This term at Pure-Li Yoga we are working with Bhramari breathing as our Pranayama practice.
It seems it is something that at first, students are a little shy when it comes to participation, so I wanted to share some of it’s secret powers with you all!
Bhramari comes from the Hindi word Bhramar (मधुमक्खी), which means Bumble Bee, and you may also encounter this practice by the name of Bumble Bee Breath!
Bhramari breathing can be practiced in different ways, including using mudra or blocking the ears with the fingers, it can even be practised in silence!
However, at Pure-Li Yoga, you are invited to practice it by simply by:
- Sitting in a comfortable sitting position, with the hips higher than the knees
- Closing the lips together, and keeping the chin slightly, gently tucked in to the middle throat so that the back of the neck is long
- Using the exhalation to form into a sound like a deep resonant hum, instead of the regular sound of a breath
- Gently working to bring the sound from deep in the throat, so that you might feel a vibration in the lips, the jaw, face and throat – maybe even with practice, into the whole skull.
It is basic and simple to do, and a safe practice for people of all ages.
There are some things to know, in order to understand and get the most from your Bhramari practice:
- What we are doing is in fact, lengthening the exhalation, which science has shown to promote a calming of the nervous system
- Let us not undo that benefit by over-breathing on the inhalation
- Be mindful not to take big gulping breaths in, or to be in some kind of race to produce the exhalation hum which can sometimes lead to huge fast gulps of air coming into the body. This causes the diameter of our blood vessels to shrink and results in taking us back into the sympathetic nervous system – so produces the exact opposite of the point of the practice. Smooth, slow and steady breaths in and out. Just the practice itself lends to a natural lengthening of the exhalation, which is what does most of the good work.
- Always return to the natural breath if you feel pain or discomfort, or even if you feel a bit out of breath at first – its good to go back to natural breathing to gain your ground again before trying again. Remember you are in control at all times, and can choose if it is something that is good for you or not.
- See if you can release any unnecessary tension you may be holding, in the body and in the mind.
- Enjoy your practice!
So what we are doing is manipulating our nervous system, altering our mood, relaxing our body and so in turn quietening the noisy busy mind, expanding our perspective and the lens with which we view life.
We are taking conscious steps towards being responsible for our own mental and physical wellbeing. All part of what YOGA is all about!
Make it noisy!
Also, the noise that we make with this buzzing bumbling bee boom, if you are open to to taking it to a certain volume and resonance, can create a blissful barrier from the recursive thinking and general cheetah chatter of our minds that fuels our anxieties and fears. It is a brilliant and such a simple way to start focusing the mind, a great doorway into meditation and stillness, and the residue of calm and peacefulness is invaluable.
One of my teachers, Simon Borg Olivier, tells us that:
‘Humming has been shown to cause up to fifteen times the normal production of Nitric oxide gas in the sinuses of the skull [Weitzberg & Lundberg; 2002]. Nitric oxide has been shown to have several beneficial effects on the body. It is an important signalling molecule that acts in many tissues to regulate a diverse range of physiological processes including vasodilation (expansion of the blood vessel width), neuronal function, inflammation, immune function and in programmed cell death (apoptosis). Nitric oxide has also been implicated in smooth muscle relaxation, pregnancy and blood vessel formation (angiogenesis). Nitric oxide functions as a neurotransmitter in both the central and peripheral nervous systems [Snyder; 1992]. Endogenous and exogenous Nitric oxide possesses anti-parasitic effects on both protozoa and metazoa [Ascenzi et al., 2003]. Nitric oxide has a central anti-stress effect, apparently mediated by limiting the release of catecholamines [Bondarenko et al., 2001].”
Other research also shows us how Bhramari breathings can significantly reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and provides for the body a relaxed state, where the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system overrides the sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) nervous system.
It’s free, can be done at any time of the day or night, requires no special equipment or clothing – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!!
Adventure with me to practising Bhramari Breathing in a rolling breath – here I start off and you join in, everyone goes to their own rhythm and breath capacity, that way the sound just rolls on and on, there are rarely silences or gaps. This allows us to really focus and detach from what everybody else is doing or where they are in their breath etc. It gives us the space, the permission and the freedom to make the practice your very own, and takes you more deeply inward. I ring a bell at the end to signal the practice coming to a close, and you just keep going wherever you are in your breath, until you come to the end of your next humming exhalation.