Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Kapalabhati Pranayama: An Answer to Modern Day Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Coexisting Metabolic Syndrome?

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Kapalabhati Pranayama: An Answer to Modern Day Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Coexisting Metabolic Syndrome?

Article excerpt

Byline: Reshma. Ansari

Breath, the vital force of life, is controlled positively by pranayama to ensure homeostasis and wellbeing in humans. Kapalabhati is the rapid breathing technique of pranayama, which is considered as a cure for various ailments. The possible use of this technique to combat metabolic syndrome (MS) and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) has been discussed in this article. Various published literature from PubMed, Scopus, and theses were reviewed to reinforce the hypothesis that this technique is the answer to ailments due to modernization. It was worthwhile to note that Kapalabhati does combat various features of MS, but its efficacy against PCOS is yet to be proven. However, since both syndromes arise due to a common factor hyperinsulinemia primarily induced by stress in this modern world, it is hypothesized that Kapalabhati holds good against PCOS too. Hence, in conclusion, it can be said that it would be beneficial to conduct a study on PCOS women to ascertain the efficacy of Kapalabhati in their population.


The Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means “union” gives origin to the word “yoga.”[sup][1] The principles of yoga therapy, which target to establish homeostasis in the organism as a whole, have been a source of intrigue among researchers since the beginning of the 20[sup]th century.[sup][2] As breath is the key to life, regular rhythmic breathing and its conscious control is said to have enhance mental and physical power in people.[sup][1] Hence, breathing or respiration is known as vital force, and pranayama yoga ensures complete knowledge and control of this vital force. As a result, enrichment of breathing techniques leads to rhythmic respiration and the practitioner attains a calm, yet alert state of mind.[sup][3]

Pranayama, one of the pillars of Ashtanga yoga, generally denotes extension of life; as “prana” means life force and “ayama” means expansion. Pranayama increases life span and maintains health by the practice of prolonging and shortening the breath cycle.[sup][4] This is because respiratory impulses, one of the main channels of the flow of the autonomic nerve currents are controlled by pranayama. These breathing exercises could prevent and cure conditions which involve disruption of homeostatic state of autonomic nervous systems such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Normal rhythmic breathing also tends to reduce the intensity of psychosomatic ailments.[sup][2]

Pranayama encompasses two types of breathing techniques; one is slow and the other is rapid. Kapalabhati is one of the rapid breathing techniques, known as automatic inhalation technique, the other one being forced inhalation or Bhastrika. Though Kapalabhati is the common term used for both automatic and forced inhalation, some practitioners use Bhastrika for a more advanced technique that includes breath holding.[sup][2]

Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kapalabhati is one of the components of body cleansing techniques. The word Kapalabhati is derived from two words: “kapala” meaning “skull” and the organs inside it and “bhati” meaning “illuminating,” Kapalabhati technique may correct these organ functions and help to purify blood and tone abdominal muscles.[sup][3] In another note, it is said that regular performance of Kapalabhati makes the forehead luminous.[sup][5] Kapalabhati should be discontinued if the practitioner experiences dizziness or syncopal attacks. It is advisable to keep the stomach, bladder, and bowels empty while performing the pranayama.[sup][6]

Physiological Changes during and After Kapalabhati

As mentioned earlier, Kapalabhati is a rapid breathing technique otherwise known as automatic inhalation technique.[sup][6] The air is inhaled normally, but expiration is forced with the help of the abdominal musculature. …

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