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The Key to Correct Breathing

A. S. Rangacharya

The secret science of Breathing, Swara Sastra, was first revealed to Parvati by Siva who taught Hatha Yoga also to her. Swara Sastra is a supplement to, but not a substitute for the Science of Prana Yama which forms the fourth Anga or part of Astanga Yoga Sadhana.

When God created man, He has set up a mechanism or apparatus within him, which if rightly and scientifically handled will make man immune to disease, prevent economic failure and ward off sorrow and agony of defeat and frustration.

If we cannot find out and make use of this mechanism within us, we shall be complete wrecks in our lives in every respect, whether in physical well-being or economic advantage.

Disappointment and defeat lead to disease and despondency. The knowledge and application of this secret science of Breathing is an insurance against failure, disappointment, disease and misery and a guarantee of success and happiness. Its application gives practical and tangible results. You will be astonished at the inexorable precision, surety and inevitability of the results. I shall only deal with this science as it applies to every day life from an intensely utilitarian point of view.

Respiration or Swasa

To have complete knowledge of Swara Sastra, we should be well versed in the laws of Respiration.

"Kaya nagara madhythu Marutha Kshithi Palakaha"

In the City of our Body there is the King Air. His Majesty The Air is the King Emperor of our Body.

Ever since the child comes out of the womb till the man dies, respiration goes on incessantly knowingly or unknowingly. Breathing in air is called Inspiration (Inhalation) and breathing out of air is called expiration (Exhalation). Both inspiration and expiration constitute respiration. Inspiration is Niswasa and expiration is Praswasa.

To deal with respiration in all its aspects in detail is not our purpose here. For healthy living, many modes of breathing have been prescribed from time to time by the ancient Rishies as well as the modern physical culturists.

Some essentials are given below.

Cultivation of Correct Posture

Cultivation of correct posture so as to keep the lungs at their fullest capacity is the first desideratum of a healthy and successful life. While walking or sitting or singing or talking, keep your thorax straight and erect without bending or crouching. This posture keeps the lung capacity at its maximum. You will gain self-confidence and get over your inferiority complex.

Special Exercises for increasing the Lung Capacity

Vigorous walking and running strengthens the intercostal muscles and develop your breathing power on which perhaps your purchasing power also depends to a large extent. There are special exercises for increasing the lung capacity.

Among Yoga Asanas we have Salabha, Mayura, Thada and Uddyiana Bandha which greatly increase the lung capacity with the minimum of expenditure of energy.

Costal Respiration and Diaphragmatic Respiration

The cavity of the thorax in which the lungs are enveloped may be increased in two ways,

  • By pushing the sternum and the ribs upwards with the help of the intercostal muscles and the muscles of the neck.
  • By pressing the diaphragm downwards into the abdominal cavity making it bulge.

Costal Respiration

The respiration in which the ribs and the sternum play a greater part than the diaphragm is termed as Costal Respiration.

Diaphragmatic Respiration

The respiration in which the diaphragm plays a greater part than the ribs is termed as Diaphragmatic Respiration.

In diaphragmatic respiration greater quantity of air is drawn in per each time than in costal respiration and hence diaphragmatic respiration is prescribed for health and vigor and in all lung diseases including consumption, as a preventive and a curative. You can cultivate a sweet and commanding voice by daily practicing diaphragmatic respiration. Lecturers, platform speakers, lawyers, vocalists, actors, actresses, conversationalists, business people, should all possess a good voice which is the Sine-qua-non of success. It gives you self-confidence.

How to Practice Diaphragmatic Respiration

It is very simple and easy provided you are determined to improve your voice out of all recognition. Lie on your back in your easy chair in the hot noon, maybe in your bar room or in your own room. Lie on your back on your bed when you retire after your day's toil. Take steady and long drawn breaths by pressing your diaphragm right down into your abdomen making it bulge. Exhale slowly. Repeat the exercise ten times at the start, increase the number gradually by adding two per day.

You will be lulled into a sweet sleep. It cures your insomnia also incidentally. You will have good digestion, for the diaphragm gives a gentle massage to the viscera. It also cures constipation. After a few day's practice diaphragmatic respiration becomes a habit with you.

You also make it a point to take full deep breaths before you begin to speak or argue or sing and take full breaths when you pause and never completely empty your lungs. Keep them refilled again and again.


This stands on a higher pedestal than the above mentioned modes of respiration. Pranayama is not a breathing exercise. Through Pranayama the individual controls the all-pervading Vital Force.

" Chela vatam chelam chittam nischala nischalam bhavat, i yogi sthanuthva mapnothi thatho vayum niro dhayeth " (Hattayoga pradipika).

Retention and control of prana or life breath promotes mental equilibrium and spiritual equanimity leading to the yogic states of dharana, dhyana and samadhi (enlightenment). The eight kinds of Kumbaka Pranayama may be mentioned here to I arouse the readers curiosity.

  1. Surya Bedha
  2. Ujjayi
  3. Sitkari
  4. Sitali
  5. Bastrika
  6. Bhramari
  7. Murcha
  8. Plavani.

The aspirant may practice any one of these as a preliminary step for purification of Nadies leading him to the advanced Prana Yama consisting of Puraka (Inhalation) Kumbaka (Retention) and Recheka(Exhalation) in the time ratio of 1:3:2.

For detailed instructions and guidance, the reader may do well to read Swami Vivekananda's Raja Yoga and Sivananda's Yoga Asanas Section, or get oneself initiated by a Guru.

Swara Sastra

Coming to Swara Sastra proper, it deals with the science of breathing from a different angle. You are blessed with a nose having two nostrils. You will be surprised if I tell you that you are not using both of your nostrils always in your ordinary respiration. You may be breathing through your left nostril for some time, through your right nostril for some time or through both of your nostrils on some rare occasions. You can become aware of this fact, if you close one of your nostrils.

If you happen to close the nostril through which normal respiration is going on, you will be suffocated, because the nostril through which you are breathing is closed and you are not able to breathe through the other nostril. If you close the nostril through which you are not breathing, you will find out that you are freely breathing through the other nostril.

In the same way you can find out if you are breathing through both of your nostrils. Many eminent doctors have betrayed their ignorance of these phenomena in respiration.

Ida, Pingala and Sushumna

If you are breathing through your left nostril your respiration is termed as Ida or Chandra (Moon). Respiration through the right nostril is Pingala or the Surya (The Sun). If respiration is going freely through both the nostrils it is termed as Sushumna.

Left Right Both
Ida Pingala Sushumna
Chandra Surya Brahma
The Moon The Sun Brahma

Swami Sivananda defines Nadies as Astral tubes that carry Prana currents. They cannot be seen by the naked eye. They are not ordinary nerves, arteries and veins. There are 72,000 Nadies. Ida, Pingala, Sushumna are the three nadies lying along the spinal column, Sushumna or the Brahma Nadi running in the middle, Ida and Pingala lying on either side of it.

The respiration currents drawn in through the nose pass along these nadies, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna according as they are drown through the left or right or both nostrils.

the three main nadis

How to find out which Nadi is playing

  1. The method of Alternate Closure

    Alternately close the right and left nostril with the right hand thumb and the middle finger. You can easily find out through which nostril you are freely breathing without

  2. Feeling on the back of the palm

    Feel the breath on the back of your palm. The surface is very sensitive. tilting of the head this and that side will facilitate detection. By practice you can easily tell through which nostril you are breathing for the mere wishing without resorting to the above two methods.

The Laws of Ida and pingala

These Nadies do not play arbitrarily without any role or rhyme. Just as the Ocean has its ebb and tide so also these nadies have their ebb and tide. The Seas dance in delight in the full moon.

Inscrutable are the ways of God. The Nadies have their time table and work like a clock according to the following laws

  1. Beginning from Sunrise. Ida and Pingala change and alternate for every two and half gadias or one hour.
  2. Ida or Chandra Nadi goes on for the first three days in the month from sunrise, Suddha Padyami, Vidiya and Thathiya. During these three days you begin your day with Ida alternating with Pingala every hour.
  3. On the fourth, fifth, and the sixth day, Suddha Chaviti, Panchimi and Sashti, you will begin your day with Pingala and alternate with Ida every hour.
  4. Thus Ida and Pingala mark the sunrise alternately for every three days in the first fortnight (Sukla Paksha).
  5. During the second half of the month, Pingala marks the sunrise for the first three days (Bahula Padyami, Vidiya, Thathiya) and alternate with Ida for every hour. Thus Pingala and Ida mark the sunrise for every three days alternately.

About the Author

I have analyzed, rearranged and reshaped it so as to make it applicable to Man's actions in the ordinary business of life. I have not however tried to give any rationale in terms of our modern knowledge. The test of the pudding is in the eating. The test of this science is in the acting. You can gradually build up your faith in this science by testing its laws by the logic of your own experience.

A. S. RANGACHARYA, The author is an ardent student of Yoga Sadhana in all its aspects.


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Kolli jayapalreddy says:

1Gadiya=24 mints 5gadiya=120 mints or 2 hours change nadi 5 gadiya=120 mints 2 hours change nadi

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