Surya Bheda Pranayama – The Vitalizing Breath
Surya Bheda Pranayama or Surya Bhedana Pranayama is one of the main pranayamas practiced with Kumbhaka. Surya means the sun. In Surya Bheda Pranayama the Surya Nadi or the right nostril channel is activated. Surya Bheda Pranayama is mentioned in the yoga texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and the Gheranda Samhita.
In Yoga, the right nostril channel or the Surya Nadi, also called the Pingala Nadi is related to prana and the bodily functions, while the left nostril channel or the Chandra Nadi is associated with the mind. In Surya Bheda Pranayama, the inhalation is done through the right nostril only. It is said to activate all the bodily functions.
Surya Bheda Pranayama is classified as a Kumbhaka practice or a practice involving retention of breath. The breath is held to the maximum limit as per one’s comfort. The practice of Kumbhaka or holding of breath is an advanced practice. It should be learned from a qualified yoga instructor. Those suffering from heart ailments and blood pressure problems should not attempt practices involving breath retention, without consulting a doctor. Pranayama should not be done immediately after a meal. There should be a gap of at least 4 – 5 hours after a meal.
How to do Surya Bheda Pranayama?
- Sit in a meditative asana, preferably Padmasana, Siddhasana or Vajrasana.
- Make the trunk and spine straight and place the hands on the knees. Take few relaxed breaths before starting the practice.
- Now raise the right hand and place the forefinger and the middle finger on the forehead between the eyebrows.
- Use the ring finger to close the left nostril.
- Breathe in slowly through the right nostril and fill the lungs entirely.
- Close both nostrils (thumb closes the right nostril and ring finger closes the left nostril) and hold the breath.
- Perform Jalandhara Bandha (the chin lock) and Moola Bhandha.
- Hold the breath to the extent that you are comfortable. In the yoga texts, it is said that one should hold the breath till perspiration appears. But, be cautious with breath retention and never overdo it.
- Release Moola Bhandha and Jalandhara Bandha and exhale through the left nostril (Ida Nadi), keeping the right nostril closed.
- This is one round. Repeat as many rounds as comfortable. You may start with 5 rounds and later increase it to 10 or beyond. Also the duration of Kumbhaka should be increased carefully over a period of time. Advanced practitioners can go up to 80 rounds per sitting.
Benefits of Surya Bheda pranayama
- Surya Bheda Pranayama activates the body and the bodily functions.
- It increases the digestive fire.
- It destroys all diseases that are caused by insufficiency of oxygen in the blood.
- The Gheranda Samhita says that Surya Bheda pranayama destroys decay and death, awakens Kundalini Shakti and increases digestive fire.
- The Hatha Yoga Pradeepika says that Surya Bheda Pranayama cleans the frontal sinuses, destroys disorders of Vata and destroys intestinal worms.
- In the Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, it is also said that one can perform Uddhiyana Bandha by pulling in the abdomen at the end of Kumbhaka or holding of breath. This will force the prana to enter the central pranic channel called Sushumna Nadi. This leads to awakening of the Kundalini Shakti.