Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Effect of Kapalabhati on Performance of Six-Letter Cancellation and Digit Letter Substitution Task in Adults

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Effect of Kapalabhati on Performance of Six-Letter Cancellation and Digit Letter Substitution Task in Adults

Article excerpt

Byline: Balaram. Pradhan

Background : Attention and concentration are valuable skills for all fields of human activity. Training to improve these skills is described in ancient hatha yoga texts. Aims: To study the effect of 1-min Kapalabhati (KB1) and 5-min Kapalabhati (KB5) practice of the Yoga rapid breathing exercise, Kapalabhati (KB), on psychomotor performance, as measured by the six-letter cancellation task (SLCT) and digit-letter substitution task (DLST). Materials and Methods: Thirty-six subjects, 21 male (mean age 25.71 years, SD 2.10), 15 female (mean age 24.13 years, SD 2.23) participated in the study. All were participating in a 3-month pranayama training program, part of residential degree courses at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Yoga University. The subjects were divided into two groups, and assessed on the SLCT and DLST, immediately before and after KB on two successive days. The first group did KB1 on day 1, and KB5 on day 2. For the second group, the order was reversed. Results: There were no significant differences on SLCT and DLST on Total and Net Scores between sessions for the same group, and between groups for the same session i.e. the effects of KB1 and KB5 were not distinguishable. However, both groups made more errors on DLST after the interventions, 525% after KB1 and 562.5% after KB5, P < 0.018 and P < 0.041, respectively (Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test). In contrast, scores on SLCT remained completely unchanged. Conclusions: Both KB1 and KB5 found no change on both SLCT and DLST. But, this kind of breathing practices leads to increases error score.


The word ' Kapalabhati ' is constructed from two component words: Kapala and Bhati . In Sanskrit Kapal means forehead and Bhati means to shine. Hence, Kapalabhati (KB) is an exercise that makes the forehead shine. It consists of fast, shallow, abdominal respiratory movements at about 2 Hz (120 per min). KB is one of the six major kriyas (cleansing techniques) described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika . [sup][1]

Most systems of Hatha Yoga incorporate KB practice, the length of recommended time depending on the program, the teacher and the student's needs. Some Yoga teachers recommend long practice of KB, and say that it can help remedy almost every physical condition. It is therefore of fundamental interest to the evidence base of Yoga and Yoga medicine to understand the effects of KB practice on the human psychophysiology.

A number of scientific studies have investigated biochemical and physiological effects of KB. Desai and Gharote [sup][2] observed decrease in blood urea, and increases in creatinine and tyrosine. Another study found during KB compared to rest increased cardiovascular and respiratory [sup][3] and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. [sup][4]

In a third study, Stancak et al . [sup][5] found increased in Alpha, Beta-1 and Theta activity during the initial 5 min, 10 min and later stages of 15 min KB compared to the pre-exercise period. During rest after KB, Alpha and Beta-1 activity decreased, but Theta activity was maintained at the same level as during the initial resting period. Subjects reported a sense of rest and relaxation after KB.

Heart rate variability (HRV) is an indicator of cardiac autonomic control. A study assessed before and after KB practice and found increase in low frequency (LF) power, and LF/HF ratio, and decrease in high frequency (HF) power, following KB. [sup][6]

In a recent study of the effects of KB on Six Letter Cancellation (SLC) task in three different age groups (medical students, middle-aged adults and older persons) both total errors and net scores improved after 10 min KB practice. [sup][7]

Since KB practice has been found to influence EEG i.e., cortical electrical activity, connected to cognitive processes, it is surprising that there has not been more investigation of the effects of KB on cognition. …

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