Three Pranayamas and their Ayurvedic / Psychological Effects
Pranayamas, or yogic breathing techniques, have effects upon the doshas in the body. Vata – Wind, Pitta – Bile and Kapha – Phlegm.
Pranayamas also have specific effects on the mind, as per the four levels of the mind:
- Chitta, or unconscious mind / mind-stuff
- Buddhi, or the intellect, which governs our mental metabolism or (manasikagni).
- Manas, or the emotional sphere of the mind
- Ahamkara, or the ego, which is a rajasic (agitating and motive) force
These are mentioned as there are several levels of each of the above layers of the mind. Each layer can be divided into sattvic (pure, clear), rajasic (agitated, passionate) and tamasic (dark, delusional or ignorant) levels. We shall discuss these layers, relative to pranayamas, or breathing techniques.
IT is helpful to understand how various mantras work. And how they relate to the energetics behind the days of the week. This knowledge is key when performing them as it gives more potency to their effects on the doshas, or biological humours.
I. Chandra-Bhedana, Left-Nostril (Lunar) breathing:
To perform this, block the right-nostril with the ring thumb of the right-hand and gently touch the ring-finger of the right-hand on the left-hand side nostril. Breathe in slowly through the left nostril and then with the ring-ringer block the left-nostril and breathe out of the right-nostril. Repeat the procedure slowly.
In excess, this technique can clog the srotas (channels) in the body and also blow out the fire of the buddhi or intellect. It does help to calm the imbalances of the emotional mind (manas), especially the motive or rajasic (motive and restless) states. However, it can aggravate the delusional or tamasic states of the ahankara or ego. It can also disturb the manas or emotional mind in excess.
Overall, it helps sedate the over-active mind in states of:
For this type of breathing, for cooling the body and reduces Pitta (bile, heat), one can use the mantra Śrīṁ and also Soṃ. Doing these mantras on Mondays in hot weather such as summertime with the mantra Oṃ Soṃ Somāya Namaḥ! also helps cool the body more and awakens the fire of soma or bliss and also increases the fire of Kapha (phlegm) in the body, nourishing the tissues.
These mantras can be used as one inhales from the left nostril itself. To awaken the fire of Ojas or vitality, one can use Klīṁ or Aiṁ Klīṁ Sauḥ! in the same manner and also helps Vata, which often becomes too dried out in hot and dry climates and environments and also dries out ojas or vitality. Performing This pranayama is hence beneficial for weaker Vata types which lack stability, strength and vitality.
It is an excellent pranayama to help reduce krodha (anger) in the mind and also when there is an excess or drive or raga (passion).
II. Surya-Bhedana or Right-Nostril (Solar) breathing:
This is opposite to the Chandra-bhedana pranayama or lunar-breathing described above. To perform this, we block the left-nostril with the ring-finger of the right-hand and gently touch the thumb of the right-hand on the right-hand side nostril. Breathe in slowly through the right nostril and then with the ring-ringer block the right-nostril and breathe out of the left-nostril. Repeat the procedure slowly.
In excess can over-stimulate the rajasic or motive and aggressive and aggressive fire of the buddhi (intellect), manas (emotional mind) and ahamkara (ego). However, when used moderately, it helps awaken the pure buddhi and also helps clear the Chitta or unconscious level of the mind, removing it’s tamasic (dark, dull or delusional) states through its aggressive or rajasic action, such as tamasic vasanas or negative mental impressions of the past, which by its heat, it burns up or consumes, as if mental ama or toxins.
It helps to stimulate the intellectual fires of the mind into action when it is dull, inert, slow and depressed, or there is a lack of comprehension in the mind.
For this type of breathing, for heating the body and decreasing Vata (wind, when there are cramps, coldness, stiffness or lack of energy) such as in Autumn (in which case it can be balanced with Chandra-bhedhana) and Kapha (when there is congestion, dullness, depression or lethargy), one can use the mantra Hrīṃ, Huṃ and also Hauṃ.
Doing these mantras on Tuesdays or Sundays in cool weather such as wintertime with the mantra Om Hrīṃ Sūryāya Namaḥ! also helps awakening the solar fire and heats up the body more (by action of these Pitta-increasing days) and helps remove excess phlegm from the lungs. These mantras can be used as one inhales from the left right itself.
This pranayama is great for meditating on vasanas or impressions in the mind and burning them up with its heat or fire (agni).
III. Ujjayi Pranayama (Performed by making an audible sound by contracting the throat muscles upon breathing in):
This helps on helps all levels of the mind, and helps break up the tamasic or darker states of the manas or emotional mind and ahamkara or ego especially. It calms the excessive fire or rajasic states of the manas, and awakens the sattvic nature and pure functioning of the fire of the buddhi or intellect, our mental metabolism. It is best done in Siddhasana (perfected pose) or Shavasana (corpse pose) for these results.
For this, one can use the specific fiery or heating mantras such as Hrīṃ and Hūṃ which help dispel the congestion of phlegm in the throat which aggravate us in cooler climates and in winter especially.
For much mucous, one can use Krīṃ as it has a drying nature or for a dry-throat as in Vata types, one can use Śrīṃ or Klīṃ, which help lubricate the throat and stop the dry croaky sound in the throat and make sure that the fire doesn’t become too intense to cause issues.
This pranayama is useful for bringing us calm when there is much disarray or agitation in our lives. The slower the breathing here also the better for Vata or restlessness in the mind and body.