- Ashwini Surpur
The term Bhramari is used to describe yogic chanting of humming sound produced while exhaling, with mouth closed and tongue touching the upper palate. The sound thus produced is similar to the buzzing bee and hence it is called Bhramari – a Sanskrit term for bee.
This is a simple chanting that can be practiced by anyone and at any time, although best when practiced with an empty stomach. It has many nuances and applications and I would like to bring some aspects of Bhramari based on my experience and sadhana. As a child, I have suffered from sore throat all my life and used to take 4-5 courses of antibiotics for my throat infections every year. Since I took up Bhramari chanting, my sore throats have practically vanished.
Subtle Notes on Bhramari:
- One can chant in different tunes such as – Upper C (sa) – high pitch, Middle C (sa) – the neutral sound and Lower C (sa) – the airplane sound
- Bhramari can be chanted with different tongue positions to generate vibrations in different regions. Try, M-kara – the sound of M, N-Kara – the tip of the tongue touching the upper palate, and the tongue position as in other Sanskrit nasal alphabets of ka-varga, cha-varga, etc.
- Lower parts of the body like chest and stomach can also be stimulated using lower pitch chanting with head down (chin to the chest). The amount of force we can generate also can be played with.
- When Bhramari is practiced with eyes and ears closed using the fingers, one can shut off outside sounds and also feel an internal amplification of the sound.
- Bhramari can also be practiced with hands on the thighs in chin mudra (thumb and index finger touching) and that gives a different effect. In a group practice, this practice allows the yogi to enjoy a combined resonance effect.
- As with any pranayama care should be taken not to extend the breath beyond limits if one wants to chant Bhramari for a long time (more than 10 mins).
- Apart from this, Bhramari can be chanted with palms on the head, in various forward bending poses like child pose (Shashankasana), standing forward bend (pada hastasana), or in crocodile pose with head down (Makarasana) where one can feel soothing effect of resonance in the head region.
- Hatha Yoga Pradeepika describes the sound produced during inhalation as Bhramara (male bee sound) and that produced during exhalation as Bhramari (female bee). Beginners can only practice making the sound while exhalation (bhramari) and move to inhalation sound as they advance in their practice.
Benefits of Bhramari:
- Increases lung capacity
- Improves voice culture
- Therapeutic benefits
- Meditation practice
- Lung Capacity Bhramari can be chanted with deep inhalation and while exhaling, for the longest time. One can use timer to test, set goals and work on improving the time. One or two extra breaths must be taken before the next such Bhramari as we have extended the breath slightly beyond our breathing capacity.
- Voice culture As one practices Bhramari, the vibrations become more and more melodious and powerful creating a soothing resonance throughout the body. Chanting early morning with lower pitch (lower C) as an airplane sound helps develop voice culture. As the voice cultures, mastery of Bhramari can be achieved and chanting for 30 mins or more becomes possible.
Therapeutic Benefits: Bhramari helps people with nasal allergies and headaches as it creates resonance at very subtle levels in the face and head regions and improves awareness so better relaxation can be brought to these regions. Bhramari can calm down the mind for anxiety patients and can help with insomnia. People with thyroid problems benefit immensely with Bhramari practice. Bhramari practiced in child pose – Shashankasana – helps with ADHD and autistic kids.
Meditation Practice: Bhramari can be practiced for 30mins to an hour to bring the mind to single-pointed focus. This requires mastery of Bhramari in being able to create soothing melodious vibrations that match body’s frequency. The throat and breath require stamina to chant for a long time. Three dimensional awareness develops as we chant for a long time. Allow the last part of the breath to go out in silence creating Kevala Kumbhaka – the automatic cessation of breath. This Kevala Kumbhaka gives the silence in between chants – the ultimate goal of meditation. Follow the chanting of Bhramari with a deep and prolonged silence.
Ashwini Surpur is an experienced and passionate yoga teacher. Sbe is the Executive Director at Yoga Bharati. She has worked at Oracle as a Software Engineer for 15 years and quit her job in 2010 to join Yoga Bharati as a full time volunteer. She has spoken at various conferences on yoga and philosophy. She writes articles for various magazines and news media on Yoga. She has a MA in Sanskrit and composes poems in her free time. Visit Ashwini at LinkenIn