Pranayama

Mudra Monday: Bhramara Mudra & Pranayama

Oceana-Mariani-Blog_Bhramara-Mudra.jpg

Bhramara is the Sanskrit word for male bee and is also a form of Indian dance

This mudra is particularly helpful in relieving respiratory allergy symptoms that are caused by a weakened immune system, particularly during the Spring season. It can also be practiced when we are experiencing a runny nose or congestion in the lungs and sinuses.

As part of a regular practice it is said to improve the state of our intestinal flora, which can be negatively affected by antibiotics and other allergy-related medications. This can result in mucus in the frontal sinuses, bronchi and intestinal tract, as well as the emergence of a variety of skin rashes. The changing of the seasons, pollen and animal hairs are often only the triggers, but not the true cause of allergic reactions.

To perform this mudra, both hands mimic the form of a bee in flight at the same time. Begin by placing the index finger at the recess of the thumb and join the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger. Allow the ring and the pinky finger to extend outwards. Hold this position for anywhere between 8 to 20 minutes, 4-5 times per day.

To further strengthen your practice, you can combine this mudra with Brahmari pranayama, which is named after the humming black bee. This breathing practice shifts the autonomic nervous system into parasympathetic dominance, which in turn reduces stress, anxiety and anxious depression in particular. The sound helps to shut out mental stimulation, switching off the thinking mind. A lower pitch can be more calming or an entirely silent practice can be done at any time when you are feeling stressed.

When the sinuses are blocked, the vibrations from bhramari aid in clearing the head. Taking the pitch of the hum to a higher frequency can be helpful for this. If suffering from insomnia, practicing a lower pitch at night while using shanmukhi mudra can be useful.

To practice brahmari pranayama, lengthen the vertical axis of the spine in a seated position and align the chin and forehead vertically. Begin by verbalising an actual buzzing sound, slowly softening the buzz to a hum as you gently close the lips until they touch lightly, allowing the jaw to stay relaxed by leaving a space between the teeth. This allows you to feel how the hum is created. Now attempt to control your exhalations, maintaining a steady, smooth, even and continuous sound. Allow your inhalations to happen slowly and steadily between rounds, rather than quickly drawing the breath in.

For the fellow yoga teachers amongst you, this a truly wonderful way to begin a group class. Instruct your students on how to perform the bee breath and then ask them to continue the breath on their own. Request that they hum until the end of each exhalation and continue to do so for around three to five full minutes. Over time, the various lengths of your students’ breath will come together to form one continuous hum, bathing your class in the vibrational qualities of brahmari pranayama. The result is an instantaneous change of the energy in the room, bringing students into an uplifted, deeply meditative state of mind.

Elements: Air, Water & Fire.

If you'd like to know more about Hasta Mudras you can read my introduction to the topic here and find all previous Mudra Monday blogs here.

Illustration © estudio mosa 2019

Mudra Monday: Adi Mudra

Oceana-Mariani-Blog_Adi-Mudra.jpg

This is considered the first mudra because it is the first position an infant can make with the hands

The name for this Mudra comes from its Sanskrit roots adi, meaning "first" or "primal," and mudra, meaning "gesture," "mark" or "seal." Adi Mudra is a symbolic, ritualistic gesture of the hands often used in a spiritual yoga practice to calm and quiet the mind and nervous system. It can also help prepare the practitioner for Pranayama breathing exercises.

In this Mudra, the thumb is pressed on the inside of the palm and the fingers are closed around it, making a gentle fist. Adi Mudra is also thought to stimulate the brain, which is closely related to the crown (sahasrara) chakra that governs an individual's sense of peace, higher awareness and oneness with the universe.

It is recommended to practice this particular seal in a quiet setting while meditating and focusing on the breath, with the palms facing down on the thighs in a seated pose, such as Padmasana (lotus pose). As this Mudra calms and soothes the nervous system, it can be beneficial to incorporate it at the end of an asana practice.

Elements: Air & Ether.

If you'd like to know more about Hasta Mudras you can read my introduction to the topic here and find all previous Mudra Monday blogs here.

Illustration © estudio mosa 2018

Mudra Monday: Garuda Mudra

Garuda-Mudra.jpg

Named after the mystical bird that carries Vishnu (the lord of preservation), the spotlight is on Eagle Seal this week

Garuda, the opponent of snakes, emperor of the birds and the air, inspired this Mudra, which symbolises the wings of a bird and represents our inner freedom. It helps to balance our energy on both sides of the body, particularly for those with a Vata Dosha. To perform the Mudra, turn the palms of your hands to face up, then cross your right hand over your left, while simultaneously clasping your thumbs.

I personally love to use this Mudra as part of my Pranayama practice, which is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force energy.

Garuda-Pranayama.jpg

I send my inhalation deep into the belly as my hands form Garuda Mudra over my heart centre.

 

 

On exhalation I open my hands out to the side and lift my chest towards the ceiling, gently arching the upper spine. This encourages the natural upward movement of the exhale.

If we are very used to the Ashtanga way of breathing where we raise the arms on the inhalation (e.g. during Sun Salutations), it can initially feel quite unusual to be drawing our attention inwards on the inhalation, which is a technique that is more commonly used in Tantric Buddhist meditation. However, once we internalise this way of breathing deep down into the root of our body as we inhale and it begins to feel natural, it tends to have a very calming effect on our mental state and is a particularly useful tool for those suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.

This very beautiful way of visualising the breath was taught to me by my teacher Shiva Rea as part of the elemental, lunar Namaskars that are practiced in Prana Yoga and I do find it particularly helpful when I'm having trouble sleeping due to the heightened energy around a full moon. If full moons impact your body in a similar way or, you suffer from insomnia, you could also perform several cycles of this same movement lying down without arching the spine. Reduce your hand movements to a minimum and focus your attention primarily on the breath; sending your inhalation deep into your belly and the exhalation melting the back of your torso into your mattress a little more each time.

Elements: All.

If you'd like to know more about Hasta Mudras you can read my introduction to the topic here and find all previous Mudra Monday blogs here.

Illustration © estudio mosa 2017