empty stomach, at least 2 hours after a meal or 1 hour after a snack. Avoid this technique if you are menstruating or pregnant, or if you have absence-type seizures or any condition that could be worsened by hyperventilation or overheating.
- The Energizing Shining Breath:
- Sit comfortably. While seated on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, witness your natural breath for a few cycles.
- Focus on the navel. After an inhalation, rapidly draw your navel inward toward your spine, quickly expelling all air possible from the lungs. Keep the mouth closed, resting the tongue gently behind the front teeth.
- Relax. Let the navel naturally expand forward as you passively inhale. Throughout the practice, shoulders, back, and face remain comfortably relaxed. The abdominal muscles do all the work, while the rest of the body remains still and upright.
- Repeat the forced exhale. Again sharply exhale by drawing the navel tightly in toward the spine, then effortlessly watch the natural inhalation that follows. Repeat a fresh quick exhalation about once every few seconds.
- Rest. After 10 forced exhalations, take a breather, waiting for your breath to restore its normal pattern.
Do 2 more sets of 10, separated by a pause, for a total of 30. Notice any efforts on your mind and energy level. Pointers: Although the exhalation is forced through the nose, all the effort comes from the navel area, not from snorting at the nostrils. In the beginning, place your palm over the navel to feel the inward pull with each exhale. Over time, your abdominal muscles will strengthen, and the contraction will deepen on each exhale. Slowly work up to dozens of exhales per set. If you feel lightheaded at any time, stop and let your normal breathing return.
Next time next time you feel an afternoon slump, try this energizing breath instead of a snack. Let us know what you experience!