When your mind is buzzing with the hustle of long hours of work or you want to feel instant moments of silence after a busy day, just remember your breath.
Prana you are taking in and out with breath can work for you at this moment.
Among different breathing techniques in yoga, bhramari breathing is the most effective and instantaneous for calming mind and get rid of the hustle of daily life.
Bhramari Pranayama: The Humming Bee Breath
Bhramari is a Sanskrit term (भ्रमरी) which derives its name from ‘Bee’, as exhalation sound produced in this pranayama resembles the ‘Humming Sound (hmmm)’ of a bee.
This pranayama has its roots from ancient yogic text Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP), where it’s described one among 8 classical breathing techniques. Its mention in HYP is seen in this way:
Fill air quickly, making noise like wasp (black Bee like species) and expel it slowly with same noise, this practice flow wave of ecstasy in Yogindras mind. ~ HYP 2.68
In Bhramari Pranayama, as you exhale, the ear canal is closed with index fingers and humming sound like a bee is produced from the back of the throat.
One good thing I personally feel about bhramari breathing, even after the long hours of practice it, little impulses of humming sound continues vibrating in my body and mind. It makes me feel and resonates with the inner silence of body & hence, concentrating on work becomes much easier.
Calming Effect of Bhramari Breathing
Understanding your breathing pattern through bhramari is the easiest way to calm your mind and get rid of anxiety.
Most of the breath counts we take are just short, therefore associated with the upper chest only.
On the other hand, breathing has a calming effect on the mind when exhale is relatively longer as compared to inhale.
Consistent practice of Bhramari increases the average duration of exhale without any attention or external strain.
With longer exhale, a higher amount of CO2 expelled out of the body and in the same proportion requirement of o2 increased in the body. To fulfill this increased requirement, autonomic nervous system activates (ANS).
Hence, bhramari pranayama got its calming effect by activating the ANS. Also, the humming sound creates a resonance between the respiratory system and brain, which clears the throat from blockage and bacterial infections.
Types of Bhramari Pranayama
There are several modern and traditional variations in which bhramari pranayama is performed.
Although, the very basic concept behind working of bhramari breathing is the humming sound, but its effect can be heightened by introducing different types of yoga mudras in basic bhramari.
- Basic Bhramari
- Silent Bhramari
- Bhramari with Shanmukhi mudra
1. Getting Started with Bhramari Pranayama
To get started with bhramari pranayama,
- Find a comfortable place and sit in any meditative posture like lotus pose or easy pose.
- Put a folded blanket under your pelvis to bring a natural slope of the thighs angle. It let the spine get its complete straightness.
If you are not comfortable in a meditative seated posture,
- Sit on the chair in this way, your pelvis supported at the edge of the seat and thus, your spine is erect, not resting on the back of the chair.
- Bring your feet down on the ground (if not reaching, put yoga blocks under feet) and put your hands next to hips.
Steps of Basic Bhramari Pranayama
In basic bhramari, only ears (as a sense organ) is closed using index fingers to cut off from external noise and feel the clear internalize vibrations produced by the humming sound.
- Prepare yourself to sit comfortably according to above-mentioned steps.
- Place your index fingers on the ear, more especially, between cheek and ear (cartilage). It will not let the external sound enter through ears.
- Take a deep breath in, all the way into the belly.
- Gently close your lips and slightly separated upper-lower teeth (as we did in Sitkari Breath).
- Now begin bhramari breathing, with prolonged exhale, produce humming vibrations (O-hmmmmmm..) from the back of your throat as long as you are comfortable. These vibrations will induce a soft sensation in your head area, including mouth, teeth, and jaws.
- Feel sensations produced in your body. It will help you to go beyond external faculties, in your mind.
Repeat the process for around 5-6 times and notice the change.
2. Silent Bhramari
Silent Bhramari is usually done after basic Bhramari Pranayama.
Once you are done doing the former type of pranayama for about 5-6 rounds, start exhaling the air without actually producing any vibrating sound but thinking about it.
Notice if you can still feel the sensation of vibrations.
3. Bhramari in Shanmukhi Mudra
When one is comfortable in practicing basic bhramari, practice it with Shanmukhi mudra.
In Shanmukhi [6 (shan) mukhi (gates)] mudra, 6 gates through which external agency enters in the body (2 ears, 2 eyes, nose, and mouth) are shut using five fingers.
This mudra is said to be a door to the state of pratyahara (sense withdrawal), 5th in 8 limbs of yoga.
Steps to Perform Bhramari with Shanmukhi Mudra
- Sit in a relaxing position and place your hand on your face.
- Your thumbs should be placed on the tragus and fore-finger touching the inner eye corners.
- Make sure to not put any pressure on your eye-balls.
- Place your Middle finger on the sides of your nose and ring finger above your lips.
- Proceed with placing your pinky finger below the lips and start with inhaling and exhaling air.
- While exhalation, produce humming sound along with all the fingers positioned on your face. With humming sound, feel the calmness with sensation begin in your head area.
Repeat the process 5-6 times.
Bhramari Pranayama Benefits
- Bhramari produces noticeable changes in alpha, theta, and gamma brainwaves, research done on electroencephalogram (EEG) 1 has shown it.
Alpha Brainwave – It gives deep relaxation and seen in light meditation.
Theta brainwave – Its dominance increases creativity, learning, reduces stress and seen in deep meditation.
Gamma Brainwaves – It’s found in every part of the brain and helps to cure insomnia.
- In a yogic intervention 2, it was seen, Basic Bhramari is great tranquilizer. It immediately affects the cardiovascular system which decreases high blood pressure with a slight fall in heart rate.
- When bhramari performed with closed eyes (as in Shanmukhi mudra), it has a soothing effect on the nervous system and hence relieves from insomnia.
- Bhramari is considered a good preparatory practice to concentrate & create a meditative environment in the mind for meditation.
- Bhramari relief from pain and strengthen emotionally pregnant women during pregnancy. Vibratory sound of bhramari regulates pituitary gland- the master of all glands.
Statistics showing the importance of bhramari pranayama in pregnancy – Data Source: 3
With Brahmari (112 cases) Without Brahmari (326 cases) Complications No. of cases % No. of cases % Abortion 2 2% 26 8% Pre-term delivery 3 2.6% 17 5% Eclampsia Nil Nil 2 0.6% HAP 1 1% 6 2% Hypertension Nil Nil 81 25%
- Bhramari improves hearing capacity – In the biological process, NO place a role of impulse messenger at the cellular level. Bhramari breath increases the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the blood vessels. Hence, more sound waves generation leads to improved quality of hearing.
- Bhramari increase memory and concentration power – NO is also responsible for transmitting information between neurogenic cells in the brain. In this way, the Increased transmission of information improves memory and concentration power of a person.
- When Bhramari practiced with Jalandhar bandha (chin to chest lock) it directs sounds waves to pass through the throat. These humming sound waves of bhramari helps in curing thyroid.
- Bhramari increases the body’s defense mechanism through NO to fight against bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
- Do not put pressure on your tragus while making the humming sound.
- Do not put your fingers inside your ear but on the tragus.
- Don’t pressurize your face or eyeballs while performing bhramari.
- Make sure to not exceed your exhalation limit while producing a humming sound.
- Keep your lips slightly apart while making humming sound or the vibrations.
- After 3 to 4 hours of having a heavy meal, don’t practice this breathing exercise
- Try not to produce high pitch humming sound during pregnancy.
- EEG Changes After Bhramari Pranayama [https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/softscis/2006/0/2006_0_390/_pdf]
- Immediate effect of Bhramari pranayama [https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/softscis/2006/0/2006_0_390/_pdf]
- Role of Bhramari in Pregnancy [http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1995/ajan95/brahpreg.shtml]