Now look at the picture of Lord Shiva below depicting to be holding a staff as a support to his left hand. Not just Shiva any yogi doing meditation or not would always have his staff supporting his left hand and not right hand. Can you answer why?
Figure 1: Lord Shiva in a meditative pose with a supporting staff in the left hand
Irrespective of whether we consider that breathing as an activity that we perform or we identify our very existence with breathing, it is important to know the basics behind this activity.
The basis of this chapter is our Indian Yoga / Siddha system. Some of the interesting aspects are given as points below:
· If you divide the human body vertically along the sternum it has 2 symmetric sides - right and left side. (have you recognized that most of the organs are symmetric along this meridian?) Right side is called as male, +ve, Yang, Surya, Pingala, Ravi and so on. Similarly left side of the body is called as female, -ve, Yin, Mathi, Ida, Chandra. These 2 aspects are bipolar yet non-dual in the sense one cannot exist without the other. The Yin-yang symbol, the Arthanareeswarar image and the Star of David conveys this aspect only.
· Out of the 72000 nadis / meridians in the body there are 3 nadis which is very important. Pingala, Ida and Sushmna. All nadis carry subtle energy called Prana or Chi through our body. When we breathe through our right side and the breath that comes through the right nostril is called Pingala and left breath is called Ida. It is actually the name of the nadi and the breath is called Surya (right) or Chandra (Left). The objective of the article is not to talk about Sushmna but look at the rhythm we have between right and left nostril breathing.
Figure 2: Nadis and Chakras (From Internet) Figure 3: Nadis and Chakras (From Internet)
· Figure 2, 3 and 4 actually highlight the 3 Nadis and 7 chakras. You would note that the flow of nadis is different in all the pictures. There are multiple schools of thought and I have produced all of them. I shall explain why I buy Figure 2 over others.
· Right breathe characterizes solar power and hence physical energy, enthusiasm, drive, health, aggression, sexual potency and long life. Left breathe characterizes humility, truthfulness, creativity, spirituality, obedience, compassion etc.
· We know that every human being is endowed with ~ billion breath package and the concept of long life is based on how much breath you save and not waste. Yoga states that if you breathe through the right nostril (Solar breath), then it is effectively 12 angulas of breath length and if you breathe through the left nostril (Lunar Breath), then it is effectively 16 angulas of breath length. Ask your Yoga guru about this angula measurements and I am sure most of them would not know it.
· Let me explain this 12 and 16 angulas concept as I understood. I have not come across this but it is my interpretation and hence may stand corrected in future.
o If the height of a man is 9 Talas then the torso which is neck to start of thigh is 3 talas. From neck to navel is 2 Talas and naval to start of the thigh is 1 Tala. Each Tala is 6 Angulas and hence neck to navel is 12 Angulas.
o In figure 2, the solar breath starts at navel / nabhi chakra and hence 12 angulas.
o The lunar breath starts much below at Mooladhara chakra and hence 4 angulas below the nabhi chakra and hence 16 angulas. I would like to highlight that the distinction between nadi and breath. The Pingala nadi may still start at Mooladara but the solar breath is from the nabhi chakra. It is always better to go with what your guru says and that’s what I do.
o I have noticed that some schools tell us that 16 and 12 angulas are the length of the breath from the nose when we exhale, which is wrong in my opinion. One angula is 11/8th of an inch. This would not be applicable for the exhaling length of the breath outside us.
Figure 4: Nadis and Chakras (Book Yoga Nidra, by NC Panda)
· You would notice that the flow crisscrosses between your nose and brain and this is one of the reasons why our sides of the body are controlled by the opposite sides of our brain.
· The more we breathe through the right nostril the wastage is low and you would lead a long and healthy life. Alternatively when you breathe through your left nostril the breath wastage is more and they noted that it hampers long life and good health.
Now let’s try to answer this question I asked at the start of this part.
When you want to breathe for long and healthy life you should breathe through your right nostril. The easiest way to breathe through your right nostril is to close the left nostril or more easily press the left side of the body slightly. This can be done by leaning to the left even while sitting in a chair or by pressing the left hand on to a staff. This is what is depicted in the image of Shiva. Any yogi would be leaning to his left or supporting his left hand with a staff or standing on his left leg highlights that he is doing effective breath management to live longer.
Figure 5: Cuddapah Swami Sachidananda Yogeeswar
· This staff used by the yogis is called as “Vaasi Dhand”, Vaasi means combination of fire and air which is our breath. This staff is pressed against specific points in hand or armpits.
· The quickest way to change the breathing from one right to left nostril is to sit like the Swamiji in figure 5. If you want to switch from left to right then change the pose to left side with the left hand pressed on the ground.
· If you or your kids have a blockage of any nostril say right nostril is blocked, please turn to your left and sleep and you would notice that the blockage is cleared within seconds. There is no need for medication like saline and nasal drops.
Let’s look at some simple Dos and dont's:
· If you are diseased (even headaches, running low on energy) you may want to note that you may be breathing through your left nostril and not right. Try switching the breath over for a doctor-less, self administered relief. Please note that this is not cure since the root cause is not addressed for a disease.
· Right side breathing increases the overall heat in the body and hence requires some bodily thermodynamics. It’s very important that you take the advice of a qualified yoga guru / Siddha doctor.
· Balanced breathe are of 2 types.
o First category is when the breathe flows balanced in both the nostrils. This typically happens during dawn and dusk which is when the consciousness switches over based on daily rhythm. Elders prohibit us from doing any worldly activities when the breath flows equally through both the nostrils, this spells disaster. We notice most of the half baked gurus tell people to balance the breath in both nostrils throughout the day. As I understand this is wrong.
o The second category of balanced breath is there is no noticeable breathe at all because of deep meditative state. Now breathe is stationed in Ajna chakra or the eyebrow point. During this stage the sub-conscious mind is active and any thought / act during this stage becomes energized and powerful. It is recommended to maintain this state during our worldly life too which is easier said than done.
· As per Sage Agasthiyar in this “Saranool Sastram” he says the following activities can be done when the left breath is active:
o Wear new clothes, Jewels, giving employment, construction of wells and ponds, marriage, buy houses or take possession / occupy new house.
o Selling things, interface with government officials, meditation, learn arts etc.
o If you are travelling South or west direction then a lunar breath is good.
· As per Sage Agasthiyar in this “Saranool Sastram” the following activities can be done when the right breath is active:
o Teaching, fighting, agriculture, any heavy work, taking medication, sleeping, taking bath etc.
o If you are travelling East or North direction then a solar breath is good.
· In short as per my understanding, all physical activities in worldly life should be performed when the right nostril is active. If you have poor appetite, feeling very cold because of weather try switching over to right nostril. A male's sexual attraction increases with right nostril breathing and the female's magnetism increases with her left nostril breathing.
· Equal breath through both nostrils and left nostril based breathing is recommended only for meditative purposes. Please note Hindus who do Pranayamam during Sandyavandanam, do only left nostril based breathing. This is a very special breathing technique.
· When you sleep in the night it is preferable to sleep turning to your left. I understand we don't have any control after we slept, but consciously training ourselves helps us with healthy life.This not only helps digestion but also is the best breath management possible while sleeping.
So to sum up, we saw that we are endowed with a natural breath count and also we have seen 2 important types of breath in our 3 nadis. It is told that the right side / solar breathing is very critical for healthy and long life and we have many examples of yogis and rishis living for many many years using these techniques. The choice is left to us if we want to accept and benefit from these techniques or not.
Next let us look at what is the breathing rhythm which nature has endowed us and how should we manage this.