Practice Skull Shining – A Breathing Technique to Remove Energetic Blockages
In this article, I’d like to share one of my favorite pranayamas (or conscious breathing techniques) ever. It’s my favorite because it is considered both a basic and advanced practice, and it really gets the energy flowing!
You can use this pranayama daily for a wide range of benefits: toning the abdomen and stomach, purifying the second and third chakras, stimulating the digestive fire in the belly, and also purifying the 7th chakra at the very top of your head.
This exercise is traditionally called Kapalabhati, but is also sometimes referred to as “Skull Shining” because performing it properly can sometimes give one the sensation of light at the crown of their head. Practicing the skull shining pranayama is highly beneficial in a wide variety of ways.
But perhaps the most beneficial effect of using this pranayama is its ability to clear blockages in the sushumna, or main energy channel running the length of the spine. It is through this foundational energy channel that kundalini awakening can occur, and all pranic flow is affected. Skull shining moves energy upwards to purify the crown chakra.
Here’s the scoop on Kapalabhati:
You can perform Kapalabhati either sitting cross legged (or in lotus position), or while standing up with hands leaning against the upper thighs, legs shoulder width apart, leaning forward while keeping the spine straight.
This pranayama consists of an active exhale and a passive inhale. You will be exhaling with a good degree of “pep,” and allowing the inhale to happen of its own accord.
Before practicing the actual technique, it helps to first imagine that you have a cough, but that you are holding it in as you cough. Do this a few times. Notice how your stomach contracts inward and slightly upward in a rapid motion?
Use this same motion for Skull Shining as you exhale. You will find that if you exhale in this manner, then relax, the inhale will happen on its own as the stomach muscles naturally move back outwards. Play around with this a few times to get a good feel for it.
Ready? Here’s how to perform Kapalabhati:
- Inhale fully and completely into the belly, hold for a moment.
- Actively exhale, contracting the stomach inwards and a little bit upwards towards the spine. This should be one quick motion.
- Immediately relax, allowing the stomach to expand, automatically taking care of the inhale for you.
- Repeat up to 21 times, pausing only a split second after each inhale before exhaling again.
- Inhale fully and completely into the belly again. Hold for a moment.
- Complete another round of 21 breaths.
- You may continue to do several rounds of 21, or lengthen the rounds once you feel comfortable.
A few pro tips:
When you see people doing it who have mastered the practice, they are often times breathing very quickly. This is not necessary. It is most important to allow the passive inhale to occur before exhaling again. Do not rush yourself! As you grow more comfortable with it, you can gradually increase the speed of the breath.
It is normal to experience slight tingling sensations in the body, especially in the head and/or face, or to notice a heat sensation or sweating. This is normal as the body is adjusting to a greater flow of energy than before. As you continue to practice, these sensations will lessen, and may become quite pleasurable.
Whether you are an advanced yogi, a beginner, or fall somewhere in between, this breathing exercise will help you on many levels, and in many ways. It’s a great addition to any yogic or energy working routine!
I hope you enjoy. ☺