Anulom-Vilom is a widely known Pranayama. Pranayama means expansion of Pran Shakti or vital force. There are many ways of doing pranayama but the basis of all kinds of pranayama is ‘Deep Breathing’. We breathe every moment of our lives, and yet we are hardly aware of it unless and until we are afflicted with some breathing disorder. Just close your eyes for a few minutes and concentrate your attention on your breathing – you will feel as if all the tension has vanished into thin air and you feel bliss.
When we do normal breathing, our breathing is limited to area between heart and throat only. Conversely, when we inhale deeply, our lungs become filled with air and our chest gets expanded, and when we exhale deeply our lungs and chest are contracted. How and why this happens? For this, it is essential to know the structure of our lungs.
Structure of Lungs
We have two lungs, one on left side and the other on right side of chest, and in between is our breast, towards the left side. Our lungs have about 750 millions cells, called Alveoli. There is a lot of intra-cellular empty space in the lungs. When we breathe through our nostrils, the air goes in the lungs through a tube, called Wind-pipe. The Alveoli in the lungs are attached to the bronchial tubes like an inserted tree. When we breathe, the Alveoli get filled with oxygen as we inhale and contract when we exhale, releasing the carbon-dioxide. In normal breathing, only one-third or even one-fourth of the alveoli get oxygen while the remaining remain inactive. Slowly, as we get older, the inactive alveoli remain full of carbon-dioxide and become almost dead or inert and our breathing becomes shortened. In this process, our Vital Lung Capacity (VLC) gets reduced considerably. We inhale / exhale 18 times in a minute and we inhale half a litre of air per breath or 9 litres in a minute. This is in a rest position. When we walk, we inhale 16 litres of air per minute. When we walk briskly, the intake of air by the lungs increases to 27 litres per minute and when we run, it gets up to 45 litres. While doing deep breathing exercise also, it goes up to 45 to 50 litres. While running, we continue to inhale oxygen forcefully but are not able to exhale carbon-dioxide with the same force. Thus, leading to a big accumulation of carbon-dioxide in the lungs and soon we get tired. But with deep breathing Pranayama, the force of inhalation and exhalation remains equal. While the intake of oxygen is greatly increased, carbon-dioxide is also thrown out in the same proportion, without tiring us; and we feel relaxed all the time. Deep breathing Pranayama, thus, increases our VLC tremendously.
AnulomVilom – How to do it
When we do deep breathing from alternate nostrils repeatedly, it is called ‘Anulom Vilom’. Let us first understand the technique of Anulom Vilom. Sit straight, preferably, in padmasana or sukhasana with a duree or blanket underneath. Close your right nostril with your right thumb and exhale deeply from left nostril. Now inhale deeply from the left nostril, close your left nostril with ring finger after inhalation, open your right nostril and exhale deeply. Now, inhale from right nostril, close right nostril and exhale deeply from left nostril. This is one round of Anulom Vilom. Repeat this as long as you can, keeping your eyes closed and concentrate on your breathing. The inhalation and exhalation has to be slow and deep, and the speed of inhalation and exhalation has to be same, at least for the first few weeks / months of practice. This technique is so simple that it can be done even by small children or even very old and sick persons. There are other advanced variation by Anulom Viiom, wherein, the speed of inhalation / exhalation can be varied and also one can hold breath (do kumbhaka) after inhaling / exhaling, particularly those who suffer from high blood pressure or asthma-the simple technique described above can be adopted by everybody.
Importance of Anulom Vilom
There are 72864 very fine and intricate network of NADIS in our body through which the Vital Force or Pran Shakti is channalised in our body. Of these, 3 nadis are the main ones – Surya Nadi, Chandra Nadi and Sushamananadi. These three nadis start from the lowest portion of spine. The Surya Nadi starts from right side and goes upwards encircling the Sushumna Nadi and ends up at the forehead at right nostril. The Chandra Nadi also starts from the same pointfrom the left side and goes up encircling Sushumna nadi in the reverse direction and ends up in the forehead at the left nostril. The Sushumna Nadi is straight and goes from the base of the spine to the crown of head. It is called Spinal Cord in medical parlance and is full of gel. The Surya nadi and Chandra nadi cross each other atfour points in their upward path. The meeting points of these two nadis are called Chakras.
The starting point is Mooladhar Chakra (Root Chakra). The first intersection is Swadhisthan Chakra (Sacral Chakra), the second intersection is Manipur Chakra (Solar Chakra), the third is Anahat Chakra (Heart Chakra), the fourth isVishudhi (Throat Chakra) and the end meeting point is forehead, called Agya Chakra. The Sushumna nadi goes up and ends at Sahasrara Chakra. All the 72864 nadis are connected to these seven chakras. The three main nadis are the basic constituents of our Autonomous Nervous System. Our nervous system is composed of 2 parts – Brain and Spine. They are connected at the neck through Medula Oblongata. Spine has got 33 disks or vertebrae. These vertebrae are connected through 31 joints – 16 of whom send messages from the body to the brain; they compose Sympathetic Nervous System, while 15 joints transmit messages from brain to body; they compose Para Sympathetic Nervous System.
While doing Anulom Vilom, the brain as well as the 33 vertebrae, 31 joints of spine and Medula Oblongata are affected and through them, oxygen reaches all the cells of the body and carbon dioxide is extracted. In this way, when oxygen gets percolated to all cells, tissues and organs of the body and carbon dioxide is taken out, our body becomes healthy and we get free from diseases and our sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems work in co-ordination.
Anulom Vilom creates a balance between the Surya and Chandra Nadis (the hot and cold nadis) and keeps the body temperature under control. Most of the people are not aware that we breathe only from one nostril for one hour and from the other nostril for next hour. Thus, both Surya Nadi and Chandra Nadi are active for 12 hours each in a day. When we get sick, get cold or fever or headache or pain anywhere else, this fine balance of these two nadis is upset. In other words, any imbalance in these two nadis makes us sick. Anulom Vilom is the best and the easiest way to maintain their balance. If we do Anulom Vilom for 15 minutes in morning and 15 minutes in evening, we can always keep Surya and Chandra Nadi in perfect balance and can always remain healthy.
Surya Nadi is connected to the right side of the brain, while Chandra nadi is connected to left side. The right side of the brain keeps our emotional balance and protects from tension, etc. The left side of brain helps in our daily activities. Anulom Vilom helps in maintaining a balance between the right and left sides of the brain and also between body, mind and soul. Hence, Anulom Vilom is the best and the easiest way to protect us from all mental diseases like depression, tension, anger, envy, jealousy, high or low blood pressure, headache, migraine, heart diseases and even diabetes. Stress is the trigger for all diseases these days. Anulom vilom saves us from stress; it helps us to cope up with the modern day stressful life. It even helps in curing brain tumours. Anulom Vilom is not only preventive, it also helps in curing all diseases. In fact, it tones up the whole autonomous nervous systems and thereby cures all nervous disorders and the resultant physical ailments.
Anulom Vilom helps in cleaning and activating all the seven Chakras of the body. When we inhale and exhale deeply repeatedly from both the nostrils, it has cleansing effect first in the Mooladhara Chakra and then goes on affecting Swadisthan, Manipur, Anahat, Vishuddhi, Agya and Sahasrara Chakras. All these Chakras are permeated with oxygen and then cleansed thoroughly through release of carbon dioxide. When these chakras are cleansed, all nerves connected to these chakras are also cleansed and purified, removing all toxins and blockages. It keeps up the elasticity of all arteries, veins and blood vessels and paves way forfree circulation of PranShakt\ throughout body. That is why, it is also called Nadi Shodhan Pranayam.
Daily practice of Anulom Vilom helps in Kundalini Jagran. Kundalini is the great source of positive energy which is dormant in Root Chakra. This energy is activated through Anulom vilom and then goes up to Crown Chakra through the spinal cord. It not only energizes body and mind, it also leads to spiritual upliftment.
Our body is composed of five basic elements – Fire, Air, Space, Earth and Water. It is absolutely essential for these five elements to remain in perfect balance, if we are to be healthy. Any minor imbalance in these five elements makes us sick. Anulom Vilom helps to maintain balance among these five elements through the five power chakras – The Root Chakra represents Earth Element; the Sacral Chakra represents Water; Solar Chakra is representation of Fire; Heart Chakra indicates Air, while Throat Chakra is indication of Space. Through Anulom Vilom, where oxygen permeates these chakras and carbon dioxide is drained out, not only another five chakras purified but the five basic elements are also balanced.
Anulom vilom has, thus, a wonderful and magical effect on body and mind. It is indeed a Panacea for all ailments, it creates co-ordination between right and left side of brain, creates balance in five elements of body, purifies the blood, improves blood circulation, energizes each and every cell of our body, keeps the elasticity by our blood vessels and arteries and thereby keeps us always youthful. It opens up the path to physical, mental and spiritual uplift. It should be performed twice a day, 15 minutes each in morning and evening to get optimum results.
Anulom Vilom acts in two ways
1. Through deep breathing, it helps the lungs in blood purification in a perfect manner and when blood thus get purified, it improves blood circulation to all the parts of body.
2. It creates a balance between Surya and Chandra Nadis, which, in turn creates a balance between body, mind and soul, creates a balance amongst five elements of the body and thereby keeps us always healthy and blissful.