In the practice of digital Pranayama the fingers regulate the volume and flow of breath by narrowing the nasal passages filtering out impurities during respiration. The controlled inhalation through the narrowed passages allows the lungs more time to absorb oxygen. In controlled exhalation, unused oxygen is reabsorbed and waste matter is ejected.
Yoga texts such as Gheranda Samhita recommend the use of the thumb, ring and little fingers on the nose and stress that the fore and middle fingers are not to be used. If the fore and middle fingers are used, the forearm and wrist tilt and become heavy making it difficult to hold the arm up. In addition, the correct and accurate pressure cannot be applied to the nostrils since the nose pulls the fingers down and accuracy in the performance of Pranayama is lost. Similarly, keeping the fore and middle fingers on the center of the forehead or extended outward creates varying pressures on the thumb, ring, and little fingers causing an uneven curvature of the digits and an irregular flow of breath.
When practicing digital Pranayama, the fore and middle fingers are folded into the hollow of the palm, with the thumb resting on the right side of the nose and the ring and little fingers on the left, with the wrist placed centrally. This enables the thumb, ring and little fingers to move on either side smoothly and freely.
BKS Iyengar compares the mastery of digital Pranayama to a master musician. A musician studies the construction, shape, stops and other characteristics of his instrument as well as the atmospheric changes that affects it. In practicing digital Pranayama we ‘play’ the nostrils delicately fingering them to manipulate breath patterns as if playing the flute, adjusting the flow, rhythm and resonance of breath.
Benefits of Digital Pranayama
• The blood receives a larger supply of oxygen than in normal breathing soothing and invigorating the nervous system (making it particularly beneficial for individuals with neurological disorders)
• The mind becomes still and lucid – increasing focus and concentration
• It increases digestive power
• Cleans the sinuses
• Boosts energy and lifts the spirits
• Lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety
• Synchronizes the two hemispheres of the brain
• Increases lung capacity and the efficiency of the diaphragm
• Purifies the subtle energy channels (nadis) of the body so the prana flows more easily during pranayama practice
• It develops the strength of will-power, determination, stability, it helps control the senses, and leads toward self knowledge