The Meaning of Skulls & Skull-Shining Breath
I’m not really sure when my fascination with skulls began but it’s becoming apparent that it won’t be going away any time soon. I wear skulls around my wrists, I have one on a mirror, a few are on t-shirts, scarves, candles, and I even like to paint them. The skull always reminds me of two things: We all look like this underneath and we are definitely not here forever.
Yoga philosophy teaches non-attachment to the physical, since it is only temporary. Yet we all spend too much time bound to the objects of the material world and appearances drive everything around us. This is surely a recipe for suffering. If we lose the things we place all of our value on, then we experience pain. If we don’t look the way we think we should, or the way society thinks we should, then we somehow feel inadequate – again succumbing to suffering.
Consider how clinging to life and fear of the future affects the body and mind. Not only do we miss the present moment, but we also force our bodies to function from a state of stress. If we are fearful and insecure, contentment and homeostasis cannot exist.
I choose to remind myself that I could go any day; Therefore, am I enjoying today as much as possible? Am I present? Why am I judging this person in front of me (or myself) based on external appearances? Notice how often you’re lost in your mind and instead become aware of everything around you. Appreciate the different forms that life takes yet see the connective energy beneath it all. When we stay open, receptive, loving, and present we choose to live fully instead of dwelling in the negative energy that brings us down.
Kapalabhati – Cleansing breath
KB, as I like to call it, is a kriya, or cleansing technique that creates heat to destroy the unhealthy and uses forceful breathing to purify the body and calm the mind.
To begin, find a comfortable sitting position (use a wall if you need it for support). Drop your shoulders, lift your chest, close your eyes and take a full breath in through the nose. Pause slightly when your lungs are pleasantly full and exhale everything through your nose (draw your belly in to help you empty completely). Take a half breath in and forcefully draw your navel in to exhale through your nose again. Begin pumping your stomach – filling the lungs halfway and forcefully exhaling through your nose to empty. Create a nice rhythm of short, rapid, and strong breaths. Pump your stomach for half a minute or 20 breaths and slowly increase with practice.
*Kapalabhati breathing is great for raising your energy level, clearing the sinuses, activating digestive fire, and calms the mind for meditation.