Why practice Breath Of Fire?

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Breath Of Fire, often named ‘Kapalbhati’ pranayama is a popular yoga asanas (pose/position) because it improves our respiratory function, has mental health benefits and energies the body! 

When we are stressed, our bodies defer all of our energy to protecting us. It is deployed to keep us safe from perceived harm, and so it is are unable to heal. If we are not able to get out of our stress state and back into the parasympathetic nervous system, we can never fully relax. 

The Polyvagal Theory (Developed by Stephen Porges) teaches that feeling calm enables us to return to balance. “It’s not merely that we can’t be creative or loving when we’re scared; we can’t heal. 
Modern day stressors (the things that activate the stress response) are very different to they were back in the day, but our bodies have not quite caught up.

Today, many of our negative states/reactions to stress are not helpful (it’s not likely that we’ll be hunted, but our fears and needs to remain part of our pack or herd for safety and community remain and are perhaps even more damaging to society than ever before). 

We don’t always understand the tools to bring the body back to relaxed. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol activates in our bodies when we are stresses, and causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. It’s a natural “fight, flight or freeze” response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years.
Chronic stress and burnout puts us under constant tension, makes it difficult to think clearly and solve problems

We have to signal to your body that you are safe or it stays in that state of stress.

Reducing stress to improve brain health is achieved by lowering the cortisol-driven stress response in the body and mind. 
Emerging science has found that feeling safe is essential to returning to calm.

Numerous studies have shown that regular yoga and meditation practice can help us strengthen our prefrontal cortex so that we can keep it online when we face challenges. 

Helps the nervous system to relax: the result: better able to connect, communicate

Kapalbhati pranayama is a powerful breathing exercise. The word ‘kapal’ means skull and ‘bhati’ means shining or illuminating. ‘Pranayama’, as the name suggests, means breathing technique.

Kapalbhati pranayama has been devised to help people with their overall well-being. It is a shat kriya, which means it’s a cleansing technique that helps to remove toxins from the body. 

Although kapalabhati seems to require minimal effort, it is pretty technical and includes slow, passive inhalation and forceful active exhalation, using your abdominal muscles. 

Here are some of the benefits:

  1. It helps to reduce the CO2 levels in the blood, thereby helping to increase the oxygen levels in the body.
  2. It involves ‘active exhalation and passive inhalation’, and helps to correct the low blood circulation in the body. 
  3. It  de-stresses the mind.
  4. It increases the capacity of your lungs.
  5. It removes toxins and waste materials from the body.
  6. It increases the metabolic rate which is known to support weight loss.
  7. It activates the brain cells, thereby improving memory and concentration power. 
  8. It relieves anxiety and tension. 
  9. It improves the health of your skin and gives you a radiant glow.
  10. Breathing exercises help to cure asthma and sinus.
  11. It improves digestive issues and eliminates all gastric problems. 
  12. It helps to relieve gas, heartburn, and constipation.
  13. It can also cure insomnia.
  14. It boosts the production of endorphins, thereby helping to feel great!

Here is how it is done:

  1. It is best practised in a quiet environment, sitting comfortably on a mat or chair.
  2. Place your hands on your knees, and raise them facing upwards. Next, fold the index fingers of both hands, such that their tips touch the tips of the thumb into Gyan Mudra.
  3. Close your eyes, keep your head and back straight, and relax your shoulders.
  4. Inhale through both the nostrils deeply, while focusing on the belly region.
  5. As you exhale, pull your navel back towards the spine, as much as you can. Your exhale should feel like a light outburst; this means it should be fast, while you pull your stomach inwards. During exhalation, you should be able to hear a hissing sound. 
  6. (When you inhale, the stomach should come outwards, and upon exhalation, it should move inwards)
  7. Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of kapalbhati pranayam.
  8. Remember that your focus should be on exhalation. After a few days of practice, the exhalation and inhalation process will be automatic and smooth.