by Swami Vishnudevananda
The sustenance of life in this body, the functioning of the various internal organs, fullness of health, or appearance of disease, equanimity or tossing of the mind, all depend on the flow of breath, in either of the nostrils.
The amazing discoveries of modem science are unfolding subtle secrets of nature beneath microscope and surgeon’s knife, yet Life itself remains a mystery. The secrets of Life itself have escaped all scrutiny of scientists, save that in the ‘mind laboratory’ of the Rishis, the seers and sages of ancient India.
As long as modern science functions within the realm of the gross material plane alone, the secrets of Life will remain beyond reach. As long as the mind is seen as an excretion of the brain, the understanding of the mind will be limited to the physical functions of the brain.
However, the brain, a gross physical manifestation of the mind, reflects in its structure a limited view of the workings of the mind. This is especially interesting to the modem Western mind, which gives much more credence to the hypothesis or materially grounded scientists than the revelations of ancient seers and scriptures.
There is a bilateral cerebral dysfunction in all psychosis… with a right-hemisphere emphasis in depression and a left-hemisphere emphasis in schizophrenia
Yet, without meaning to, modem scientific discoveries are giving a better understanding of the ancient texts, and providing solid verification of the untold value of the Yogic practices for the modem Yogi. This can aptly be illustrated by examining the ancient Swara Yoga alongside current Brain Research.
Swami Sivananda in his book on Swara Yoga states that, “Swara Yoga is an ancient science that has analyzed the working of the Life principle, Prana, and the functioning or Life within this body. It deals with the various channels along which the Prana vibrates within the body, animating it. lt also prescribes means to regulate the flow of Prana to ensure good health and longevity.
This science, or Yoga of Swara, is more subtle than the science of Pranayama (Yogic breathing), which when comparedd to the formcr, is but a bare outline of Swara Yoga. This Yoga of breath should be practised under the guidance of a fully qualified Yogi.”
Swara means the air breathed through the nostrils. Swara also means breathing. The breath is not always equal in both nostrils. In fact, it is rarely equal. When it stops functioning in one of the nostrils, it rises in the other. This rising or falling of the breath in one or the other nostril, is called Swardaya.
The ancient Rishis found certain things peculiar in the rise and fall of breath in each of the two nostrils that affected and governcd their various activities. The sustenance of life in this body, the functioning of the various internal organs, fullness of health or appearance of disease, equanimity or tossing of the mind, all depend on the flow or breath in either of the nostrils. They recorded their experiments of this analytical study of the functions of the breath and termed it Swadaya…
The Practice of Swara Yoga
“Success in life, accumulation of wealth and attainment of mental peace depend upon one’s health and activities. Through the practice of swara yoga the individual seeks to control both of them. This ancient science cautions about diseases that may appear in the future and prescribes remedies for diseases that may be latent in an individual.
It advises proper moments to undertake fresh activities, so as to attain maximum good. If a person is in normal health the breath will alternate approximately every hour and fifty minutes. In most people this changing of breath from one nostril to the other varies a great deal owing to such conditions as unnatural living habits, wrong diet, disease, and lack of proper exercise. Often, one of the nostrils is blocked. The flow of air in and out of the lungs is thus limited to the other nostril.
It takes a little speculation to realize, even with the predominately left-brain pingala-dominated Western mind, that the more both sides function in conjunction with their complimentary functions, the more creativity, intelligence, balanced sanity there is
All bad habits of living have some effect on the breath, diverting it from its normal flow. According to Swara Yoga the breath in the right nostril is said to be hot, while the flow from the left is cool. Therefore, symbolically, they named the major subtle nerve tube (the nadi) which corresponds to right nostril breathing as Sun breath. or ‘Pingala’
The one corresponding to left nostril breathing is referred to as Moon breath or ‘Ida’. The energy that flows through Pingala nadi or Sun breath produces heat in the body which is catabolic, efferent and acceleratory to the organs of the body, while the energy of the Moon breath in ‘Ida nadi’ is cooling, anabolic, afferent, and inhibitory to the body organs.
When the breath continues to flow in one