Bhramari Pranayama - The humming bee breath
This pranayama relieves anxiety associated with short quick breathing. It uses slower breaths that are derived from the diaphragm and therefore it is effective at reducing stress. Bhramari is a Sanskrit word that means bee.
The technique is named with this word because of the humming bee sound that one makes. This humming sound is relaxing for a racing mind. To practice Bhramari pranayama without adding to anxiety do not force the breath beyond your capacity.
This technique can be practiced on a daily basis or as a one-off remedy to de-stress and relieve anxiety.
Step by Step
- Start by sitting in a comfortable position. You can take a yogic seating position like Sukhasana (easy pose) or Padmasana (lotus pose). Ensure that you use support to stay comfortable. You may also sit on the edge of a chair with your thighs angled down and your feet touching the ground.
- Place your hands on your knees in Jnana mudra and take a few breaths naturally. Do this until you have acquired your breath and are in control.
- Place your thumbs lightly on the cartilage in your ears. Press on the cartilage to block the ears. Then drape the other fingers gently over the eye region to minimize visual distractions. You are now free of audio and visual distractions. If you are in a quiet place alone, you can use the index fingers to block the ears only as you will easily be able to quiet your mind
- Close your eyes. If closing your eyes increases your anxiety then keep them open.
- Inhale slowly through both the nostrils. Do not force your breath beyond what you feel comfortable with your lungs.
- On an exhalation, make an MMMMMM sound with your mouth closed. You should feel the sound being created coming from the soft palate of your mouth. The sound is heard as the humming sound of an Indian bee. This sound should be smooth and soothing.
- As you exhale, pay attention to the sound that you are making. Do not be distracted by external factors. Focusing on these vibrations calms the mind. You should, therefore, ensure that you focus on only that sound.
- Exhale completely and then inhale through both your nostrils. Repeat the process again exhaling so that you make the humming sound again. Keep your ears closed all the time, and your focus on the sound you’re making. Slowly increase the capacity with every exhalation.
- This technique can enhance sleep when it is practiced towards the end of the day. This is because it calms the body and relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system.
- It can help mitigate migraines and it helps relieve headaches.
- It calms the mind and soothes the nerves. This encourages concentration and memory. This pranayama is, therefore, suitable for practice before meditation.
- It releases tension and stress in the body and plays a great role in controlling anxiety.
- It balances and keeps the energy in the body under control. It is useful when the pitta of the body is feeling a little out of balance.
- It stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands thereby enhancing their proper functioning.
- It enhances the health of the throat by removing toxins and improving blood circulation in the region.
- Strengthens and improves your vocal tone.
- This pranayama has been shown to reduce signs of high blood pressure.
- Avoid putting your fingers inside your ears. Rather place them on the cartilage outside the ear opening and press on it to block the ears.
- Ensure that you keep the mouth closed both during inhaling and exhaling when making the humming sound. Opening your mouth will reduce the effectiveness of the technique. You will not be able to focus on your breathing when the mouth is open.
- Make sure that your facial muscles are calm and relaxed. Do not put any pressure on your face.
- The Bhramari pranayama is best practiced at the end of all yoga poses to relax the body. It can also be practiced on its own when you want to relax the body. After practicing the technique you can rest the body completely maybe using the corpse pose.
Bhramari pranayama can be practiced in several variations. There is the silent Bhramari pranayama. In this version, you perform the basic one first where you produce the sound. After about 5 repetitions you switch to the silent mode where you only imagine producing the sound.
There is also the high pitched Bhramari. In this variation, you produce a high pitched sound, higher than in the basic Bhramari. Experiment with different sound pitches until you get to the one that works great for you. Sometimes the silent variant might be all that you need to calm your mind completely.