Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 69-74

Kapalabhati: A physiological healer in human physiological system

Department of Sports and Physical Education, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Date of Submission13-Apr-2021
Date of Decision01-Jun-2021
Date of Acceptance02-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication21-Jul-2021

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Verma
Department of Sports and Physical Education, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_28_21

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The purpose of this article is to aware people about the yogic technique of Kapalabhati and its benefits. It clearly explains how Kapalabhati helps in prevention and cure of various health issues in different physiological systems in the human body. This review focuses on the role of kapalabhati in maintaining the normal functioning of organs and its contribution to curing different ailments in the human body. All the information that is given in this article is consulted from different websites, journal articles, and books and is written in a way suitable for reading even to the common public. The review discloses that Kapalabhati is that high-frequency breathing exercise, which promotes overall well-being and cures diseases. This study mainly focuses on cure of number of illnesses caused due to unhealthy living habits, impurities and different types of pollutants present in the environment, and inhalation of harmful nanoparticles and other factors responsible for creating severe to major problems in the human body. Kapalabhati works in a curative and revolutionary way to cope with the health issues and improves the overall function of the body.

Keywords: Ailment, Kapalabhati, nanoparticles, nervous system, respiratory system, skin

How to cite this article:
Vaid M, Verma S. Kapalabhati: A physiological healer in human physiological system. Yoga Mimamsa 2021;53:69-74

How to cite this URL:
Vaid M, Verma S. Kapalabhati: A physiological healer in human physiological system. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Nov 28];53:69-74. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Breathing or respiration is a vital process in the human body. Its primary function is to provide oxygen to all body organs so that they can function properly (Joshi, 2019). This occurs by inhalation of oxygen through respiratory tract into the network of blood vessels and exhalation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other waste products out of the body.

The Kapalabhati is categorized under “Pranayama.” Here, “Prana” means “breathe” and “Yama” means control (Joshi, 2019). However, yogic text “Hatha Yoga Pradeepika” and “Gheranda Samhita” included it in “Shatkarma” (Yogic Way of Life, 2019). In “Hatha Yoga Pradeepika,” Kapalabhati is also named as “breathe of fire.” It is described as an important “Shatkarma” or a cleansing technique (Monkbot, n.d.). In this yogic technique of Kapalabhati, inhalation is involuntary whereas exhalation is forceful (Joshi, 2019; Aggarwal, 2009; Gokhale, 2018; Muktibodhananda, 1998). The focus of this yoga is entirely on forceful exhalation where inhalation is a subsequent natural reflex.

The word Kapalabhati is derived from two words “Kapala” means “skull and the organ inside it” and “Bhati” meaning “illuminating” or “shine” (MysticalBee, n.d.; Bryant, 2015; Ayurveda Yogashram, n.d.; Yogaoutlet, 2015).

The Kapalabhati tones up abdominal muscles, plays an extremely vital role in purifying the blood, and also redresses most of the organ functions (Ansari, 2016). This yogic exercise is a traditional internal purification practice which cleanses the internal physiological system, especially respiratory and nervous system, by encouraging the release of toxins and waste matter. It acts as a tonic for the system, refreshing and rejuvenating the body and mind.

Aim and objective

The aim of this study is to make detailed understanding of the working of Kapalabhati in curing various diseases and ailments in various physiological systems of the body caused due to different external and internal factors.

  Kapalabhati and its Impact on Nervous System Top

The human nervous system primarily consists of two parts: (1) central nervous system that includes brain and spinal cord and (2) peripheral nervous system that includes network of nerves in the entire body (Gordon, 2013; Ratini, 2020; Kaur, 2014). All the functions of the human body are controlled and coordinated by the brain. It is a bridge that connects mind with physical body (Saraswati, 1981).

Brain contributes only 2% in total body weight (Heymfield, 2009) but consumes 20% of total oxygen we inhale (Newman, 2017). Hence, supply of oxygen is the food for the brain and is responsible for its functioning and aliveness of the body.

The process through which the oxygen and other important nutrients are provided to the brain through blood via network of blood vessels (arteries) is called cerebral circulation (Kinman, 2016). There are basically two main arteries named as internal carotid arteries and vertebral arteries that are branched supply blood from heart to the brain. Jugular vein collects deoxygenated blood from brain and drains it into the heart (B. Rivard, 2020).

The cerebral blood flow is altered with change in viscosity of blood, diameter of blood vessels, and cerebral perfusion pressure. Cerebral blood vessels are able to change the flow of blood through them by altering their diameters in a process called autoregulation: in which the vessels constrict when systemic blood pressure is raised and dilate when it is lowered.

The blood vessels/arteries of the brain dilate in response to high level of CO2 in the blood and constrict in response to lower level of CO2 (Mj, Control of Cerebral Blood Flow, 2009; Fantini, 2016).

A study conducted in 2018 proved that the yogic technique Kapalabhati influences cerebral blood flow. It included a sample size of 18 people which were subjected to do three yoga techniques including Kapalabhati. The variable studied was the cerebrovascular hemodynamic change using transcranial Doppler. It was observed that by practice of 1 min of Kapalabhati, cerebral blood flow decreased (Nivethitha, Mooventhan, Krishnamurthy, & Bathala, 2017).

Another case study was performed in 1991 that demonstrated the role of Kapalabhati in increasing the blood pressure (Kuna, Vishnudevananda, & Dostalek, 1991). The test was conducted on 24 people performing Kapalabhati for 15 min. The vitals observed were respiratory and cardiovascular rhythmicities. It was noted that after a single session for 15 minutes of Kapalabhati, the blood pressure of people increased.

In postindustrialization world, since 1960s, the air we breathe is significantly influenced by the pollution, impurities, and toxins present in our surroundings. It is polluted with the number of harmful gases such as CO2, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and various other substances or nanoparticles that are harmful for our body and brain (Peeples, 2020).

Usually, when these harmful toxins enter in our body, they cannot easily affect us because of our various protection systems such as our immune system and the blood–brain barrier, whose function is to prevent circulation of toxins in the body (Gotz, 2017).

Our body also flushes out CO2 when we exhale, and toxins are also released through number of processes in the body. Kidney also plays a vital role in filtration and releasing toxins from the body (Blantz, 2007).

However, the much tiny particles also called as nanoparticles are dangerous to our system. These can not only enter into the body but also into the brain directly via olfactory lobes through inhalation of air by the nostrils (Rajvanshi, 2018).

The substances and toxins that cannot be filtered and removed start to get accumulated in the body and brain and cause various health problems. These particles are detrimental to the central nervous system, psychomotor development, and normal functioning and also lead to decline in memory, Alzheimer, dementias, stress, spectrum disorder, hyperactivity disorder, etc. (Bert, 2018). Here comes the role of Kapalabhati.

Kapalabhati is also called as skull-shining technique because it makes our skull shine by polishing its functions. It is forceful and fast exhalation technique creates a Venturi effect that in turn creates vacuum in the nasal passage that takes away all the impurities from the brain as well as from the body which cannot be flushed out by normal exhalation and other toxin elimination system (Rajvanshi, 2018). When all the toxins are removed, our brain functions more effectively. The blood supply increases, releases more CO2, and avoids vascular changes in brain.

Kapalabhati helps in reducing stress level (Nivethitha, 2016). It activates the nerve cells, improves memory, provides a sense of balance, and also improves concentration power (CT, 2018). Kapalabhati is also great for focus and forgetfulness (Saxena, 2018). Kapalabhati favorably affects the functioning of whole brain but mostly is beneficial for frontal lobe.

A recent study has shown that doing Kapalabhati pranayama increased attention with reduction in anxiety levels (Kuna, Vishnudevananda, & Dostalek, 1991). A sample size of 61 people was repeatedly measured during a session of 18 min doing Kapalabhati exercise. These people were subjected to six-letter cancelation task and Spielberger's state trait anxiety inventory-S. The results showed reduced anxiety and improved attention level in the experimented people.

Hence, the yogic technique of Kapalabhati pranayama has turned out to be a revolutionary technique for overall well-being. It has surfeit of benefits and is a wonderful solution for many physical and mental ailments.

  Kapalabhati and its Impact on Skin Top

Air pollutants such as CO, SO2, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, particulate matter, ultraviolet radiation, volatile organic compounds, and cigarette smoke are extensively present in the environment of urban and rural setting. They can cause short-term and long-term damage to the humans. Such harmful pollutants can enter body through inhalation and can spread via systemic circulation of blood or via direct transcutaneous uptake (Araviiskaia, 2019).

The largest organ in the human body is skin (Nunez, 2020). It communicates with the surrounding environment and responds to it (Montagna, 1974). It is divided into two major layers, the epidermis and the dermis. Outer layer - epidermis has five sublayers. The lower layer dermis has blood vessels, connective tissue, lymphatic vessels, nerve ending, and hairs. Epidermis is provided with nutrient and oxygen by the blood vascular system present in dermis and it also contributes in its detoxification (Dijkhoff et al., 2020; Kaur, 2014). Epidermis acts as a protective shield as it protects the different tissues and nerves beneath it.

In highly impermeable human skin, the harmful particles that are much smaller in size (like nanoparticles [~40 nm] in diameter and smaller) successfully penetrate the skin. They diffuse through skin cells. Some will travel down hair follicles and reach the dermis layer (Cewbot, n.d.). Numerous skin problems can arise because of interaction of skin with the pollutants which include premature aging, eczema, and inflammation (Awair, 2019; Haobijam, 2018). These also cause allergic skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, or acne. These harmful foreign substances can also cause skin cancer which is a life-threatening disease.

Generally, during respiration, it is not essential to put efforts in exhalation, but Kapalabhati requires rapid and forceful exhalation with both nostrils alternatively. In Kapalabhati, breathing rate and mental state are interconnected by voluntary and forceful exhalation breathing pattern. This forceful exhalation results in flushing out of toxins from body as well as the skin which helps to attain younger and clearer skin by improving blood flow to the nerves present underneath the skin. Thus, it helps in skin cell renewal (Gajendra, 2016). Proper circulation and flushing out of toxins from the skin heal skin infections and allergies such as acne, eczema, and inflammation.

In normal exhalation, CO2 is released in an average amount; however, in Kapalabhati, it is released in high amount. Moreover, this CO2 is brought by the blood capillaries derived from pulmonary artery, which carry deoxygenated blood enrich with CO2 collected from the cells and tissues of the body to the alveoli of the lungs. After passing different respiratory organ, it is released from the nostrils. From the blood capillaries where CO2 has high pressure, they move into alveoli because of low pressure of CO2 in the alveoli through the process of diffusion (Kartika, 2006). Normal breathing does not allow all the impurities, pollutants, and toxins to be expelled out, but kapalabhati i.e. the forceful exhalation helps us in pushing out those substances and impurities that otherwise may lead to various skin problems. The cells in the skin like other cells are completely dependent upon the oxygen for their survival and proper functioning (Saraswati, 1981). Hence, when more CO2 and other impurities are expelled out with the help of Kapalabhati, it results in good blood flow enriched with oxygen provided to the nerves underneath the skin cells (Fit India, n.d.).

Thus, when more oxygen is provided to the skin, the function of skin cells obviously improves and the result is healing of various skin allergies and making the skin healthy, clear, and glowing.


Our respiratory system plays a very important role in the acquisition of oxygen and elimination of CO2 (Beers, n.d.).

C6H12O6 + 6[O2] = 6[CO2] + 6[H2O] + ATP


The equation shows how nutrients like glucose are converted to cellular energy in the form of ATP. All living beings including human need oxygen to metabolize nutrients to produce energy and CO2 is produced as a waste product (Kaiser, 2021). Even each cell of the human body requires oxygen to breathe, burning fuel, generating energy, and giving off CO2. Oxygen enters the body when we breathe. This process is known as cellular respiration. It depends on the exchange of gases i.e. moving oxygen from the atmosphere to lungs, to blood, and then to cells, and synchronously moving CO2 from cell to blood, to lungs, and finally to the atmosphere. (Coulter, 2004). Respiratory system consists of nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli, and lungs (Longdum, n.d.).

The respiratory system starts at the nose and mouth and continues through the airways and the lungs (Longdum, n.d.). Breathing starts when we inhale air into our nose or mouth and it travels down the back of throat and into the windpipe and finally to the alveoli, which is divided into air passage called bronchial tubes. Lungs can perform their best when these airways are properly open and free from inflammation or swelling and extra mucus (Ratini, 2019). When we breathe through nose, it filters, warms or cools as needed, and humidifies the breath (Rosen, 2002). As the bronchial tubes pass through the lungs, they get divided into smaller air passages called bronchioles, and end in tiny balloon-like air sacs called alveoli. Alveoli are surrounded by a mesh of tiny blood vessels called capillaries (Klocke, et al., 2020). Here, oxygen from inhaled air passes into blood. Alveoli are the site of gaseous exchange. Tiny hairs, called cilia along our air passage, move in a sweeping motion to keep the passage clean, filtering out dust and other particles that enters through inhalation (Hirsch, 2019; Rosen, 2002). However, if we inhale harmful particles found in cigarette smoke, polluted air, etc., the cilia can stop working. Many conditions can affect the organs and tissues that makeup the respiratory system. Some conditions can arise from the irritants we breathe in from the air, including viruses or bacteria that cause infection (Professional, 2020).

Ambient air pollutants such as ozone, oxides of nitrogen, SO2 and particulate matter are also associated with adverse health effects. All these viruses, bacteria, and ambient air pollutants have shown increased incidence or worsening of asthma and increased risk of developing allergic diseases, respiratory symptoms, and respiratory tract infections (Limaye, 2010).

Many diseases are caused or at least aggravated by faulty breathing or by inhaling impure air. These include bronchitis, pulmonary tuberculosis, and large number of other ailments directly caused by “starving our body of the oxygen nourishment” that is needs as a result of shallow respiration (Saraswati, 1981). Many mechanisms can affect respiratory function, but one of the most dangerous is the reaction of oxidants and pro-oxidants present in the environment. These are the pollutants or particulate matter of various sizes and compositions and the gases such as O3 and nitrogen oxides. Once they are in contact with the respiratory epithelium, they cause the formation of oxygen and nitrogen-free radicles which in turn induce oxidative stress in the airways (Arbex, 2012). Lung capacity, the amount of air that our lungs can hold, is also affected by the condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Gotter, 2018).

Hence, to cope up with these respiratory-related problems, Kapalabhati plays a significant role by cleaning out the lungs. The technique of Kapalabhati involves forceful breathing in which concentration is on forceful exhalation which strengthens lungs and increased its capacity (Saxena, 2018). Kapalabhati is invigorating and warming. It helps to cleanse the lungs, sinuses, and respiratory system which can help to prevent illness and allergies (Yogaoutlet, 2015). It improves the elasticity of lungs and makes oxygen and CO2 exchange more efficient. It should certainly be practiced by those people who suffer from respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and tuberculosis. Those who suffer from asthma and emphysema had to forcefully respire air in and out of their lungs because of their medical condition. This tends to induce severe muscular tiredness. Kapalabhati, practiced at times other than during an attack, may be useful in making respiratory muscles stronger, as well as improving the general tone of lungs.

Kapalabhati is seen to remove spasm in bronchial tubes. CO2 is eliminated on a large scale and impurities of the blood are thrown out because of forceful exhalation in Kapalabhati (Bryant, 2015).

A study published in 2016 tested 60 asthma patients practicing Kapalabhati and deep breathing for 10 min in a session. There pulmonary functions were tracked using spirometry. The result showed that Kapalabhati exercise enhanced there forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volumes, and its ratios in lungs of asthma patients (Raghavendra, Shetty, Shetty, Manjunath, & Saoji, 2016). Thus, the limited available evidence on effects of yogic breathing on respiratory system indicates a positive trend of change in the respiratory physiology. (Saoji, Raghavendra, & Manjunath, 2019).

Pulmonary function tests provide important clinical information to identify and quantify the defects and abnormalities in the functioning of the respiratory system. Spirometry is the basic and useful method available for evaluating these pulmonary function parameters.

  Conclusion Top

In the present times, our environment is full of pollutants and contaminating gases that affect human health badly. Harmful foreign particles can enter our body with the inhalation of air. Those particles which our body fails to eliminate can cause many problems. The problem actually begins when these toxins start to accumulate. Where they accumulate, normal functioning of the organ is disturbed. Hence, it is important to eliminate all the harmful particles and toxins from the physiological system to maintain normal and healthy functioning of the organs, as well as to prevent different types of diseases and infections. This article explains how inhalation of impure air interferes with the mechanism and processes of our body, causing various health issues and how Kapalabhati pranayama can cure and prevent them. With help of the available literature review, it is found that Kapalabhati first prevents various ailments by inhibiting the accumulation of the harmful particles or toxins in the body which can cause a disease or any other health related problems. This is done by forceful exhalation during Kapalabhati which sucks out all the toxins from the body, thus preventing large number of diseases, infections and ailments of nervous system, respiratory system, and skin. This is not possible with normal breathing. Second, Kapalabhati removes the substance that is the root cause of a disease and enables the normal functioning of that part or organ in the body. Kapalabhati works magically in curing critical diseases without the use of medicines also preventing their side effects.


  • It is recommended to practice yogic technique of Kapalabhati pranayama for overall well-being
  • Kapalabhati should be performed to have a healthy life style
  • It is best recommended for the people with various respiratory problems including asthma and bronchitis to improve their condition
  • It is excellent remedy for skin related problems and has the ability to cure them
  • It also does tremendous work in rectifying the functioning of the nervous system and curing its large number of disorders.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.[56]

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