Yoga class on beach

Hyperventilation: Is kapalabhati hyperventilation? (part 4)

The Sanskrit word kapalabhati means “skull-shining.” I often begin my day with kapalabhati after using the neti pot. It leaves me feeling both mentally energized and calm–a very different feeling from the agitation that accompanies hyperventilation. And, in fact, despite appearances, kapalabhati isn’t hyperventilation, as long as it’s done properly. The technique To practice kapalabhati, sit in a comfortable, upright posture…

Satellite view of earth with lung shape

Hyperventilation: Why breathing more isn’t necessarily better (part 3)

In the 1930s, Dr. William Kerr proposed that chronic, low-level hyperventilation could be behind a host of non-specific symptoms in patients suffering from anxiety, where no organic dysfunction could be found. This has sometimes been called the “fat folder syndrome” for the thickness of the patient’s medical file. These patients complained not only of anxiety or panic, but also feelings…

Hyperventilation: Why breathing more isn’t necessarily better (part 2)

In part one of this series, I covered what might seem like a paradoxical outcome of hyperventilation—that breathing more than necessary actually reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain. In this installment, I’ll explore two more effects of my experience of over-breathing: involuntary muscle spasms while hyperventilating and long periods of apnea (not breathing)…

Hyperventilation: Why breathing more isn’t necessarily better (part 1)

Recently, when I was in California I spent an evening practicing holotropic breathwork. I didn’t know much about this beforehand, and you might not either, so I’ll just set the scene. There were about 20 or so of us in a circle, along with a facilitator (whose instructions generally only increased my mystification). After a…