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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Breath Management - Know your breathing rhythm

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?

This blog will briefly touch upon some of the basic concepts about our breath. 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.

Before you start i would suggest you to read the following link if you have not read this before.

The basis of this blog 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. This is known to many of us. 
  • Out of the 72000 nadis / meridians in the body there are 3 nadis which is very important. Pingala, Ida and Sushmna. We breathe through our right side and the breath that comes through the right nostril is called pingala and left breath is called Ida. Its actually the name of the nadi and the breath is called Surya or Chandra. The objective of the article is not to talk about Sushmna but look at the rhythm we have between right and left nostril breathing.
  • Most of us are not aware that our breath has a very rhythmic pattern unless it is disturbed by a physical activity or emotion and management of this rhythm has been linked to physical well being, mental health, wealth, long life, spirituality etc.
  • This right and left breath alternates every 2 hours between the nostrils depending on the time of the day and day of the week and linked closely to the lunar cycle. This is the rhythm we need to be aware of.
  • Lunar rhythm alters every 15 days as we know - new moon to full moon and vice versa. The period when the moon is growing / waxing / between new moon to full moon is called as Shukla in Indian calender. Shukla means white. Obviously the other 15 days is called as krishna which means black. 
  • The 2 hours rhythm between right and left nostril based on the time of day and day of the week and lunar cycle is given in this chart below. This breathing rhythm is universal and we can check just by placing our back of the palms under the nose and breath little forcefully.
  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday - between 4am to 6am the breathe is on the left side and it alternates for every 2 hours.
  • Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday  - between 4am to 6am the breathe is on the right side and it alternates for every 2 hours.
  • On Shukla / waxing Thursday, the breathe starts on the left side at 4am and on the krishna /waning thursday its on the right side. 
  • You may not need the chart as it is very simple to find out which nostril is active. Please note that as per the yoga system only one nostril is active any time and not both.
  • All our pranayams if you note would be to give symmetric breathing pattern and restore the imbalance if any. There are few special ones which i would address them below. The beauty about our system of knowledge is that we always saw a rhythm / order governing every aspect of nature and this was linked to the primordial rhythm.

Now lets see what is the use of knowing this rhythm:
  • 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.  
  • Now if you 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 more then the breath 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 lets try to answer this question i asked at the start of this blog. When you want to breath 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.

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 and not minutes. There is no need for medication like saline and nasal drops. 

Lets 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 breathe 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 management. Its very important that you take the advice of a qualified yoga guru  / siddha doctor.
  • 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.
  • Right breath is conscious mind and left is about sub-conscious mind. Never do 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 through out the day. There are deeper aspects about this which are not discussed here.
  • Equal breath through both nostrils or left nostril based breathing is recommended only for meditative purposes. Please note Brahmins who do pranayam during Sandyavandanam do only left nostril based breathing. This is a very special breathing technique. You may understand the reason now that if you want to meditate then your left nostril should be active.
  • 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.
  • You would have understood as to why it is healthy to sqaut and sit in padamasan on the floor and as to why sitting in a chair with one leg crossed is unhealthy.
Now these are just few basics listed here to invoke your interest into self learning and you should approach an expert and take guidance before you practice.

But the important points i wanted to drive is;
  • Breath management is one of the fundamental concepts which we should be aware of but we are not.
  • Our traditional way of life is very rich and offers secrets about us and the nature around us, lets be passionate to learn about them and be rational in accepting or rejecting them.
  • Every being - living or non-living confirms to a rhythm and order. As a wise man said "  Mathematics is the language of gods". Lets always be conscious to learn and understand this rhythm and order. 

Happy reading!

PS; I would like to add that the transition of breath from one nostril to another is not a smooth cut and to my understanding there is an overlap for a specific period of time. Hence it is prudent to know the concept and apply it for our benefit than exact timing the  breath chart.  :)

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