Connecting breath, sound, and posture in honeybee breathing will have you buzzing with clarity.
Bhramari pranayama, or honeybee breathing, is one of the few yogic practices that connects breath, sound, and posture. The fingers are placed in a special mudra that closes off the senses while the buzzing “mmmm” sound of a bee is made with each exhalation.
The sound waves gently vibrate the vocal chords, teeth, lips, and even the brain, reverberating energy around the third eye chakra (ajna). This balances the nervous system and produces immediate feelings of mental clarity, making honeybee breathing a powerful pranayama practice.
Why practice bhramari pranayama?
- Reduces anxiety
- Relieves stress
- Directs awareness inward
- Soothes the nervous system
- Draws energy to the third eye chakra
- Strengthens prana (life force energy) in the heart and brain
- Quiets the mind
- Strengthens the voice
- Brings mental clarity
- Purifies the ida and pinagala nadis (subtle energy channels)
Time to catch your breath
Bhramari pranayama can be practiced at any time, although early mornings are most beneficial. The same goes for all yoga. The two hours before sunrise are especially sattvic and awaken psychic sensitivity. It's also helpful to practice honeybee breathing before meditation, as it brings your awareness inward.
Bhramari pranayama can also be used as an antidote to anxiety and headaches.
- Sit comfortably with the spine straight.
- Close the eyes. Close the lips, separating the teeth slightly. Take three natural breaths.
- Bring the hands near the face for six-gated mudra (shanmukhi). Press the flaps of the ears in with the thumbs, and gently rest the index fingers on the inner eyelids. Rest the middle fingers above the nostrils, the ring fingers above the lips, and the pinky fingers below the lips.
- Take a natural inhalation.
- Exhale slowly while making a soft, mellow humming sound like a bee. The sound should continue for the whole length of the exhalation. This completes one round.
- Repeat the steps above five more times to practice six full rounds of breath.
Boosting the buzz
Over time, increase the number of rounds and gradually elongate the entire practice to 10-15 minutes.
The next stage is to incorporate internal breath retention, or antar kumbhaka. Inhale, hold the breath for a couple of seconds, and then exhale with a slow humming sound. This inner retention helps to improve concentration.
How to teach the yogis and the bees
Bhramari is one of the easier pranayama exercises to teach. Nonetheless, look out for these common mistakes:
- Clenching the teeth together
- Tensing the shoulders
- Pressing the eyelids
- Forcing the buzzing sound
- Keeping the eyes open
If the shanmukhi mudra (with fingers resting on the face) feels too claustrophobic for a student, they can simply close the flaps of their ears with their index fingers instead.
- Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust, 2008.
- Tiwari, Bri. Maya. The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing. New York: A Ballantine Book, 2000.