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Surya Bhedana Pranayama- Right Nostril Breathing- Benefits and Precautions

The word ‘Surya bhedana’ comprises of two words- Surya (meaning Sun) and Bhedana (meaning Piercing). In traditional yogic practice of pranayama, the right nostril is associated with the Pingala ‘masculine and logical’ Nadi (meaning of Nadi is ‘nerve’ in English) which goes all along the right side of spine up to the right nostril. Pingala nadi is also said to control all the vital processes. 

The other nerve, called the Ida ‘feminine and creative’ Nadi, is on the left side of spine and goes all way up to the left nostril and refers to the right hemisphere of the brain. Ida nadi is said to control all the mental processes. Chandra Bhedana pranam is recommended for Ida Nadi.

Each of these nadis has its own characteristics and at any point of time, it is either of these which has more pronounced characteristic than the other. The right nostril nerve, Pingala, is associated with the body heat or energy, while the left one, Ida, is associated with the coolness, calmness and peace of mind. Pingala is ‘Sun’ energy and is masculine in nature whereas the Ida is ‘Moon’ energy and is feminine in nature. 

The Surya Bhedana pranayama is the right nostril breathing to let the Sun energy penetrate through the body nerves. This is done to generate the heat in body so that the required vital energy levels of the body are met.

Steps to practice Surya Bheda

Follow the steps given below for doing Surya Bhedana pranayama or Right Nostril breathing…

1/6. It is recommended to sit, if possible, in a cross-legged position on the floor. The position should be comfortable, in either Sukhasana or Padmasana can be used as a sitting pose.

2/6. With respect to hand postures, you have to use one hand for blocking the left nostril by bringing it in Mrigi (deer) mudra. In this pose of the hand, the index and middle fingers are folded down to touch the bottom part of thumb.

The other hand is to be placed on knee in Gyan mudra or simply rested on the knee. In Gyan mudra, the tip of index finger touches the tip of thumb.

3/6. After getting into the pose, the left nostril is to be blocked with the hand which is in Mrigi pose and the inhalation is to be done using the right nostril. The breathing should not be stressful or forceful. Rather, it shall be done slowly and effortlessly. There should be no tension in facial muscles. If possible, wear a quiet smile on face while doing it and rejoice the breathing.

4/6. Once deep inhalation is done, the next step is to hold the breath. The beginners can skip this step as they may not be able to hold the breath. During the holding of breath, from the inward drawn attention, just feel how the inhaled breath is behaving.

5/6. Exhalation is the next step of the process. It should be done from the left nostril by keeping the right nostril blocked with hand. Effort shall be made to release all air out in slow and steady manner. 

To begin with, the time period of exhaling shall be same that of inhaling. However, with practice, the shall be 1:2 for inhalation to exhalation.

6/6. After complete exhalation, again the left nostril needs to be blocked and inhalation shall be done from the right nostril. The process should be repeated, initially, for 5 minutes, based on the teachers advise.

Time Duration of Practice

The right time duration for the practice of Surya Bhedana pranayama is about 5 minutes. It takes a few counts of the process in beginning to find the right rhythm and to draw attention inwards totally. Thereafter, you should do it for a minimum cycle count of 11. So, in total, it might be a count of 21 for 1 cycle (inhale-hold-exhale shall be counted as 1 cycle).

Benefits of Surya Bhedana pranayama

The advantages of Right Nostril breathing are listed below…

1/8. Increases efficiency of digestive system. Since it stimulates the navel chakra which is believed to be the centre of Sun energy, the digestive system of the body is made more efficient. 

2/8. As is the case with all pranayama, this pranayama also improves the oxygen levels of the body. 

3/8. This breathing technique energies and activates the pranic energy of body and adds vigour and vitality to life.

4/8. Due to stimulation of heat content of the body, the person practicing it is less likely to experience weariness or lethargy.

5/8. By improving the heat levels of the body, the mucus imbalances are corrected.

6/8. It works to reduce the level of stress and anxiety in the person.

7/8. For people suffering from sinuses, this pranayama is of good help as it helps in clearing of the air passageways.

8/8. This breathing technique is believed to be good in dissolving the intestinal worms and the person is able to get rid of these.

Precautions and Contraindications

Just as is the case with all pranayama, there are certain precautions to be observed for Surya Bhedana pranayama as well. These are contraindications are also given here.

1/5. This pranayama should be practiced in morning or evening when the stomach is empty. It shall not be done immediately after having meals and there shall be a gap of about 4-5 hrs from the time meals are finished, before starting this pranayama.

2/5. Make sure you are mindful of all the steps- closing and opening of nostrils, breathing cycle and have the attention drawn inwards.

3/5. No thought or disturbance shall distract your attention from the breathing. Remind yourself that all other things can be put on hold for as long as this is being done.

4/5. As this is known to generate heat in the body, it is likely to increase the blood pressure in people who are amenable to it. So, people having hypertension, any condition of heart, running high fever or prone to fits of epilepsy are not advised to do this pranayama.

5/5. Since it causes expansion and contraction of muscles of stomach and lungs due to diaphragmatic breathing, the people who have undergone surgeries in past are required to check with the doctors before practicing this pranayama. 

Stimulates the Root Chakra

Since this pranayama is directly related to the Pingala nadi, which originates from the base of spine, it is fundamental to the stimulation of muladhara chakra or the root chakra. For more on Root Chakra

[1] Chandra Bhedana Pranayama- Left Nostril Breathing.

[2] The Nasal Cycle and how alternate nostril breathing restores the Balance.

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