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Sit comfortably with the back upright but not rigid. If you can, press the tongue up against the roof of the mouth for ideal oral posture. (Pro tip: to get your tongue in the proper position, try saying the letter “N” and holding that position. Say “NNNNNNN”!)
Gently sip air to the count of 4 through the nose. Breathe out of the belly to engage the diaphragm and activate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a pathway to your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, the rest-and-digest mode.
With your lips sealed completely, hum loudly, like a bee! The vibration from this humming will trigger the sinuses to produce up to 16x more nitric oxide, which leads to a huge boost in circulation, immunity, and sinus relief. Repeat as long as you’d like.
Bhramari pranayama has been practiced for centuries. Anecdotally, yogis claimed that this exercise helped clear the sinuses and energize the body and mind. Now, thousands of years later, landmark studies have shown why this technique works – the vibration from humming stimulates the sinuses and leads to a 16x increase in a compound called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide offers a vast array of proven health benefits.
Nitric oxide’s primary role in the body is to act as a vasodilator, which means that it helps expand blood vessels, making it easier for oxygen to reach all the cells that need it. It’s part of the reason why nose breathing is up to 18% more efficient than mouth breathing. By expanding blood vessels, this exercise also helps decrease blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is a powerful anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. Topically, nitric oxide is in clinical trials right for use in acne, dermatitis, and other bacterial or fungal-driven ailments. Internally, nitric oxide can be used to clear congestion and fight back against sinus infections.One study found that an hour of humming per day eliminated cases of chronic sinusitis within a matter of days. Humming offered patients relief from years of suffering that prescription medications couldn’t match.
Various traditions vary in how they teach pranayama, but the literature that has studied humming and its beneficial effects on the body found that low-pitch humming produced the highest increase in nitric oxide production versus high-pitched humming.
Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating. Nitric oxide, the compound that makes this exercise beneficial, is produced in the sinuses. Nose breathing leads to a 6x increase in nitric oxide production over mouth breathing. To increase nitric oxide production, nose breathing is crucial.
Traditionally, humming is only part of Bhramari Breathing. The other aspect is sitting in a cross-legged position while blocking your ears with your fingers. Yup, just sticking your fingers in your ears while humming. Yogis claim that this helps prevent ear infections, however, researchers have not yet to publish any research on whether or not this makes a considerable difference in nitric oxide production.
These breaths should be slow, but not too deep. Inhaling too much oxygen can actually lead to acute hyperventilation and trigger panic attacks & anxiety. Focus on gently sipping air through the nose on each inhale.
Sources: Breath by James Nestor and Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown.