Murcha Pranayama

Definition - What does Murcha Pranayama mean?

Murcha Pranayama is a yogic breathing technique, designed to enhance mental energy and provide a subtle sense of euphoria. Pranayama is a practice in which conscious awareness and control of the breath helps to maintain a healthy flow of prana (vital life force) in the body. Translations of murcha from Sanskrit include 'fainting' and 'swooning,' so Murcha Pranayama is also known as 'Swooning Breath.' The name stems from feeling of dizziness created by the practice; when the practitioner becomes lightheaded, they are said to become devoid of all senses.

Yogapedia explains Murcha Pranayama

Murcha Pranayama is an advanced practice, and should not be attempted until more simple forms of pranayama have been mastered. In addition, it should not be practiced by those who are pregnant or have any kind of mental or heart disorders, particularly high blood pressure.

Follow these steps to practice Murcha Pranayama:

  1. Sit in any easy meditation posture, such as sukhasana or lotus pose
  2. Relax the body, rest the hands on the knees and soften the shoulders
  3. Sit upright and align the head with the spine
  4. Engage khecari mudra (roll the tongue to the soft palate or nasal cavity)
  5. Tilt the head back slightly and begin to slowly inhale through both nostrils, using Ujayii breath
  6. Acquire shambhavi mudra (bring the gaze to the centre of the eyebrows)
  7. Straighten the arms, lock the elbows and press the palms into the knees
  8. At the top of the inhale, retain the breath and engage jalandhar bandha (chin lock)
  9. When you feel extreme dizziness, begin to slowly exhale the breath
  10. Return to relaxed body position with the eyes closed, take a moment to pause and appreciate the tranquility created by the practice.

Steps one to 10 comprise one round of Murcha Pranayama, and it is not recommended to practice more than five rounds in one sitting. After one round, you will feel lightheaded and faint due to the breath retention period. The chin lock causes compression of the carotid sinuses, which in turn changes the tone of the nervous system and causes the swooning sensation.

Murcha Pranayama provides a sense of mental tranquility, steadiness and comfort. The swooning sensation creates a blissful state, in which the mind becomes calm and clear. By energizing the nadis, this practice also raises the level of prana within the body. Due to these benefits, Murcha Pranayama is best practiced before meditation.

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