This is the concluding part in the two part series on Brain Breathing.
The head should be facing towards the east while sleeping, and while eating. We have already seen that how swara yoga considers left to be a negative current and the right nostril as a positive current in our body. Modern science proves that this flow of currents is influenced by the atmospheric ions and electromagnetic field in the atmosphere. We can consider earth to be a large magnet as it is surrounded by the electromagnetic field. Consider the North Pole to be positive and the South Pole to be negative. Each of these poles attracts opposite and repels similar particles, thereby creating energy circuits around the earth. The movements/flow of these currents affect our being and influences our mental and physical faculty by stimulating different areas in our brain.
Swara yoga considers the body to also be a magnet like the earth. It says our body is a living magnet. Head is considered to be positive pole and the feet to be a negative pole. To be more precise, the base of the spine can be taken as negative and the top of the spine as a positive pole. It is for this reason that we should not sleep with our head towards the west as the circulation of the energy must flow with the earth’s magnetic field.
The brain and central nervous systems have been seen to act as transmitters and receptors of electromagnetic waves, receiving external information and sending internal information back into the cosmos.
Now let’s understand the prerequisites of doing swara yoga:
The whole body should be cleaned and functioning rhythmically. This is done by nadi shodhan. Meaning, purification of ida, pingla and sukshmana. Purification is applied here for the cleaning of blockages that have occurred due to various physical and mental disorders. This could be respiratory disorders, digestive disorders, nervous breakdowns etc. One might wonder for such a pre-requisite cause one of the aim of swara yoga is to get a better health both mentally and physically for better spiritual being and entering the world of superconciousness.
This is because the false recognition of nadis will not give the required response to the whole of our being. Nadi shodhan can be done either by neti, or by kunjal. Neti and kunjal are few of the shatkarmas in patanjali yoga sadhana for cleansing nadis. The other alternative which I find it easier is the practice of pranayam for one month regularly at three sandhyas of the day, which will cleanse and purify the nadis. Sandhya is the time 5 minutes before and after sunset, sunrise and mid-time of the day which usually is around at noon.
Neurologists have researched that one hemisphere of the brain remains active for 60 to 90 minutes. When that cycle is complete there is transfer of energy to the other hemisphere of the brain via copus collosum (a part of brain that interconnects the right and left hemispheres to exchange information). This exchange from the first to the second hemisphere is about 1 to 4 minutes. These calculations exactly coincide with the time taken for each swara/ nostril to change. Each nostril/swara works for about 60 to 90 minutes and then shifts to another with the gap of 1 to 4 minutes where both the nostrils are opened. Science has found that the brain hemispheres control breathing in the right and left nostrils. The active hemisphere stimulates the connected nostril. Therefore there is one nostril always active and the other always partially blocked.
10 nadi shodhan pranayam thrice a day will suffice for starter. One has to inhale through the left nostril and exhale from right nostril then inhale from right nostril and exhale from the left nostril. This is one cycle. Ten such cycles three times a day. While doing this one must sit on a non conductor of heat like a woolen cloth, with legs flexed (sukhasana) and erect spine. Do not stretch the spine. The spine, neck and head should be in one straight line.
The second requisite is that one should quit eating non-vegetarian food, intoxication, chewing tobacco, over eating or eating frequently. Diet should be light and easily digestible. If possible eat only soft moong khichadi or fruits in night time. Do not eat late.
The third pre-requisite is not to keep awake until late in the night. Sleep by 11.pm and wake up before 6.30 am.
Do not waste time in watching movies and listening to songs. Spend your time in knowing self by doing devotional service and reading good books/ scriptures.
One month of practice of nadi shodhan pranayam will remove the accumulated toxins and mucus from the body. Take 3 spoons of castor oil every second or third day to clean your bowels, which will help in removing excess mucus from the body, thereby reducing lethargy, drowsiness, tiredness and moodlessness.
After this practice, the main part of brain breathing, i.e., swara yoga starts. Before that one must understand the nature of breath – the nature of swara. If the particular swara is not functioning at a given time that implies there’s a defect in the system. The breath flowing in the right nostril or left nostril has to flow in the order to the movements of the sun and moon. This is the reason why we call ida and pingla as lunar and solar nadis.
First examine which nostril is working. This is done by placing ones palm near the nose and feeling for breath. This will reveal which swara is active and which is inactive. Now know what is the length of your prana. The length of the prana alters with emotions, physical work and health of individual. The length of the prana is measured on the finger. The natural length is 7 to 12 fingers. This can increase till 100 fingers long in physical strenuous exercises, till 30 fingers long while sleeping, till 24 fingers long while walking and till 36 fingers long while copulation.
Now our whole effort should be in reducing the length of the swara and correct the use of swara. Anulom vilom pranayam helps in this matter. In this pranayam we inhale from the left nostril maximum and then retain the breath inside as long as we can. This is followed by exhalation from the right nostril. This exhalation should be very slow. Exhale as much as you can and empty your lungs. Now remain without it as long as you can. This is followed by slow inhalation from the right nostril and retaining air inside the body. Again, the retention of the air should be done forcefully as much one can, followed by slow exhalation from the left nostril. This completes one cycle of anulom vilom pranayam.
After one month’s practice of nadi shodhan pranayam, the seeker/diseased should take up practice of anulom vilom pranayam staring at five pranayams three times a day and gradually increased till 7 pranayams thrice a day.
The benefits of reducing the length of swara are:
01. Continuous exhalation which does not exceed to length of one finger brings detachment from the world and one does not then calculate profit or loss, good or bad, one remains in a steady state of consciousness.
02. Till two fingers, individual remains blissful and self contented.
03. Till three one gets the abilities of becoming a good poet.
04. Till four one gets the ability of getting powers to make true whatever he says.
05. Till five one can foresee the outcome of an event before it happens.
And so on….but these are all material benefits. The best benefit is perfection in physical and spiritual health.
Swara yogi (practitioner of yoga is known as yogi) knows that during the influence of either of swara, particular things can be done, which if done accordingly will give the best results and success. The following is good and appropriate to do if the left i.e., ida swara is active.
01. Drinking water or micturating (passing urine)
02. Getting out of bed
03. Calm and silent work, especially that which requires mental activity
04. Purchasing jewelry
05. Settling agreements
06. Religious practices
07. Long journey
08. Taking medicines and treatments
09. For women to participate in sexual relations
The following is good and appropriate to do when the right swara i.e., pingla is active.
01. Physical activity/ hard work
02. Eating, drinking, evacuating bowels
03. Warfare, or taking up challenging tasks
04. Doing mathematics or other intellectual things
05. Resistance, opposition
06. Riding vehicle
07. Men to engage in sexual intercourse
None of this is hypothetical. It has already been proved above with scientific evaluations. Different types of activities are related to different parts of the brain which is affected by swara.
Now there can be circumstances where you require a particular swara to function. During those times for getting success, the swaras can be manipulated. This is done by the following methods:
Close the active nostril with the finger and breathe through the inactive one for 5 to 10 minutes. Inhale through the active nostril and exhale through the inactive nostril. Apply pressure to the armpit, the same side as of the active nostril. After sometime the opposite side of the nostril gets opened.
Or you can sit in vajarasana and place the left hand in the right armpit and right hand in the left armpit. This is called padadhirasana. By alternating the pressure of the hands you can either regulate the flow or change it completely. Lie down on the same side of the active nostril. Some time the opposite side of the nostril will be opened.
Checking the swara before acting:
Once you have understood the flow of the prana to the particular swara and its corresponding effect in the brain, then you can apply this knowledge and meet all possible success. It can be practiced as follows.
On waking, determine which swara is active. Touch that side of the nostril and face with the same side hand.
Step out of the bed with the foot that corresponds to the active swara.
Start work during the flow of lunar swara.
When the solar swara is functioning and you eat hot, pungent, sour, salty, it will overheat your system and cause acidity. Therefore it is advisable to eat such things during the flow of ida.
Likewise it is better to avoid cold food, ice, etc. or food which cools the system like yoghurt etc during the flow of the lunar swara.
If you take bath in cold water make sure that pingala is active so as to avoid cold and cough.
Similarly while taking a bath with hot water make ida active.
The type of sickness which occurs generally indicates which nadi and energy system has been flowing excessively. Many problems resulting from poor digestion such as flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, dyspepsia and respiratory diseases are associated with the excess flow of ida. On the other hand, stress related problems like hypertension, acidity, and ulcers arise from the over activation of pingala.
To remain healthy one must maximize the flow of pingala at night and ida at day.
If there is too much of heat in the body, then sleeping or lying down on the right side will keep you cool and if your body is feeling too cold then lying down on the left side will make it warm. For headaches also one should sleep on their left side at night.
During a headache, block the opposite active nostril and open the opposite.
By – Dr. Hiren Parekh