Common steps and sub-activities

Pranayama - Bhramari Pranayama [humming bee breath]

Humming bee breath is just one of many techniques taught in Rāja Yoga.  Within this school of yoga it is used as part of the techniques for  meditation (dhyana). Raja yoga was first described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and is part of the Samkhya tradition.  The term Rāja Yoga is a retronym, introduced in the 15th-century Hatha Yoga Pradipika to distinguish the school based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from the more current school of Hatha Yoga.

There are an extraordinary number of different sorts of breathing techniques used in Raja Yoga, all of which revolve around manipulation of purak (inhalation), rechak (exhalation) and kumbhak (holding the breath). 

Bhramari is one of the more interesting because it combines sound and resonance with breathing. It is worth noting that all these techniques are known collectively in yoga as pranayama.  These days, pranayama has unfortunately taken on any number of meanings, but the original meaning as mentioned in the Bhagavad Gītā is a "trance induced by reducing breathing".

Method

Start to notice your breathing pattern and deliberately slow it down. 

Breathe through the nostrils. Keep the teeth slightly separated. Keep the mouth closed throughout.

Breathe in slowly and deeply.

Whilst breathing out produce a humming sound, the sound should be smooth and continuous for the full duration of the exhalation.  The humming need not be loud, the important thing is that you should hear the sound reverberating in your head.  The exhalation should be slow and controlled.

At the end of the exhalation, stop the humming sound and breathe in fully.

Repeat.

Don’t force the process take it to the slowest comfortable pace that you can manage.

This form of very slow breathing takes practise, because the automatic reaction of the system is to try to breathe more quickly again to restore balance, but those well practised in the technique can use methods such as keeping completely still and passive. 

Initially only do this for about 5 minutes, then work up the time.  Don’t use alarms or other startling methods to time you as it will do you no good at all.  Get a helper to do the timing for you, or have headphones which block sound but as the time for completion arrives generate a soft noise to help you to ‘come to’.

About 10 minutes of reduced breathing is a good time to aim for in the long run, this however may take months and months. Work up slowly to this figure, say two extra minutes each week.  

After you have finished don’t on any account leap up and start moving about.  You may pass out.  Let the breathing gradually return to normal and your oxygen supply recover.  You will probably need at least 10 minutes to recover, maybe more as you get more practised. 

References

Dharana Darshan – Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SILLltMB048

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Nn92rFtW9k&NR=1&feature=fvwp