Not very long ago, I wrote some articles about ‘Pranayama‘, the branch of Yoga that deals with breathing techniques and exercises for fitness and health improvement. Today let us see another exercise from this class, which is not only healthy, but fun as well.
Name: Bhramari Pranayam (Sanskrit for, the ‘buzzing-bee’ breathing technique)
Sitting Pose: Lotus Position is ideal, but one can opt for any position so far as the spine is straight and upright.
Duration: Normally 2 minutes. Can be extended as much as one wants. There’s no hard and fast limit, though 15 minutes would be more than sufficient for any practical imaginable purpose.
- Take the position of your choice.
- Make a pointing index-finger sign with both hands and place both the index fingers in the respective ears such that the ear doesn’t get fully plugged but there is a definite contact between the finger and external ear.
- Close you eyes. Some prefer placing the little- and ring- fingers on the eyes for further impact. The basic idea here, is to block the two major worldly senses (vision and hearing) so that your otherwise outbound focus reverses and gets concentrated on the inner self, instead of the outer worldly distractions.
- Your elbows should be stretched sidewise to come in the line of your shoulders.
- Close your mouth without having the teeth rows touch each other.
- Relax and start breathing in the standard ratio (exhalation twice as long as inhalation).
- Now comes the fun part. Take in a deep breath and while you let it out slowly, make a buzzing/humming sound like a bee, so that you can feel the vibrations it creates at your finger tips.
- Repeat. Continue for 2 minutes, or longer if you want.
How does this work?
To go by the description in the original 1500 years old manuscript, the Hath Yoga Paradeepika (2:68), this exercise –
- Relieves stress
- Balances all three Doshas
- Cures sleep disturbances, insomnia
- Clears dizziness
- Is beneficial for people suffering from chronic or Pitta-caused fevers
- Relieves arthritic inflammation
- Alleviates certain types of semen abnormalities in men
- Improves general agility
To be earnest, there have been contradictory claims by various researchers with reference to this, but from my personal practice experience and mere physiological common sense, I understand that it totally works with more-than-significant results as compared to placebo (false feeling of wellness arising from strong belief in something).
“But then, how do you explain it scientifically? Also, what about appetite and metabolism?”
As regular readers may have read in our last article, the lower surface of the ear’s external canal and diaphragm is supplied by an auricular branch of the vagus nerve.The same vagus nerve that regulates pretty much everything important in the body, from the heart rate to smooth breathing, to liver metabolism, to stomach secretions, to the spleen, to the kidneys’ optimal functioning, and more.
This nerve, the Vagus, is the very reason why you get that nasty cough when you accidentally scratch your ear too hard with an ear-bud (the larynx and lungs getting reflex-irritated by the excess stimulus to the auricular branch). However, what happens if you just stimulate the same ear surface lightly instead of irritating it? The other organs supplied by the vagus get stimulated instead of being irritated in such a case. The stomach and pancreas secrete more digestive juices, liver speeds up metabolism, intestines improve peristaltic movement, and so on.
In one line, your whole system gets a boost-up when the Vagus is stimulated just lightly enough. Vagus nerve stimulation has been found to inhibit inflammation by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokine production, which points to its potential utility in treating inflammatory diseases ranging from arthritis, several heart diseases, colitis and some autoimmune disorders. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) using electronic stimulator implants has also gained the endorsement of American Psychiatric Association for use in Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD), and is being seen as a possible maintenance treatment for epilepsy. What one basically does in Bhramari Pranayama, is to stimulate the Vagus nerve manually without using any electronic stimulator device.
How do we do that?
We saw earlier that buzzing like a bee creates very small amount of vibrations at your fingertips in the ears. Can these vibrations be made sufficiently large enough to stimulate the vagus nerve branch in the ear rhythmically? Try experimenting these tweaks –
- What happens if you keep the jaws clenched?
- What happens if you keep the front teeth touching each other at the tips?
- What happens when you use a different volume, pitch and/or tone for buzzing/humming?
- What happens if you plug the ear with the index finger at different angles of rotation/insertion?
- What happens if you use a combination of multiple of these factors?
Go on, experiment. Tinker with the idea and figure out what works best in your experience. It is but common sense in the end. I could describe it in detail here, but like any other physical exercise, it needs to be perfected by practice only, even when under expert guidance. Just remember to focus on your inner self and how your senses respond all the time. Also, you soon feel the change yourself within hours, once you successfully do it the right way. Till then, trial and error is the way when Dr.Herbz is not personally there to teach it. Best luck practising, and… if you really happen to get very serious with learning this one picture-perfect in minimum time, drop a mail to Doctor Herbz.
Some other interesting articles by Dr. Harshad –
About the Author –
Dr. Harshad Rajandekar, BAMS, is a practising physician running his own practice in Ayurvedic and Modern medicine at Nasik, India. He takes keen interest in investigating and correlating the scientific basis behind various traditional therapies. He can be reached for a regular online/offline consultation here.