Swara Yoga

By Jigyasu Bhakti Ratna (Kate Woodworth) - Kate is a senior yoga teacher and yoga therapist from Yoga Vidya Gurukul (, she is teaching and practicing yoga for the last 10 years. She is also Resident Officer at Yoga Vidya Gurukul. She is initiated in to Jigyasu Sannayasa by her Guru Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. 

Swara Yoga

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Swara yoga is an ancient, closely guarded and esoteric science with its origins in the Tantras. There is not much information on Swara yoga and the main text is known as Shivaswarodaya which is the dialogue between Shiva and Parvati. Previously it was taught only from Guru to disciple.

Swara means continuous sound. It is the science of breath, prana, its rhythms, movements and patterns. It talks of the relationship between prana and cosmic prana and is known to give psychic abilities in a short amount of time. Pranayama, the control of prana, is one aspect of swara yoga. It explains how the movement of prana can be manipulated by the breath. Swara yoga can be used not just in basic life for daily requirements, but, as with all yoga, its aim are for union and it will help you to realize your true inner self.

The swara is known as the essence of the breath. It is something we are born with and die with. We all have breath and we all have the subtle prana. This is the essence of the breath and the basis of swara yoga. Normal breathing is a mechanical function performed by the physical body but in swara yoga this process is controlled and manipulated. Breathing is not just a physical action but with each breath there is a significant coded message.

The thoughts and prana travel through the breath. Emotions affect the breath. All are interlinked. For example when we make some food with love or with anger the breath mixes with the food we are cooking and this makes the food positive or negative. A simple dish, when cooked with love or if special mantras are used when cooking can make a meal amazing. Whereas another meal which may normally taste great, when cooked in an angry mood, even though all the ingredients and techniques are the same, may turn out horrible. That?s why in many ashrams only those who have positive thoughts are allowed in the kitchen.

The power of thoughts travelling through the subtle breath can also be seen in the experiments by Dr Emoto. Here water crystals were studied after treated in certain ways. For example when water was held and the person was thinking I love you or I hate you. This produced different effects to the crystals. The I love you crystals were more pure whilst the I hate you crystals were not properly formed, though the same water was used. Look also at the connections between a mother and baby or long married couples. They understand what the other needs without any words.

The breath flows in eleven main ways but the focus is generally on the left or right nostril. If you observe the breath at first it will seem that the air is flowing out of both nostrils simultaneously, but after some time you will begin to notice that one nostril dominates the flow of breath and also that this nostril changes. It may be left dominant, right dominant or both nostrils. The flow of breath through one nostril has a different physiological and psychological effect to the flow of breath through the other nostril. Every 1 ½ hours approximately the flow will change from one to the other, though it changes from person to person and the environment that they are in. Both nostrils are used during the in between period. This change in the swara keeps the balance of the body and mind. If this swara becomes irregular then it is a clear indication that something in the body is not functioning correctly.

Each nostril has different effects on the body and mind.

 Left  Right
 Ida  Pingala
 Mental energy  Physical energy
 Moon  Sun
 Cold  Hot
 Female  Male
 Right brain  Left brain
 Relaxation  Stress response
 Considered auspicious  Hard, tough, not so virtuous

For some people one nostril may dominate. If one is left dominated they may be more emotional, feminine, compassionate, kind, depressed or with changeable moods. If they are more right dominated they may be more masculine, dynamic, angry and aggressive. There is no right or wrong. Each has their benefit depending on the situation. If there is no domination then the body is in balance, but this is not common for long periods of time.

As was discussed earlier, a healthy rhythm, conducive to yoga practice is 1 ½ hours. It is linked with the phases of the sun and the moon. The first day after no moon there will be left nostril domination for three days. This will be reset at sunrise to left. After three days every sunrise there will be right nostril domination. Again this will last for three days. So there is a three day cycle of left and right domination.

Swara yoga can be used in all aspects of our life. So how can we relate swara yoga into our daily life? Well to begin with it is best to get up before sunrise for better physical and mental health. Getting up late causes laziness and unbalance with the hormonal cycle. When waking up first check which nostril is most active and move that side first. It is best to move the left side first as it brings the body and mind together. When going to the toilet it is best to have the right nostril active, if the left is active there may be constipation or diarrhoea. When practicing yoga it is better to have the left side switched on as the body and mind should be relaxed. If one wants to do exercise or dynamic practices then it is better for the right nostril to be switched on. Looking at showers and the perfumes we use the male perfumes stimulate the right nostril and male hormones, whilst the female perfumes stimulate the left. Ideally the best routine for yoga is to sleep on the left side so that the right is active during the night and the left is active all day.

In relationships girls attract men by having their left nostril active whilst men attract girls by having their right nostril active. When couples have same nostril domination it can cause problems. Swara yoga can also be used when one wants to send a message to their partner, providing it is a positive one (the others won?t work). When one breathes out they can send the message with their mind, assuming the partner is close. This will be inhaled by the partner.

Food also affects the rhythms of the breath. Right nostril domination causes hunger and proper digestive stimulation. It is always best to eat when this nostril is active. Left nostril domination is depressive and can increase or decrease hunger in an unnatural way. There are many foods that heat or cool the body. Milk, banana, curd and guava are cooling and stimulate the left nostril. Spices, ginger, garlic and papaya are heating and stimulate the right nostril.

We can keep ourselves healthy by observing the swara. We can predict and prevent disturbances in our health. If a cold is coming the left nostril becomes more active. To prevent it, increase the hot principle and activate the right nostril. If there is a migraine it can be relived by changing the nostril. Migraines may be due to many reasons so it may need the left or right. If there is heat stroke, diarrhoea or some other heat related condition then the left nostril needs to be switched on. To maintain health we need to balance the nostrils.

So how can we switch on and balance the nostrils?

1. Anulom Vilom / Alternate nostril breath for 10 - 15 minutes each day will help to balance the nostrils.
2. Place cotton wool in the left nostril to block it. This turns on the right nostril. Block the right and the left will be turned on.
3. Place the hand under the left armpit and press it for 5 minutes to turn on the right nostril and vice versa
4. Sleep on the left side to turn on the right nostril.
5. Same nostril breathing, for example, inhale left exhale left, will turn the left nostril on.

Swara yoga may seem like an unusual kind of yoga but it is very beneficial for use in daily life to keep the body and mind happy, healthy and relaxed.

By Jigyasu Bhakti Ratna (Kate Woodworth)

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