Surya and Chandra Bhedana Pranayama
Our right nostril is energetically associated with our body’s heating energy, symbolised by the “Sun” and the syllable HA, our left nostril with our body’s cooling energy, symbolised by the “Moon” and the syllable THA.
Single Nostril Pranayama: Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath)
Within us these energies are typically in conflict which leads to disquiet and disease. The goal of traditional Hatha Yoga is to integrate and harmonise HA and THA for happiness and health. The purpose of these two breaths then is to create balance by “warming” a “cool” body-mind and vice versa.
- Sit in a comfortable asana and make Mrigi (or Vishnu) Mudra – curling your index and middle fingers into the palm of your right hand (you’ll be using your thumb and ring finger against your left and right nostril).
- For Surya Bhedana block your left nostril and inhale through your right. Then close the right and exhale through the left. Continue in this manner, inhale right exhale left for 1 to 8 minutes.
- For Chandra Bhedana, simply reverse the instructions in from the step above; inhaling always through your left nostril, exhaling through your right. Again continue for 1 to 8 minutes.
Contraindications and Cautions
Avoid Surya Bhedana if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.
You can practice each breath during a yoga practice for a few minutes – paying attention to what’s happening to your body on the inside (BUT NOT one immediately after the other). This will provide information as to which breath to use for your dedicated practice by tuning into what your body needs. Then when using this breath for a dedicated Pranayama practice (up to 8 minutes), choose just one of them – Surya or Chandra.
Traditionally, Surya Bhedana is said to stimulate the brain and increase body heat.
Chandra Bhedana isn’t usually listed among formal Pranayamas in traditional texts; but it’s reasonable to assume that its effects are opposite that of Surya Bhedana: it quiets the brain and cools the body. This is why at the end of your yoga practice you roll over onto your right side; your body takes in more oxygen into your highest nostril (the left) adding to the overall feeling of calmness after Shavasana.