Murcha Pranayama: Steps, Benefits and Precautions

murcha pranayama or swooning breathing

Moorcha breathing/pranayama is one of the 8 types of pranayama. This art of breathing requires a period of slow inhalation followed by a prolonged full pause or retaining of breath. The chin is locked until you experience faintness.

Closing the passages with Jalandhar bandha firmly at the end of Puraka, and expelling the air slowly is called Moorcha from its causing the mind to swoon and giving comfort. ~ Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter 2, verse 69

Meaning of Murcha

The literal meaning of the Sanskrit term ‘Murcha’ or sometimes also spelled as ‘Moorcha’ is fainting. Holding mechanism of this breath stems the feeling of dizziness in the practitioner, so it’s also known as ‘swooning breath‘.

Mucha breathing (Pranayama) makes the mind devoid of senses for that time (when performing it) and gives the feeling of lightheadedness to the person. It swoons the mind and provides comfort.

Steps to Perform Murcha Pranayama

Follow these simple steps to perform the Murcha pranayama.

Sitting Postures and Body Alignment

  1. Sit in any meditative postures like lotus pose (padmasana) or easy pose (Siddhasana).
  2. Relax the whole body, hands resting on the knees and align your shoulders. Keep the mind calm but alert.
  3. Align your head and the spine in one straight line.
  4. Slowly bring your attention to the breath until it becomes slow and deep.

Bend head back and Inhale

  1. Acquire ‘khechari mudra‘, then slowly start inhaling through both nostrils.
  2. Gently bend your head slightly back and accompany with Ujjayi breathing.
  3. Acquire ‘Shambhavi Mudra’ by Bringing your gaze to the center of eyebrows.
  4. Keep your arms straight, lock the elbows and press the knees with your hands.

Do the internal retention of breath throughout the whole inhalation.

Bring Head down and Hold Breath

murch pranayama with jaldhar bandha

  1. Retain the breath and perform Jalandhar bandha by bringing the chin against the chest.
  2. Slowly start exhaling the retained breath when you feel the extreme dizziness.

It is one round of murcha pranayama. Repeat in the same manner after relaxation.

Relax in Upright Position

  1. Close the eyes and bring the head back to upright position slowly.
  2. Keep your eyes closed and try relaxing the body.
  3. You will experience the tranquillity in the mind and body. This lightness is the approach toward fainting.

Practice note:

  • Internal breath retention is the main essence of murcha breathing. So, develop your capacity to hold the breath for a more extended period.
  • The breath retention induces a state of the void by directly acting on the mind.
  • The pressure on the blood vessels in the neck causes fluctuations in the pressure within the cranial cavity and results in light-headedness.
  • The compression of the carotid sinuses is responsible for changing the tone of the autonomic nervous system and induces a swooning sensation.

Duration

Practice until you start experiencing a fainting sensation. Length of Kumbhaka (breath retention) is very important. As long as you can hold the breath in, the better it is.

One inspiration and expiration makes one cycle. Repeat until you feel faintness. It should be performed after asanas and before meditation.

It is very useful and provides additional benefit when practiced before going to sleep.

Awareness

It is very important to know how and where to direct your awareness while performing murcha pranayama.

  • Physical Awareness: bring your awareness on the breath. Provide attention to the head movement and also to the center of eyebrows.
  • Spiritual Awareness: there is a void behind the eyebrow center called ‘chidaksha1. Direct your awareness to this void.

Benefits of Murcha Pranayama

One of the common causes of stress is the attraction to the outside world. We human beings are so much driven away by the pleasure of the external milieu that we forget to travel inside. Earthly happiness is transient and dependent. Looking inward and staying in that world where happiness is absolute, and state of mind is indestructible takes you to eternity.

  1. This breathing provides mental tranquillity and a sensation of euphoria.
  2. It increases mental efficiency by providing energy and removing distractions.
  3. Swooning breathing gives a blissful experience where the mind becomes clear of negative emotions, e.g. frustration, anger, anxiety, jealousy, etc.
  4. It raises the level of prana by energizing the ida and pingala Nadis (channels on the back) and Sushumna ( the central channel)
  5. It helps to create a state of unconsciousness where your mind is calm, and body relaxed, yet you are alert. This is known as a state of ‘conscious unconsciousness’.
  6. It brings steadiness and contentment by infusing joy and happiness.
  7. As it is practiced with Jalandhar Bandha, it exerts pressure on carotid sinus which reduces blood pressure
  8. It reduces body fats, effective in the cure of headache and muscle weakness.
  9. The feeling of light-headedness or swooning proves to be an effective adjunct before meditation.

Precautions

As this breathing technique comprises of the slight sensation of faintness, it is very necessary to perform it correctly with certain measures.

This pranayama is not meant to be practiced by everyone. Many a time it requires the guidance by a competent teacher.

  • People who have mental disorder should avoid Murcha breathing.
  • The cases of high blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension) should abstain themselves from this breathing technique.
  • The heart patients should do it under the training of a teacher.
  • If the person gets wholly fainted or unconscious, discontinue it immediately.

Murcha Pranayama should not be practiced after meals, and a minimum 3-4 hours gap should be there. The food in the stomach exerts pressure on the diaphragm 2 and lungs and hence has a negative effect.

Contraindications

  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain disorders, e.g. aneurysm
  • Heart diseases like Atherosclerosis
  • Glaucoma

Conclusion

Pranayama is one of the most important yogic practices and provides different responses in the cardiovascular and autonomic nervous system. Moorcha pranayama acts as the bridge between the mind and the body. It not only balances the art of breathing but also provides calm and peace to the mind.

When the mind becomes thoughtless, a state of relaxation is achieved. The practitioner feels light and this bliss makes him feel like floating. He is away of the worldly affairs and starts traveling inside. In spite of being stressed by the “samsara”, he starts his journey to “Ananda” which lies within and by drawing his mind inward he achieves this ultimate pleasure.

References

  1. Chidaksha https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chidakasha
  2. Diaphragm https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/diaphragm

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