Swara Yoga (The Science of Breath)
By Dr. Rita Khanna
THE MEANING OF SWARA YOGA
The act of breathing is called “Swara”. The Sanskrit word Swara means the sound of one’s own breath. Yoga means union. Therefore, Swarayoga is the union of different vibrations of breath that alter our psycho-physiological activity. It is a systematic practice of the observation of the breath flow through the nostrils in relation to the time of day, the position of the moon, sun, planets, seasons and the play of five basic elements earth, water, fire, air and space with the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the practising individual. Swara breathing is a process, which can be manipulated and controlled whenever you want to. It helps us to understand how to maximise our potential, control moods, heal ailments and be attuned to the cosmic rhythm.
TYPES OF SWARA
There are three main Swaras. These are known as Chander Swar (Ida Naddi), Surya Swar (Pingala Naddi), Shoonya Swar (Sushumna Naddi). These three Naddis operate alternately for certain duration of time because the flow of breath changes every hour or every hour and twenty minutes. If Chander Swara or Surya Swara predominate for too long it is a sign of warning that one of the branches of the autonomic nervous system is being over stressed and only one of the brain hemispheres is being fully utilized. The co-ordination of these three Naddis gives health, strength, mental peace and long life – and clear the way for the spiritual growth. Once this understanding takes place, the breathing pattern can be altered at will to make the life harmonious and balanced. Let us have some basic understanding of three Swaras or Nadies through Swarayoga.
CHANDER SWAR OR IDA NADDI
The left nostril is called Chander Swar & is connected to the Ida network of Naddis. The word Naddi literally means ‘flow’ or ‘current’. These Naddis are creative energy channels of conscious energy. Ida Naddi is ruled by the Moon & is associated with mental activities, parasympathetic nervous system and relaxation. Ida Naddi, which is the feminine, is associated with the right hemisphere of the brain and controls the left side of the body. When Ida is flowing, the breath will be more in the left nostril. It indicates that the mental energy is dominant. The mind is passive, cool, introverted and any kind of mental work can be undertaken. It is like nectar and gives strength and nourishment to the soul and the body.
SURYA SWARA OR PINGALA NADDI
The right nostril is called Surya Swar and is connected to the Pingala network of Naddis. Pingala Naddi is ruled by the Sun & is associated with Pranic activities (physical activities), sympathetic nervous system and stress. Pingala Naddi, which is the masculine, is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain and controls the right side of the body. When Pingala is flowing, the breath will be more in the right nostril. It indicates that the vital energy is dominant. The mind is active, extroverted, & any kind of physical work can be undertaken. It is responsible for the growth of the body.
SHOONYA SWARA OR SUSHUMNA NADDI
When Ida and Pingala Naddis flow together then the main channel The Third Swara or Shoonya Swara is stimulated. It is called Sushumna Naddi. It is located at the base of the spine & it travels directly up through the spinal cord. Sushumna unites both Ida & Pingala at the eyebrow centre in the region of medulla oblongata. When both nostrils flow together, both hemispheres operate in unison. The physical organs & mental organs function simultaneously & it indicates that the mind is blissful, calm, pure, balanced & the spiritual energy is in power & time is good for concentration, meditation, and worship. In subtle body terms the Sushumna Naddi is the path to enlightenment.
PRINCIPLE OF FLOW OF THE SWARA
The first 14 days from the new moon to the full moon is called bright fortnight. On the 15th tithi (date) the moon is full, this is called Poornima. The next 14 days between the full moon to the new moon is called darker fortnight. On the 15th tithi (date) there is no moon & this is called Amavasya.
In Swara cycle, during bright fortnight (Poornima) Chandra Naddi (Ida) becomes active at sunrise on days 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15. Throughout the day Ida & Pingala function alternately in 60-90 minutes cycles. At sunset, Surya Naddi begins to function on the same days. On days, 4, 5, 6,10,11,12 the Surya Naddi flows at sunrise and Chadnra Naddi at sunset.
During darker fortnight (Amavasya) Surya Naddi (Pingala) becomes active at sunrise on days 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30. Throughout the day Pingala & Ida, function alternately in 60-90 minutes cycles. At sunset, Chandra Nadi begins to function on the same days. On days, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 the Chandra Naddi flows at sunrise and Surya Naddi at sunset. It goes on up to full moon.
HOW TO CHECK THE SWARA
We breathe continuously 24 hours a day either consciously or unconsciously.
If you observe the breath consciously, you will notice that at any given time, we only breathe through one nostril and only sometimes we breathe through both the nostrils. You can check this for yourself right now by exhaling into the palm of the right hand and you will feel a stronger current flow from the open nostril. If you are still unsure, then close one nostril and breathe out through the other.
Then do the same with the other nostril. You will feel the difference between the flows of these two exhalations. The deeper sound indicates the open nostril, the higher pitch indicates the close nostril. The dominant nostril changes on its own accord every hour or every hour and twenty minutes. Sometimes both nostrils flow equally, and then you can’t differentiate whether the right or left is predominating. This is the flow of the Third Swara (Sushmana Naddi).
RESULTS ON PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL & MENTAL STATE
- If Ida Naddi is flowing and there is physical work to be done, it is possible to redirect the flow of the breath to Pingala Naddi to obtain the necessary energy. On the other hand, if study or mental work is required, one can redirect the flow of the breath to Ida Naddi to obtain the necessary energy.
- To cure the common cold, sinusitis, asthma, indigestion, block the left nostril & breathe through the right nostril 21 times. Also sleeping on the left side gives relief as it activates the right nostril.
- To cure acidity, hypertension, headache, stress, diabetes and fever, block the right nostril & breathe through the left nostril 21 times. Also sleeping on the right side gives relief as it activates the left nostril.
READUSTING THE SWARAS
In everyday life, one of these Naddis is always dominant. When there is a disturbance in the natural cycle, and the proper nostril does not open, body chemistry becomes disturbed thus affecting physical, emotional & mental state. Changing the breath affects the prevention of disease. The simple act of changing the breath from one nostril to the other reverses brain hemisphere dominance & altering chemical reactions taking place throughout the organism. This has an impact on personality, behaviour and health issues.
- SwaraYoga advises changing of the active nostril at the first sign of any physical, emotional or mental disturbance. Just breathe through the more congested nostril. It prevents worsening of the symptoms and promotes rapid recovery.
- Sleeping on the left side opens the right nostril, while sleeping on the right side opens the flow through the left nostril. Putting a small cushion under the armpit and pressing it with your bodyweight will help you further.
- Inhalation through the active nostril and exhalation through the inactive nostril helps to change the dominance.
- Lie down on the same side of the active nostril.
- Cold water or hot water bath helps to change the dominant nostril.
- In order to maintain balance and harmony of body, mind, and prana, the practice Naddi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate-nostril breath) is considered very helpful. It helps in balancing the flow of the breath and re-establishes the natural nasal cycle. It also brings regularity in the inner body system and develops complete control over all pranic and mental activities.
NADI SHODHANA PRANAYAMA
Sit in a comfortable position steadily. Keep the palm of the right hand facing the face. Bend the first two fingers next to the thumb inside. Now put the right thumb on the right nostril and last two fingers of the same hand should be used to press the left nostril. Remember, for the practice of this Pranayama always start & finish the breathing from the left nostril.
- Breathe in through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring & little fingers and breathe out through the right nostril.
- Breathe in through the right nostril. Close the right nostril with the thumb & breathe out through the left nostril.
- This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana.
In case of any queries, contact:
Dr Rita Khanna
2nd floor, Plot#22, Suman Housing Colony, West Marredpally Secunderabad-500026
Mobile: 09849772485 Ph:-040-65173344
The Yoga Studio is open 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into his discipline over two decades ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh.
She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients.
At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is teaching Yoga in Secunderabad. She has been treating and curing various diseases and disorders through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy and has been achieving tremendous satisfaction in disseminating this virtue.
Teaching Hatha Yoga – The Eight Limbs and Student Advancement
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Yoga teachers infinitely differ in their approaches to student advancement. Some teachers will see a physical achievement as the “end goal.” Yet, we know that Yoga has many more aspects for advancement. Among these many aspects are: emotional, mental, and spiritual growth.
Yoga teachers might also consider the value of good character in their students. In your community, each of your students represents your studio or ashram. Many people are not familiar with Yoga, so your students do, in fact, represent Yoga, and your studio, within your community.
Now that you see this clearly, please be sure to make your students aware of it. There is nothing worse than an egotist, who represents Yoga. If a person is constantly talking about themselves, they usually end up alone. Granted, most people do like to talk about themselves, but a well-rounded Yoga curriculum should cover putting the ego in place.
Instilling self-confidence in your students is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with a student achieving his or her dreams, but remaining humble is also part of the package. All of us should be giving thanks to a higher power for the quality of life we have. It is easy to be thankful for what we have in this life. Yet, for some people, it is also easy to take for granted, or forget, those who help us.
Now, you may be thinking, “How do I fit Yogic philosophy into my lesson plan?” When is the best time to cover the basics of Yama and Niyama in a Hatha Yoga class? Will I bore the exercise-minded students, who want a “workout?”
Cover a little piece of philosophy, in each lesson, as it is related to life in the present moment; just a short idea, without a big lecture, will do, but cover Yama or Niyama regularly.
In fact, all of the Eight Limbs, mentioned by Patanjali, are important. Review the Eight Limbs and carry them into your classes. Make sure your students get the full experience.
About the student who is bored by hearing a little about the Eight Limbs: Do you really want to alter a 5,000 year old practice to appease someone who cannot sit still for a second? If you visit a few Yoga classes, in your surrounding community, you might notice teachers who do this all the time.
Yoga classes were not designed to be like a drive-thru experience. When teachers take “short cuts,” we are giving our students a small taste of Yoga, but the student sincerely believes, “been there, done that.” Be honest and let your students know, they are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. As you know, there is much more to Yoga than anyone can learn in a lifetime.
When teaching Yoga classes, there are times when you have to be a “cheer leader.” What do I mean by this? There are many interconnected aspects of life, and we all play a small part in them. Each student’s level of success, in life, depends on constant positive reinforcement during the day.
When you see an accomplishment, do not hesitate to praise your students. This does not have to be artificial praise or flattery. A heart felt compliment is much different. Far too often, people in general, and some of our students, feel they do not deserve praise, or that they have a right to succeed in life.
Every Yoga teacher knows students, who feel they do not deserve a better life. This variation of negative thinking is “baggage” that holds back all of humanity. As teachers, we have the ability to instill positive habits, which will result in happiness and successful living.
The average student has to see the value of a Yogic lifestyle long enough to cultivate the habit of regular Yoga practice. For many people, this is a big step. You cannot expect new students to be present in their practice, until you point out how to connect mind and body with Pranayama. This may seem very basic, but some students never learn this step because they did not have the guidance.
Does this mean you can reach every student? No – each student has different thoughts, needs, and aspirations. Some people see only the superficial layer of everything. You cannot make everyone see the deeper aspects of life. An example of this is the student who sees Hatha Yoga only as a stretch class.
There is nothing wrong with this. Stretching alone is a good physical exercise, but stretching and exercise are only components of Yoga. Happiness, clarity of mind, tranquility, and Samadhi, require guidance from a competent Yoga teacher.
Eventually, your students will learn to honor the true teacher within themselves, but they need to develop a clear vision of progress, success, and achievement, before they undertake their journey. The starting point in the journey is usually “sparked” by an exceptional teacher.
Teaching Yoga is, in some ways, like parenting. If you have instilled a strong foundation in your students, you will be proud of them and their achievements. The student with Multiple Sclerosis, who is making great progress, or the child who is learning to concentrate, each has a significant success story to tell.
Make it a point to recognize student progress, when you are aware of it. Our advancement, as a species, depends on it.
© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications