‘Swara’ in addition to being a ‘musical note’ in sanskrit, also means the continuous flow of air through one’s nostrils. Swar yoga allows us to be in tune with the lunar and planetary cycles, and change right or left hemisphere dominance through breath, whenever we want. It helps us synchronise our inner rhythms with those of the cosmos.
It is a known fact that we don’t breathe through both nostrils at the same time, except for brief periods in the course of the day. Breathing with the right, left or both the nostrils creates certain physical and emotional states. A task undertaken during the operation of one nostril is sometimes not suited for that state of body chemistry.
For example, when both nostrils work, we are in a good place to meditate and concentrate. When the right nostril is operating, we are in a rational and logical phase, because it communicates with the left side of the brain. It activates the thinking hemisphere of the brain. When we breathe with the left nostril, we are more tuned to the intuitive, emotional and visual side of our nature, i.e the feeling hemisphere of the brain.
One important aspect of swar yoga is that, it helps us to adapt our activites to the breath in dominance at that point of time, or change our breath to suit the activity we are doing. How do we do this?
In his book, ‘Dhanwantari’, Harish Johari says, breath can be changed from one nostril to the other by lying down on the side of the operating nostril with a pillow placed under the ribcage The breath will change over in healthy people within 10 mins.
The cycle of breath is directly related to the moon. The right nostril operates at sunrise for three consecutive days, after full moon. After that, for the next three days, our left nostril operates at sunrise and this goes on till the new moon. After the new moon, the cycle changes and the left nostril operates for an hour at sunrise for three consecutive days followed by the right nostril for three days and so on.
When there is a disturbance in the natural cycle, the proper nostril does not open accordingly and body chemistry becomes disturbed. As a result, physical and psychological disturbances occur. Knowledge of Swar yoga, helps us to quickly respond to the imbalance and avoid the consequences. We can change our breath by the method outlined above. Changing the breath at the first sign of any physical or mental disturbance, prevents worsening of symptoms and promotes well being.
It is said that indigestion can be cured by eating only when the right nostril is dominant. This is because when the right nostril operates, the body chemistry is acidic and heat is produced. This helps in digestion. When left nostril is working, the body chemistry is mostly alkaline. This nostril cools the system and hence, when our left nostril is operating, we should not eat, bathe or defecate. When we want to change an unwanted emotional state, we should breathe through the non active nostril.
There are sciences like chronobiology and chronopsychology, that are investigating the periodic phenomena in living organisms and their adaptation to solar and lunar related rhythms. Chronopsychology is the scientific study, of the way changes in our daily sleep-waking cycles, can adversely affect our ability to work well. Chronopsychologists found that during a 24 hour day, a person’s mental, physical and emotional aptitudes, that depend heavily on biological clocks, vary according to the time of the day. There is a ‘favourable’ time for most of these abilities.
Swar yoga says the same and even tells us what these best times are. Since these abilities depend on the hemispheres of your brain, and the predominance of the hemispheres depends on whether you are breathing with your right or left nostril, you can choose to breathe the right way, to get the best result. Organising your tasks according to your breath will make you more efficient.