Pranayama, or breathwork, can be an incredibly powerful tool to calm the body and mind. And there is one specific technique that is scientifically proven to do just that: bhramari pranayama (also known as humming bee breath).
On a subtle level, pranayama—in general—uses breathing techniques to move prana (or life-force energy) within the body. From a more physiological standpoint, pranayama regulates respiration, which can help to downregulate the nervous system to create calm.
Different pranayama techniques elicit different responses in the body and mind, but bhramari pranayama, specifically, creates an overwhelming sense of calm.
Pranayama 101: Your Guide to Yogic Breathing (Plus 7 Common Breathwork Practices)
Bhramari pranayama translates to humming bee breath. It’s a really simple breathwork practice that utilizes sound by humming on the exhalation.
This sound and exhale emphasis helps to downregulate the nervous system to create calm.
The vibrational humming sound that this breathwork creates mimics the cosmic sound of “om,” which is a deeply sacred and meaningful syllable to yogis. So this practice is also believed to connect the practitioner with the entire cosmic universe.
Craving more soothing pranayama techniques? Practice this Balancing Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath)
Bhramari is a Hindu goddess who is an incarnation of the goddess Parvati. And bhramari literally means “the goddess of bees.”
So bhramari pranayama is called humming bee breath is English—named after the goddess of bees—because the sound created by the humming mimics the buzzing sound of bee’s fluttering wings.
Need more stress-relieving pranayama? Try this Diaphragmatic Breath Practice for Instant Stress Relief
Bhramari pranayama is a very straightforward practice that emphasizes the exhalation breath. This simple emphasis immediately helps to downregulate the nervous system.
This is because, in healthy individuals, heart rate naturally increases during inhalation and naturally decreases during exhalation. This is known as heart rate variability and it is a great indicator of overall health and wellness.
When we inhale, our sympathetic nervous system (or “fight-or-flight” response) is activated. When we exhale, our parasympathetic nervous system (or “rest-and-digest” response) is activated.
When we strive to find calm, we want to initiate our parasympathetic response, so emphasizing our exhalation during humming bee breath helps us to do just that.
By stimulating the vagus nerve, we can help to initiate what is known as the relaxation response.
Furthermore, bhramari pranayama requires an audible humming sound. This, of course, requires the vocal cords to vibrate. And because a branch of the vagus nerve innervates the vocal cords, vocalizations (such as humming) stimulate the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body and it is intimately related to the parasympathetic nervous system because it has many parasympathetic fibers. By stimulating the vagus nerve, we can help to initiate what is known as the relaxation response.
The relaxation response shifts our body into the parasympathetic nervous system so that we may rest, digest, feed, and breed—ultimately, moving us into states of deeper and deeper calm relaxation.
Restorative yoga offers another way to initiate the relaxation response. Learn more: What Is Restorative Yoga? Here’s Your In-Depth Guide to This Soothing Practice
Bhramari pranayama is actually very simple and straightforward to practice, but there are a few tips and tricks you can try to make the practice more relaxing.
Come into any position that feels comfortable for your body. You may wish to sit in a chair or on the floor. You may prefer to lay down on a couch or a bed. Just find any position where you can allow your body to relax.
Once you’re comfortable, consciously release tension in your body. Soften the muscles of your abdomen. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Unclench the muscles in your face. Let go of any tension that you tend to hold in your body.
Once you feel soft, either relax your gaze or close your eyes completely. Bring your awareness inside and draw your attention to your inner experience. Observe how your body feels. Watch thoughts pass through your mind. Notice your breathing patterns.
Gradually slow the rhythm of your breath. Consciously take longer, fuller, deeper inhales and exhales. Strive to equalize the length of your inhales and your exhales.
Need more simple but effective breathwork techniques? Use this Breath Practice for Presence and Relaxation
On your next breath, draw air in through your nose. As you exhale, keep your mouth closed and release a humming sound. Inhale deeply. Exhale, hum. Continue for a few rounds of breath.
Once you’ve finished, restore your natural breath and observe the effects of your practice. Feel the vibrations of your hum echo throughout your body. Allow them to reach every crevice and corner to shake away any lingering tension or stress.
Need help sleeping now? Use This FREE Guided Yoga Nidra Practice to Find Deep, Restful Sleep
Bhramari pranayama is a quick and effective practice that is scientifically proven to help you calm your mind during normal, everyday moments of life and in times of stress.
Via a simple humming sound and an emphasis on your exhalation, humming bee breath can help you find peace of mind anytime, anywhere. It is always at your disposal, whenever you may need.
Join Leah Sugerman for her in-depth online course Pranayama: Control Your Breath to Calm Your Mind
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