Pranayama Bhastrika or Kapalbhati…you’re doing it wrong.

For my first year living here in India, I was positive that the guy who lives upstairs had either bulimia or anorexia.

Every morning, for the past three years, this man would sit in his bathroom making the most horrific retching noises. It truly sounded like he just couldn’t vomit whatever was upsetting his stomach out…and so he would cough and retch and cough and HUH for a good 15 to 20 minutes.

It should be said that I am what’s called a “Sympathetic Vomitter”. This means that if I so much as hear a retching noise, my gorge starts to rise. If I should, heaven forbid, SEE or SMELL it then for sure I’m going to hurl.

I began to be very concerned with his diet. Was he eating at the same places as us? Was I going to start vomiting every morning? Was it our WATER?

Because of the time that he did this, my husband would be dead to the world and since he sleeps on the side of the bed away from our bathroom…he never heard it. But I did. It became my regular alarm clock.

However when Bear’s work schedule changed, he began waking up earlier in the morning and one morning he was awake when Mr. Chronic Vomitter was at his sympathy vomit inducing best.

“Bear, I think Mr. Upstairs is bulimic.” I said to my husband.

“What’s bulimic mean?” he loves all these new words I teach him.

“It’s when you over eat something and then throw it up. Maybe he’s anorexic instead…”

“Why do you say that? Quizzical looks are always so cute on him.

“Dude! Do you hear him? Listen to that! He’s vomiting out his lungs up there!”

“Ohhh, does he do this every morning?” He’s starting to get the point now…HELLO Sympathy Vomitter for a wife!

“YES!” Emphatically shaking my head to prove this point.

“Oh..he’s not sick. He’s doing pranayama. Either Kapalbhati or Bhastrika. Doesn’t sound like he’s doing it right though.”

“What the HECK is THAT??? I mean, is he vomiting as a part of YOGA??? EW!”

And there started my lessons in yogic breathing techniques.

But the way Bear and his Dad do it doesn’t sound one tiny little bit like the guy upstairs. And they don’t do it for long. And they don’t do it regularly because, as Baba points out, it can be very damaging if done wrong or excessively.

So, what are Kapalbhati and Bhastrika Pranayama? Essentially, they are a part of the Hatha Yoga.

Well, first it should be said that not everyone believes that these are forms of Pranayama. Some believe that they are shuddhikriyas.

Shuddhikriyas are cleansing techniques that should only be done when needed whereas Pranayama are Yogic techniques that can be done on a daily basis.

Kapalbhati and Bhastrika Pranayama are breathing techniques. It’s basically when one sits in a lotus pose, erect and without curvature of the spine and breathe either in small quick breathes in and out of the nose (Kapalbhati) or long inhales and quick exhales through the nose (Bhastrika). They are meant to help you cleanse the nasal cavities, clear the brain and to focus. Simply put.

However, neither of these sounds likes the morning ablutions of Mr. Upstairs.

So I started to do further research.

After reading that most people do not believe that these are actually Pranayama but in fact Shuddhikriyas, I decided to do further research on Shuddhikriyas.

What I finally found was a website listing the different methods of cleansing. (You can see it here).

They are:

  • Agnisardhouti
  • Vamandhouti
  • Kapalbhati
  • Jalneti
  • Nasagra Drishti

Then I researched each one and VIOLA! What Mr. Upstairs is performing is actually called Vaman Dhouti!

Here is an excerpt on the method:

The washing up of the entire track starting from the mouth to the digestive path at the beginning of the small intestines, that is mouth, esophagus, stomach etc are included in this process. One can wash one’s mouth, but in the daily routine one cannot wash the esophagus or the stomach. The impurities residing there are carried along with the food particles and are mixed in some proportion with the blood. This has adverse effects on the body. In the case of some patients, the stomach wash is affected by introducing rubber tube into the stomach. This process is done in Yoga without any external instruments, only with the physical movements of the internal organs in the body. This process of stomach wash is done with the help of dand (catheter), water or cloth. We will consider the process done with the help of water.


AND this website even goes so far to say that it should NOT be performed daily!

So what the heck Dude? Why do I have to listen to Mr. Upstairs make his retching vomiting noises every single morning for three years?

Now I’m currently thinking up a way to print this webpage off, slide it under his door and wait to see if it changes anything.

Perhaps highlight in yellow and underline in bold that part about NOT performing it daily.

©2012 Gori Rajkumari

4 thoughts on “Pranayama Bhastrika or Kapalbhati…you’re doing it wrong.

  1. “I began to be very concerned with his diet. Was he eating at the same places as us? Was I going to start vomiting every morning? Was it our WATER?”

    Typical…. nosying into other people’s affairs, characterising their problems, imagining the reasons for them and extrapolating the results into one’s personal Life…. female behaviour! 😉

    You are right, though…. Yoga asans and techniques are not to followed blindly and without any instruction from someone who is adequately qualified/knowledgeable.

    I am not entirely sure as to why this particular expeller practises the voluntary purging of his early morning upper Gastrointestinal contents…. but I can hazard a guess…. it could be that the gentleman upstairs with the tendency to throw could have been practising this particular technique because someone might have told him it is the cure for regular heartburn…. because that’s the reason why I know a few people I know used to do it earlier….

    Vomiting or purging is a predominant feature of folk/local medicine in India. It is considered ‘healthy’ and ‘cleansing’ to purge one’s stomach contents regularly to ‘rid it of poisons.”

    Even today, in the rural areas, after brushing one’s teeth, people put the index and the middle finger in the mouth and over the tongue to induce a gag reflex to cause vomiting or retching.
    Even my parents do this twice a week.

    I used to try it as a kid…. lets just say that I was never so glad about the hole at the other end as those days! 🙂

    Heck! If I have a nasty cough and my chest fills a bit heavy, even to this day, sometimes, Aai gives me a glass of salt water and I purge…. I am not sure how exactly it works…. but it does help!:-o

    All I can say is that these are practices that need to be done under guidance from someone who is qualified to instruct this technique.

    I know about being a ‘sympathetic vomitter….’ I was one, too…. till I went to medschool…. now after seeing Tb and surgery patients cough all sorts of nasty things…. lets just say I do manage to hold my bile.

  2. Pingback: Teaching Love Learning and Firefights. « ahimsamaven

  3. Never heard of this before (as I know nothing of yoga), but it explains the noise coming from the down stairs neighbor’s flat on the mornings when his dad visits 🙂 Thanks for the info!

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