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Swara Yoga ... (The Science of Breath)

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 practicing individual. Swara breathing is a process, which can be manipulated and controlled whenever you want to. It helps us to understand how to maximize 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 either swara predominates 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.

SEE TABLE
Days
Bright fortnight
Sunrise Swara
Sunset Swara
1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15
ShuklaPaksh Poornima
Ida (left swara)
Pingala(right swara)
4, 5,6,10,11,12

Pingala(right swara)
Ida (left swara)
Days
Dark fortnight
Sunrise Swara
Sunset Swara
16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30
Krishna Paksh Amavasya
Pingala(right swara)
Ida (left swara)
19, 20, 21,25,26,27

Ida (left swara)
Pingala(right swara)

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.

TECHNIQUE

1. Breathe in through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring & little fingers and breathe out through the right nostril.
2. Breathe in through the right nostril. Close the right nostril with the thumb & breathe out through the left nostril.
3. This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana.


Courtesy: Dr Rita Khanna

Aum Shanti