Swara yoga is an ancient science that correlates the breath with the sun, moon and the five elements, helping us to control moods, heal ailments and be attuned to the cosmic rhythm.
Would you like to know how to meditate better? How to be more effective when addressing an important personage? How to change a mood or feeling? How to be in rhythm with the universe through the day? Well, believe it or not, the answer lies in the breath. And swara yoga is the science that helps you to understand how to maximise your potential by manipulating your breath. A holistic branch of knowledge found in Shaiva Tantra, swara yoga is said to have originated as a result of a question Shakti asks on the nature of the governing forces of the universe. Lord Shiva gave her a detailed and profound tuition on swara yoga in response. The word swara in Sanskrit means sound or a musical note. It also means the continuous flow of air through one nostril. The word yoga means union. Thus swara yoga is the science of breathing undertaken for the realisation of cosmic consciousness. This knowledge from the Vedic period was a closely guarded secret, imparted only to a select few, mostly kings and dedicated spiritual seekers through the guru-shishya parampara.
A beginner may think of swara yoga as pranayama as it is associated with breath, but there is more to it. Swara yoga is a systematic practice of the observation of the breath flow through the nostrils in relation to the time of day, the prevailing phases or the position of the moon, sun, planets, seasons, and the play of five basic elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) with the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the practising individual. Swara Yoga helps by guiding you to take appropriate action in accordance with these subtle relationships. For example, knowing the phase of moon and checking the dominant nostril before getting out of bed in the morning and letting the corresponding foot be the first to touch the floor, is a simple practice that helps you align the subtle flow of energy that ensures success in everything that happens for that day.
The original script of Shiva Swarodaya, the most popular scripture to study swara yoga, consists of 395 sutras with amazingly detailed descriptions of various practical aspects which can be easily learnt and practiced by a modern scientific man with confirmatory tests. The practice of Shiva Swarodaya allows us to synchronise our breath with the universal rhythm. This alignment removes undue efforts, stress and strain from our daily activities. Swara Yoga practice helps us to change unwanted physical, mental or emotional states at will, create favourable conditions for one’s life by changing the internal environment thus improving one’s attitude towards life through increased awareness.
Here’s how it works. The right nostril dominance is associated with pingala nadi or surya nadi (a nadi is a channel which pranic energy flows through in the body; we are said to have 72,000 of these nadis but there are three principal ones, of which pingala is one. Another is ida and these two are said to flow along the length of the spinal cord, on either side of the main nadi or the shusumna). The pingala, which is the masculine or solar principle, is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain that controls the right side of the body. The left nostril dominance is associated with the ida nadi or chandra nadi, the feminine or lunar principle, associated with the right hemisphere of the brain and controlling the left side of the body. Just by observing the direct effect of solar and lunar currents of breath on human behaviour, swara yogis were able to ascertain the activities best suited during the left nostril dominance and activities best suited during the right nostril dominance. The nose can be seen as the main switch of cerebral hemispheres. It can stimulate electromagnetic activity on one side of the body and it can switch the hemispheric activity on and off at will. The following table gives activities associated with the nostrils.
Activities associated with the dominance of each specific nostril:
|Left nostril dominance (right brain activities)||Right nostril dominance (left brain activities)|
|Beginning of regular intellectual studies||Learning or teaching martial arts|
|Long-term activities||Temporary activities|
|Stable business; requiring no movement||Unstable business; requiring movement|
|Worshipping the guru||Seeing the king, addressing officials|
|Playing musical instruments, singing, dancing||Writing a manuscript, practice of tantra, mantra, yantra|
|Planting, gardening||Chopping wood, lighting fire|
|Construction of a hermitage or temple||War, destruction of the country|
|Building wells, swimming pools, ponds||Cutting jewels, gems, sculpting|
|Giving charity, lending money||Accepting charity, borrowing|
|Opening a bank account||Gambling|
|Journeying to far-off places||Journeying to nearby places / return journey|
|Enjoy meditation||Sexual or angry expression|
|Performing auspicious acts||Worshipping evil spirits|
|Service ordering or giving commands|
At any given time, we only breathe through one nostril. You can check this for yourself right now by closing one nostril after another. The dominant nostril changes of its own accord every one to two hours. You can choose to do activities appropriate with the nostril (as in the above table), but sometimes you might need to adapt the nostril to the activity, such as while doing meditation (left nostril) or undertaking a strenuous activity (right nostril). Here are some tips on how to change the active nostril:
- Sleeping on the left side opens the right nostril, while sleeping on the right side opens the flow through the left nostril.
- Plugging the active nostril or the corresponding ear with a cotton plug can close it and open the other.
- Inhalation through the active nostril and exhalation through the inactive nostril helps to change the dominance.
- A cold water or hot water bath helps to change the dominant nostril.
- The swaras can also be opened by placing pressure on the opposite armpits. (This is why many portraits of ancient sages always showed them meditating with a stick under their armpits!)
- There are other, purely mental methods.
Swara yoga also deals with the third swara, the shushumna breath where the left and the right are perfectly balanced. It represents “Shiva” (pure consciousness) in the state of “so-hum”. Whenever the nostrils switch, both are open for seven to eight breaths. That is the time when the shushumna breath flows. No worldly activities are recommended in Shiva swara. One must meditate. Intuitive knowledge is received best during this state. A yogi tries to remain in shushumna swara for maximum duration.
The practice of swara yoga can produce miraculous results. Try these simple measures:
- If you want to alter an unwanted physical, emotional or mental state, just breathe through the more congested nostril. This prevents worsening of the symptoms and promotes rapid recovery. Swara yoga advises changing of the active nostril at the first sign of any physical, emotional or mental disturbance.
- Whenever it is desirable to influence another person, if one’s right nostril is operating, the person to be influenced should be positioned on the right, below or behind. In case of left operating nostril, on the left, above or in front.
- Get up each day at least half an hour before the sunrise. Find out the dominating nostril. Kiss the corresponding hand. With the same hand, touch or rub your face, neck, chest, thighs and feet. Then while stepping out of the bed, the foot that corresponds to the operating nostril should be placed onto the ground first. Then one can proceed for the morning activities.
- To cure the common cold, breathe through the right nostril 21 times by blocking the left nostril. Also sleeping on the left side gives considerable relief; as it activates the right nostril.
- In case of acidity and fever, activating the left nostril helps. You can block the right nostril and breathe through the left nostril 21 times. Also sleeping on the right side helps to reduce fever.
- Swara medicines can be prepared with the knowledge of swara yoga. Swara medicines work at the vibrational level and can help the patients without any side effects.
Swara yoga is a practical science that can help us to get attuned to cosmic rhythms and to maximise the potential of the breath. Make the best use of it!