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Swar Yoga The Art and Science Of Breathing


Breathing is life, but how little we know about it! For example, do you know that you use only one nostril at a time for breathing? At any point in time, either the right or the left nostril will be working. Test it out now. Place a finger half an inch below your left nostril for a few seconds and then under your right. You will now which one is working at that moment. Amazing, isn’t it?
And now read on and learn more. Do you know the active nostril changes at regular intervals (approximately every one and a half hours) during the day? And for a short time, both nostrils come into play together, for a period which is called the sandhi kaal, and this remains for ten to twelve breaths. Have you ever wondered why we have two nostrils instead of one? Breath can easily pass through one passage but we have two! The reasons are much deeper then of basic design alone.

As per the ancient scripture of Swar Yoga, there are three psychic channels in the human body, namely ida, pingala and sushumna.
The right nostril is the channel of solar energy and the nadi that flows through it is called pingala, whereas the left is the channel for lunar energy and is called as ida. When both the nostrils have an equal flow, then for a very short time the central channel which is called sushumna awakens.
 Influencing the channels or nadis is the key technique of Swar Yoga. Swar Yoga teaches that the dominance of each nostril during breathing changes regularly. By inhaling strongly through the nose, one can find out which nostril is dominant at a particular time, as one will feel the cooling effect of the airflow inside that nostril.
The nadis ida and pingala terminate in the left and right nostril respectively, and are activated when the corresponding nostril is dominant. The central sushumna is activated when both nostrils operate simultaneously, which usually happens only for a short while when the transition from one nostril to the other takes place and also at dawn and dusk. The periodic alternation of the nostrils balances the entire system. Ensuring that this balance is not disturbed is the basic objective of Swar Yoga. The dominance of the nostrils is strongly affected by the movements of the planets and especially by that of the moon.
Each nostril, when it operates independently, influences the body chemistry in a different way. When both nostrils operate simultaneously, the body chemistry also alters so as to make meditation rather than worldly activity appropriate to engage in.
According to Swar Yoga, the right nostril, being solar or heating in character, increases acidic secretions, whereas the left nostril, being lunar or cooling, increases alkaline secretions. Both right and left nostrils are connected with the opposite sides of the cerebral hemispheres and the olfactory lobe. The nose is in direct contact with the hypothalamus by its link with the olfactory lobe of the brain. The hypothalamus is a part of the limbic system, associated with emotions and motivation.

The nostrils, by means of the process of respiration, are connected with the neuromotor responses, and thus with the autonomic nervous system. These neuromotor responses influence the hemispheres of the brain and the primary activity of the brain, which is chemical. Neurotransmitters are the brain’s chemical messengers. They influence all body functions. Through a network of sensory nerves in the nose, the nostrils are connected to subtle nerves. An EEG was done by Dr Khalsa in San Antonio USA, where the brain was wired with electrodes, and an ultra sound was also done to see if any changes occur when the flows are different. It was observed that when the flow is in the left nostril, the right side of the brain lights up, and when in the right, then the left part of the brain is more active.
One of the techniques of Swar Yoga is to check whether the nostril dominance is in accord with the planetary cycles, and if necessary to correct it accordingly. This would prevent psychological and physical problems. It is especially important to do this every day at sunrise, so that one starts the day in harmony with the planetary energy of that day. Another important aspect of Swar Yoga is to adapt special activities to nostril dominance or vice versa. Breathing through the left nostril influences the cortical activity on the right side of the brain more than the left and vice versa. The twin hemispheres of the brain have highly specialized functions. The right hemisphere, stimulated by left nostril dominance, is connected to feminine, lunar, emotional, visual and more peaceful activities. The left hemisphere, stimulated by right nostril dominance, is connected to masculine, solar, rational, verbal and more energetic activities.
The ancient yogis of India knew all this and much more. They knew the intimate connection between breath and mind. For example, when your mind is angry watch your breathing – it will be disturbed. And similarly, if you hold your breath for long, your mind will get agitated. The yogis were trying to get some degree of control over the mind and body. Swar Yoga advises changing the dominant nostril at the first sign of any physical or mental disturbance. Thus the active side of the body is changed and glandular secretions re-establish balance.

For example, in fever one should plug the operating nostril with a cotton ball and keep it plugged until body temperature becomes normal again. Chronic indigestion can be cured by cultivating the habit of eating only when the right nostril is dominant.
The same goes for eating and defecating in case of constipation. Stress created by hard work and physical labor can be cured by lying on the right side, and breathing through the left nostril for 25 to 30 minutes.
 If you want to alter an unwanted emotional state, just breathe through the congested nostril for a while. Swar Yoga techniques can also be used for healing others, for creating favorable conditions in life, to foretell death, and in determining the gender of an unborn child. The techniques of Swar Yoga have been tested and tried by yogis and their lineages for a very long time. If only you would be aware of the goodness and beneficiary changes that can be brought to your life, you could maneuver your life as per your needs and requirements.
The most powerful application of Swar Yoga lies in meditation and control over the mind. Since the mind is very subtle and near impossible to grasp, the yogis figured out how to use this connection between the breath and the mind. By controlling the breath, they were indirectly able to influence the mind. Swar Yoga can be practiced by one and all, but before you go deeper into it, you have to know the basics of Pranayama.
There is a lovely fable of a minister who was punished by the king with imprisonment in a tower. He called his faithful wife to help him escape, telling her to get a beetle, two drops of honey, a ball of slender and fine thread, a long twine and then a long rope. When the bewildered wife arrived with these things, he told her to moisten the antennae of the beetle with the honey, tie the fine thread to its body and to leave it at the bottom of the tower wall. Smelling the honey ahead, the beetle slowly crept up the wall until it reached the minister. He then got hold of the end of the thread and asked his wife to tie the twine to the other end. He then pulled up the twine and then the rope using which he escaped. The idea is to understand how to manage the links between the gross (rope, body), the subtle body (thread, breath), and the very subtle body (scent of honey, mind).

Understanding one’s breath opens up so many channels of growth and evolvement. When you need to work hard, teach, discipline, eat or defecate, check if the solar energy (pingala) is flowing. If yes, then the actions done will bear results. If you have to do brain work, then it your lunar energy (ida) that should be flowing – this will help you in all studious jobs, meditation, creative arts, music, dance, paintings, studying etc. The change from ida to pingala is very subtle, so if you can keep a check on your breathing, you will be able to observe it.
There are ways and means to change the breath by will, and this art can be learnt from a guru who is proficient in this art.

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