As winters set in, most fitness enthusiasts around the world look up to yoga to energize and maintain bodily flexibility and agility. Yoga is a versatile form of exercise that can be altered as per the different seasons. In fact, winters are a good time to practice yoga as the yogic stretches and certain pranayama techniques like Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga help to generate bodily heat besides alleviating bodily stiffness common during the winter months.
Surya Bhedana is a breathing technique that energizes the Sun energy channel or the Pingala Nadi.
This post will talk about the various attributes of the Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga, its steps, benefits and precautions that you should abide by before performing this pranayama technique.
The science of the Nadis
Nadi is a Sanskrit word that denotes flow or channel. In yogic parlance, Nadis refer to a network of such channels that help energy travel throughout the body. These Nadis play a pivotal role in controlling the biological functions and other bodily activities within you.
As per the yogic understanding of our physiology, both our nostrils are connected to different attributes in our bodies.
The right nostril is referred to as Surya or Pingala Nadi while the left nostril is called Chandra aka Ida Nadi. The Surya Nadi governs activity while the Chandra Nadi is connected with relaxation. For example, left nostril breathing is often associated with the vital life force or prana which is located in the Ida Nadi and parasympathetic aspects come to the fore. This is also referred to as Chandra Bhedana pranayama.
Ions ago, yogis realised that breathing selectively can activate the flow of vital life energy or prana in the body. So, you can breathe in via the right nostril by blocking the left nostril and stimulating the Surya Nadi while altering the natural rhythm. This deliberate single-nostril breathing will stimulate the sympathetic elements of the body.
Pranayama in yoga uses such right, left and alternate nostril breathing methods to affect the Pingala, Ida and Sushumna Nadis.
However, in this post, we will discuss Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga which is also referred to as Surya Nadi pranayama or the Sun piercing breath.
A deeper understanding of this science of the Nadis or energy channels can be gained either by taking up an exclusive short-term pranayama course online or as part of the 200 hour yoga teacher training online.
What is Surya Bhedana Pranayama in yoga?
For those unversed, Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga is an energizing and warming pranayama technique that is usually practiced while seated in a meditative posture. You need to employ Vishnu Mudra or a hand gesture and block your left nostril. You then need to inhale through your right nostril and hold your breath for as long as you can bear. Then, block your right nostril and exhale via your left nostril. Follow similar steps to perform the right nostril breathing in a forceful way.
As per Sanskrit translation, Surya refers to the Sun while Bhedana translates to pass through or pierce. So, put together, Surya Bhedana simply refers to sun-piercing breath.
The Pingala Nadi is connected to the sun and is associated with the right nostril in yogic parlance. As per yogic scriptures, Surya Bhedana activates the Surya Nadi while bringing the body into active mode. This pranayama helps activate the left-brain portion along with the mind-body activities associated with the left-brain hemisphere.
As per modern science, we humans don’t always employ both our nostrils when breathing. Most times, we breathe either through our left or right nostril along with an ultradian rhythm. Put simply, we alternate breathing between the left and right nostrils every 2 to 3 hours on an average basis. Scientific studies have associated this cyclic breathing nasal pattern with an activity-relaxation cycle belonging to the autonomic nervous system that alternates between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Generally speaking, right-nostril breathing happens when we remain active while rest occurs when breathing through the left nostril.
A similar understanding of such breath patterns along with nasal laterality is explained in yogic texts, albeit employing different modes of observational research.
Today, selective breathing and specifically alternate nostril breathing techniques are practiced to harmonize and balance physical and mental activities by influencing different parts of the brain hemispheres.
Such profound and deep yogic knowledge can be gained by enrolling in yoga teacher training programs such as the most fundamental 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh.
How to perform the Surya Bhedana pranayama : Step-by-step instructions
Step One: Preparation
To begin with, sit in a meditative posture that you also employ for performing pranayama. We suggest the Easy Pose for beginners in yoga and the Lotus Pose for advanced practitioners. Get into the Vishnu Mudra by using your right hand before you begin.
Bring the mudra close to your face while pressing your left nostril shut with the help of your ring finger. Slightly press your thumb against your right nostril so as to block it gently. Before you begin breathing, empty your lungs of all the air with the help of a deep exhale.
Alternatively, beginners can skip partially blocking the right nostril and then proceed to add this step later into practice.
Step Two: Inhale through your right nostril
Inhale through your right nostril in a smooth manner sans any jerks or noise. Fill your lungs with air by taking in a deep breath. Press your right nostril with the help of your thumb after you inhale.
Step Three: Retain the internal breath
Hold your breath until you are comfortable. However, you can do away with this step if you are suffering from health issues like anxiety or hypertension. Also, beginners in pranayama can also omit this step and include it after about a week of Surya Bhedana practice.
Step Four: Exhale through your left nostril
Empty your lungs by releasing the pressure of your index and ring finger and exhaling. By performing this step you have completed one round of Suya Bhedi pranayama in yoga.
Step Five: Repeat the cycle for as long as comfortable
Begin this pranayama procedure again by following step two and blocking the left nostril while inhaling from your right nostril.
You should always remember that you need to inhale through your right nostril and exhale via your left nostril while performing the Surya Bhedi pranayama in yoga.
Duration of performing the Surya Bhedi pranayama in yoga
Surya Bhedana pranayama can be performed for about 3 to 5 minutes or 8 to 10 rounds. This pranayama although ideally should be practised on an empty stomach, during the morning hours, can be performed at any hour during the daytime. Also, if you plan to do this pranayama later in the day make sure that there is a gap of a few hours after your last meal before performing this pranayama technique.
However, avoid doing this pranayama after dusk as you will find it difficult to wind down and relax in preparation for bedtime.
Safety and precautions associated with Surya Bhedi pranayama
Surya Bhedana pranayama is usually a safe practice when done correctly. Retaining your breath is probably the only challenging part of this pranayama. However, retaining your breath for longer durations can cause discomfort. So, we advice you to not push your natural limit especially if you are just beginning to embark on this pranayama technique. Also, if you feel faint or dizzy, we suggest you stop the practice at once and instead breathe normally while lying down in Shavasana or the Corpse’s pose.
Surya Bhedi pranayama in yoga should not be done by the following people:
- Individuals suffering from cardiovascular problems and hypertension
- Epilepsy or those who have undergone brain or heart surgery
- Acid reflux, indigestion or diarrhoea
- Fever or illness
- Anxiety issues
Also, since Surya Bhedi pranayama generates heat in the body, it should not be done during the summer months or in hot, humid conditions.
Moreover, consult with your physician before embarking on this pranayama especially if you are taking any heavy medication or are suffering from chronic health disorders.
Many more such tips and precautions will be discussed in detail if you choose to enrol in the pranayama course online offered by reputed yoga schools like Yoga Vidya School in Rishikesh.
Surya Bhedana pranayama benefits
1.May enhance physical performance
Selective breathing via the right nostril can help stimulate and energize the body while improving physical performance.
2. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Yoga poses and such yoga breathing techniques help maintain a healthy heart while preventing any cardiovascular ailments. However, you should keep in mind that such yogic techniques bear fruit only if you combine these with a sattvic diet and a healthy lifestyle.
3. Activates the sympathetic nervous system
There is an increased uptake of oxygen while performing this pranayama practice. Also, an increase in sympathetic discharge towards the adrenal medulla has been observed after practice of Surya Bhedana pranayama. This can elucidate possible therapeutic effects on the mind and the body.
4. Clears Sinuses
The warming and heating capabilities of Surya Bhedana pranayama are employed in yoga to clear and purify the frontal sinuses during the cold winter months.
5. Aids Weight Loss
Surya Bhedana pranayama aids in weight loss. This may also be happening due to complementary changes in diet and increased metabolism as a result of practicing the Surya Bhedana pranayama.
6. Balances Vata Dosha
As per Ayurveda wisdom, Surya Bhedana pranayama helps in balancing the Vata Dosha that pacifies the excess wind energy as per the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. However, we suggest you consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner for expert advice.
7. Awakens Kundalini
As per Hatha yoga and Tantra yoga, selective or forced breathing has been employed to awaken one’s Kundalini. In combination with specific mudras and bandhas, the Surya Bhedana can help awaken the Kundalini Shakti of the body.
8. Helps digestion
Since this pranayama is said to aggravate the Pitta Dosha, it stimulates the digestive fire and aids in proper digestion. Also, this pranayama is effective in eliminating digestive worms and resolves diseases afflicting the digestive tract. Plus, this pranayama is ideal for addressing digestive issues of gas and bloating.
9. Purifies blood
The Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga helps purify the blood and detox the body.
10. Ideal for winters
Since the Surya Bhedana pranayama helps keep the body warm and brings instant relief to individuals suffering from cold hands and feet, it is ideal to be performed during the cold winter months.
11. Energizes the body
The Surya Bhedana pranayama energizes the entire body while treating signs of depression, dullness and lethargy.
12. Enhances mental alertness
Boosts mental clarity and focus and prepares the mind and the body for meditation.
13. Cures respiratory problems
Surya Bhedana pranayama cures problems like asthma, cough and other respiratory conditions.
14. Treats sexual problems in women
Treats frigidity in women or lack of sexual desire
15. Possibly treat skin-related conditions
Can possibly treat skin-related conditions like Leucoderma.
16. Reduces phlegm in the body
By ensuring the unhindered flow of gall in the body, the Surya Bhedana pranayama can help reduce the accumulation of phlegm in the body.
17. Activates the Pingala Nadi
The pranayama helps energize the Pingala Nadi or the right nostril channel which in turn can stimulate and boost the pranic energy.
However, all the above possible benefits can be accrued only by learning the correct technique of practicing the Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga. You can easily learn the nuances of this pranayama and form a consistent pranayama routine by enrolling in Yoga Vidya School’s 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh or the more convenient 200-hour yoga teacher training online.
The Surya Bhedana pranayama in yoga is an effective yogic tool to ward off cold and other discomforting aspects of the harsh winter months. However, for gaining all the above-mentioned benefits of this pranayama, you will need to complement this pranayama technique with a sattvic diet and a healthy lifestyle. Learn more about such aspects of learning and following this yogic technique and other complementary practices by enrolling in either a short-term pranayama course online or the more intensive and exhaustive 200-hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh.