PRANAYAMA (BREATHING TECHNIQUE) KAPALBHATI SKULL SHINING BREATH
Now who wouldn’t want a shining skull? This Pranayama (which means to extend the life force) can really invigorate and energise your system. I like to do it first thing in the morning and it’s best practised on an empty stomach. You forcibly use the abdominal muscles to release carbon dioxide from the lungs on the out breath and passively allow extra oxygen into the blood stream on the in breath, energising all the body’s systems. It is one of six Shatkarmas or methods of internal purification from Hatha Yoga. In Sanskrit, Kapal means the skull and Bhati means to shine or illuminate. The practice of Kapalbhati cleans the sinuses and can produce a light feeling in the forehead, hence the name.
It is used in Ayurveda to help with an excess of Kapha Dosha, which is located in the chest, heart, tongue, throat and nose. Formed from the elements of earth and water, excess Kapha can manifest as mucus and congestion, particularly during the winter, which is also Kapha Dosha season.
WHEN TO USE KAPALBHATI
In the morning: an energizing, invigorating wake-up call.
When you’re cold: a warming breath that allows you to build up heat in the body.
Mid-afternoon: to power out of the mid-day slump.
- Cleanses lungs and respiratory system
- Strengthens and tones diaphragm and abdominal muscles
- Releases toxins
- Increases oxygen to cells, purifying blood in the process
- Improves digestion
- Energises and clears mind
- Focuses attention
- Warms body
HOW TO DO KAPALBHATI (with yoga instructor guidance)
- Find a steady upright pose on the floor or chair.
- With an empty stomach take a few rounds of long inhales and exhales.
- Begin the practice – this is a reverse of normal breathing as the emphasis is on the exhale, not the inhale.
- Breathe out pulling back the abs to force the air out of the body.
- Keep the inhale passive and let the lungs fill.
- Take as many exhalations in this way as feels comfortable – there should be no straining. In the beginning this may just be one or two which is fine.
- Take a few normal breaths between rounds and only practise while it is still comfortable. Build up the practice slowly over time.
- All Pranayama practices should be learned under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor. If you have a medical condition, consult a doctor before taking up the practice.
WHEN NOT TO PRACTISE
Do not practice Kapalabhati if you are pregnant, or if you have high blood pressure, acid gastric issues, heart disease, stroke, epilepsy or abdominal pain. You should also stop or slow down if you feel dizzy or anxious.
With thanks to www.yogicwayoflife.com and www.chobra.com.
AYURVDA FOR YOUR DOSHA AND FOR THE SEASON – HELPING MANAGE CHANGE
Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India has been practiced for over 5000 years. The Sanskrit name translates as ‘Ayu’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘Veda’ as ‘knowing’, so Ayurveda is termed ‘the science of life’. This system sees everything including mankind, as a smaller reflection of the bigger picture that includes all of creation. Therefore, it seeks to treat health with a holistic approach and aims to honour the unique constitution of the individual. Each constitution is a combination of the five elements of ether (space), air, fire, water and earth which form all organic matter (plants and animals) and inorganic matter (minerals). The five elements form the three Doshas (constitutions) of Vata (ether and air), Pitta (fire and a little water), and Kapha (earth and water).
We contain all three Doshas but usually one, sometimes two, and on occasion all three, are dominant. We are born with a unique constitution known as our Prakruti, ‘our nature’. It is when our Prakruti is out of balance that illness has the potential to take hold.
THE DOSHAS OUT OF BALANCE
Vata like its elements of ether and air has the following attributes associated with it – dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear. When there is excess Vata, a few of the symptoms may include dry skin, flatulence, thinness, general or bone pain that is piercing, stabbing or moving. Decreased Vata can show itself in various ways some of which include the need for more sleep, coughs, nausea, tastelessness.
Pitta is made of fire with a little water present, so the fire does not burn itself out. Like describing fire, the words associated with this Dosha are – hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic, oily. When there is excess of this Dosha some of the following ailments may occur – toxicity of the blood, inflammation, infections, and skin problems and digestive disorders.
Kapha is earth and water and its attributes are oily, heavy, cold, soft, slimy, dense, gross and slow. Imbalance can manifest in having excess mucus, being cold, sleeping in the day, overeating and inertia.
HOW TO REBALANCE YOUR DOSHA
An Ayurvedic principal is that ‘like increases like’ and ‘opposites decrease’. So, if your Dosha, for instance is Kapha (cold, soft, dense, slow etc.) then taking daytime sleeps will only increase the Kapha, taking it out of balance, but doing some exercise (the opposite to sleeping) would help bring Kapha back into balance. The following are some tips for each Dosha:
Vata – keep warm, eat warm and spicy foods, minimize raw foods and legumes except mung beans, keep to a routine, create a safe, calm environment.
Pitta – keep cool, avoid steam and heat, avoid excess oils, avoid both fried and stimulating foods, eat diary, get enough fresh air and emphasise fresh fruits and vegetables.
Kapha – exercise daily, have variety in life, stimulate and challenge yourself, low fat diet, hot, light and spicy foods and enough carbs to maintain energy, avoid iced drinks.
THIS SEASON’S DOSHA – KAPHA – FIVE TIPS FOR THRIVING IN WINTER
Typically, Ayurveda having its roots in India works with 6 seasons, however in the UK we work with four. Our four seasons however have overlapping times when there is a more predominant feature or Dosha to the weather. For instance, winter often begins as dry and windy, a continuation of autumn and the Vata Dosha, it then moves to a wetter, damp and cold season, which is Kapha. As ever with Ayurveda and Yoga, awareness is key in assessing what is happening around you and what would be the best course of action. However, below are some tips for a ‘typical’ wet and damp Kapha winter:
- Keep your head and hands warm. The wrists and back of the neck are sensor points that the nervous system uses to regulate metabolism and the distribution of body heat.
- Keep your bedroom cool but not so much that the temperature drops in the night, waking you up. If you feel aches and pains on waking you may have tossed and turned during the night, a possible sign that the room got too cold.
- Take up a new interest in something that makes you feel happy and focused.
- Find ways to laugh and remain positive spend time with friends. If you feel unusually sad in winter and suspect SAD (Seasonal Affective disorder), consult your doctor, who may prescribe more exposure to natural or artificial sunlight.
- Make sure your diet is warm and nourishing at every meal.
I had so many different name ideas for this site but Satisfy the Hunger seemed to encapsulate what I was hearing from so many – a need to find food and practices that nourish our depleted, stressed-out selves.
Why I decided to do a site in the first place was because my yoga students would ask where they could find out about my food and get advice on recipes and techniques and my private cook clients wanted to know more about the yoga I offered so I decided to put it all in one place.
My posts will focus on practices and techniques that nourish the body and the soul across the spectrum of food and yoga but always with an emphasis on the practical. Who has time to prepare three-hour gourmet ‘raw’ meals or two-hour early morning yoga sessions? OK maybe some, but for the rest of us we need to access practices which are do-able, fit with our lives, are effective and Satisfy the Hunger within for a life that sustains us.