Surya Bhedana Pranayama, commonly known as right nostril breathing, is a powerful breathwork technique that can help you harness higher energy levels, improve mental clarity and focus, and increase your vitality.
Surya Bhedana Pranayama is a generally safe and accessible breathwork practice that can be adapted for people of all ages and yoga experience levels.
This practice involves inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the right nostril, and it is said to stimulate sun energy in the body.
In this article, learn more about:
- What is Surya?
- Origins of Surya Bhedana Pranayama
- Benefits of practicing
- How to practice
- Tips to make it more accessible
- Another way to invoke the power of Surya
- Left nostril breathing
Let’s dive right in!
What is Surya?
Surya is the Hindu Sun God and is the giver of life. He is associated with light, energy, and power and is also the god of truth, justice, wisdom, knowledge, and good health.
Surya is regarded as the soul of the universe and is worshipped by Hindus as the divine source of life.
The Sun God is often depicted as a man with three eyes and four arms. He is usually shown riding a chariot drawn by seven horses representing the seven days of the week and the seven chakras in the human body.
Surya is also often shown holding a lotus flower, which represents knowledge and enlightenment.
Origins of Right Nostril Breathing
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika text, Surya Bhedana Pranayama is described as a technique that activates the sympathetic nervous system and increases body heat.
Surya means, of course, sun, and bedhana translates from the Sanskrit as to pierce.It is also believed that the practice helps to purify the nadis, or energy channels in the body, and to activate the energies of the body and mind.
The practice has been passed down through many generations of practitioners and is still commonly used in traditional yoga and pranayama classes.
Benefits of Practicing Right Nostril Breathing
In yoga and Ayurvedic traditions, it is believed that each nostril is connected to different hemispheres of the brain.
The right side is associated with solar energy or heating energy in the body, hence when intentionally focusing on breathing through the right nostril, practicing Surya Bhedana, you may feel more alert, focused, and energized.
Right nostril breathing is believed to activate the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the body’s fight or flight response.
Breathing through the left nostril and right nostril can have different effects on the body and mind, although both have great benefits.
Here are some of the benefits that Surya Bhedana Pranayama could bring you:
- Increases pranic energy
- Improves focus and concentration
- Fosters vitality
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves digestion and agni, the digestive fire
- Boosts the immune system
- Regulates the endocrine system
- Improves digestion
- Clears the mind
- Promotes spiritual growth
How to practice right nostril breathing
If you are new to yoga and breathing techniques or have any health concerns, it is always best to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, and checking with a certified yoga teacher.
We invite you to be patient with yourself, and it is important to start slowly and to listen to your body and how you feel.
If you experience any discomfort, we recommend you stop the practice.
When you feel ready to give right nostril breathing a try, here are the basic steps to get you started:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight, shoulders relaxed, maybe in Sukhasana or Virasana, but any other posture that is comfortable for you will work.
- Soften your gaze or close your eyes and give yourself a few moments to focus on your natural rhythm of breath.
- Either bring your right peace fingers onto your third eye, between the eyebrows, or bring your right hand into Vishnu Mudra. Rest your left hand on your lap.
- Place your right thumb on your right nostril, without fully closing it, but restricting the flow of air just a bit.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your right nostril, expanding your abdomen as you breathe in.
- Pause, and exhale slowly and completely through the same nostril, your right.
- Inhale again through your right nostril, and continue for a few rounds, or for 5 to 10 minutes.
- When you are finished, take a few deep breaths through both nostrils and open your eyes, noticing how you feel.
If this technique proves to be challenging for any reason, consider doing the practice in your minds eye without using the hand, as a visualization.
If you want to try Surya Bhedana right away, try this short, comprehensive tutorial on YouTube.
Contraindications to practicing right nostril breathing
For those who may be unsure whether or not right nostril breathing is right for them, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional first.
There are some contraindications to practicing right nostril breathing that you should keep in mind, including:
- Pregnancy: right nostril breathing can stimulate the uterus and may not be safe for pregnant women.
- Blood pressure oscillations: it can increase blood pressure, so it is not recommended for people who already have blood pressure irregularities.
- Eye problems: it can increase pressure in the eyes, so it is not recommended for people with eye problems.
- Headaches: for some, breathing deeply can trigger headaches, so it is not recommended for people with headaches and migraines.
- Sinus problems: if you’re having allergies or have irritated the sinuses, Surya Bedhana may feel inaccessible and uncomfortable.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor!
Tips to make right nostril breathing more accessible
Here are some other things to keep in mind when practicing right nostril breathing if you’re new to the practice or are trying to make it more accessible:
- Start slowly and gradually increase the duration of your practice as you become more comfortable.
- Listen to your body and stop if you feel any discomfort.
- Avoid practicing right nostril breathing if you are feeling unwell.
- If you have any concerns, stop, and chat with an expert.
Another way to invoke the power of surya
Surya energy can be harnessed in other ways beyond right nostril breathing.
One of the most common ways to embody Surya energy is to perform the Surya Namaskar sequences, a series of yoga poses that are dedicated to the sun god.
Surya namaskar A for example, also known as Sun Salutation A, is a popular sequence of yoga postures that is usually practiced in the morning to offer respect and gratitude to the sun as the source of all life on earth.
Hatha Yoga is one of the most foundational styles of yoga asana practiced today, and in the name of the practice itself, we find a direct correlation to the sun and moon energy. The word “hatha” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “ha,” meaning sun, and “tha,” meaning moon.
In Hatha Yoga, the practitioner works to balance and align the opposite forces of these two elements within the body, achieving a state of equilibrium and harmony.
It has the same purpose and benefits as practicing right nostril breathing. This is because the main aim of practicing any of the Surya Namaskar sequences is to increase heat and improve energy levels and well-being.
left nostril breathing: the other side
Chandra Bhedana, left nostril breathing, is the counterpart to the pranayama we’ve explored in this article.
It is believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for promoting rest and relaxation.
Chandra, the moon, connects you to the lunar energy and cooling properties in the body.
When breathing in and out through the left nostril, you may start to feel calmer, more relaxed, and more introspective.
- Surya, the Sun God is one of the most important deities in Hinduism and is worshipped by millions of people around the world.
- Within that framework, Surya is the creator of the world and is considered to be the embodiment of the divine light that illuminates every being on the planet.
- The name Surya Bhedana comes from the Sanskrit words surya, meaning “sun,” and bhedana, meaning “to pierce”.
- As a pranayama practice, it harnesses the qualities of the Sun God to increase energy and vitality, improve focus, and bring the practitioner to a state of well being.
- This technique involves inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the right nostril.
- The pranayama technique of Surya Bedhana activates the sympathetic nervous system, bringing the practitioner to a state of increased alertness and a clearer mind.