One of my major goals in the last year has been to increase my endurance. This is more than just physical, it’s also mental endurance and the belief that I can handle whatever the world with throw at me. Today’s blog will teach you a breathing exercise that’s a powerful way to increase your endurance, confidence and power. It’s an exercise that is commonly seen in kundalini classes known as the Ego Eradicator.
I’m also sharing a great modification of this exercise for people who are pregnant or are unable to do pranayama/breathing exercises due to high blood pressure, heart/lung issues, or dizziness. The pregnancy modification came from friend and fellow yoga teacher Lindsey Goldwasser. This exercise is powerful for preparation for labor/birth because you learn to trust yourself and realize just how strong you can be.
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The Ego Eradicator exercise combines pranayama (breathwork) with an arm position to clear your body, reduce fatigue, and increase your confidence in strength.
For the breakthwork, you’ll be doing Kapalabhati breath, also known as breath of fire. Breath of fire is a strong exhale followed by a short passive inhale. Here’s how to do it:
- Take a deep breath in and breath out. Relax your shoulders. You can close your eyes or have a soft gaze.
- Inhale halfway in.
- Exhale strongly and sharply through your nose (you’ll make a little noise!). You should feel your belly pop like a drum.
- Let the inhale be a passive, shallow inhale that happens in your response to the strong exhale.
- Continue breathing like this, finding a steady rhythm (it can be as fast or as slow as is comfortable for you), and maintain this breath for as little as 10 repetitions (about 15-20 seconds). You can eventually work up to doing this breath for 3 minutes at a time.
- When you finish, take 2-3 deep inhales and exhales.
Do not do kapalabhati breath if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, and heart/lung issues, have your menstrual cycle, or feel dizzy.
During the Ego Eradicator, you’re going to sit seated (crosslegged on the ground, or sitting up tall in a chair). Extend your arms at 45 degree angles (like you’re putting your hands in the air to say “yay!”). Curl your fingers in and have your thumbs stick out in the thumbs up sign. Palms will face forward.
Maintain this position while you do your kapalabhati breath. When you have your first deep inhale after finishing kapalabhati breath, bring the thumbs to touch overhead.
Ego Eradicator Modification for Pregnant Women
If for whatever reason you’re not supposed to or able to do kapalabhati, you can do “keep ups”.
To do a keep up:
- Breathe in and out evenly, not holding the breath.
- Take your arms out wide like a T, and make the thumbs up sign, palm faces forward.
- Start to move the thumbs in a figure 8 pattern. This figure 8 is small, and the arms won’t move up and down too much. Your arms stay out long.
- Stay in this position for 3 minutes.
The Benefits of the Ego Eradicator or Keep Ups
Both the ego eradicator and keeps ups are difficult. They’re uncomfortable. They don’t cause outright pain, but they’re just difficult enough to keep your brain engaged and your body on alert.
This is good. We love and seek comfort, but often that’s not what life gives us. It’s a powerful practice to experience this discomfort and realize that we can indeed do it. Each time you finish your 3 minutes of ego eradicator, you get to face yourself and your beliefs about yourself head on. Each time you get to remind yourself that you ARE powerful and strong. You can indeed be successful, and you have the strength to do what you put your mind to.
I recommend that my pregnant clients do this every day to prep for the contractions of labor (which will never last more than 3 minutes), and all of us could benefit from this reminder that we can indeed face discomfort.
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Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.