In the teachings of yoga, regardless of tradition, but primarily in Hatha Yoga, there is a conceptualization of the pranic body that must be understood before practicing right nostril breathing, also called Surya Bhedan.
What is The Pranic Body?
The pranic body is essentially an electromagnetic field, which scientists are just starting to understand in traditional western medicine. Yogis even believe that the pranic body can influence when you die, causing the body to be vital and strong when the pranic body is healthy and causing disease and early death when it is not. All pranayama is an attempt at strengthening the vital or pranic body. Prana is the vital energy and ayama means the extension of this vital force, thus the term, pranayama.
Surya Bhedan is specifically practiced to energize the Pingala nadi, an energetic point located in the right nostril that is associated to the sun, or our active, energizing force. Its counterpart is the Ida nadi, located in the left nostril, which is associated with the moon or the more feminine aspect of ourselves.
When to Practice Surya Bhedan?
Right nostril breathing is used to invigorate those who have a weak masculine energy, or sun energy – the same vital force that allows us to exercise, think and act. Practicing this pranayama activates the energy of the sun in the pranic body. If you feel lethargic, or unable to find the get-up-and-go to achieve your daily responsibilities, you can practice right nostril breathing. It is also helpful for stimulating sexual desire when one becomes apathetic in this regard. It builds heat in the body, so it should be practiced in a cool, ventilated area, where you will not get overheated too easily. It is also extremely beneficial for those who suffer from obesity and diabetes. It heals Vata imbalances in your dosha (an Ayurvedic term describing your personality type) as well as decreases flatulence and other digestive problems, since it increases digestive fire.
How to Practice Surya Bhedan?
Find a comfortable seat in either Padmasana, Bhadrasana, or Siddhasana. Easy pose can also be used if these asana are uncomfortable for you. Cover the left nostril with Pranava Mudra, or another Mudra utilized for alternate nostril breathing. Close the left nostril only with the tow smallest fingers of your Mudra utilizing hand. Breathe deep and even with an equal ratio of inhale to exhale when you first start. Over time, you will increase the ratio so that the exhale is at least twice as long as the inhale, and then even longer to ratios of 2:8, 16:32, etc. Actively breathe from the right nostril only for at least five rounds and then release the Mudra, and breathe equally through both nostrils for several breaths before commencing your practice.