Humming is a gentle, soothing form of exhalation that has many different benefits for many different people.
From a personal perspective, practicing humming breaths significantly helped me through the birth of my second son. The humming helped me to switch off, to look inwards and to calm down my busy mind at the time. It wasn’t an intentional thing either and I hadn’t planned to do it – it just came naturally as my labour began.
For many others, practicing humming breaths can offer instant relief from tension, anger & anxiety. It can calm an agitated mind, mitigate migraines, improve concentration and even help to reduce your blood pressure.
So, let’s look a little more into the origins of our humming breath and how to practice it yourself.
Humming like a bee
Also known as Bhramari Pranayama in Sanskrit, Humming Bee Breath, is a practice where a humming sound is generated during a slow exhalation resembling the sound produced by a buzzing bee.
As to the origins of the name - Bhramari was a Hindu Goddess, known as the Goddess of bees - an incarnation of the Goddess Parvati.
The vibrations created with Bee Breathing help to relax the entire body. Bumble Bee Breath can help to boost energy in the body and can therefore often be included in flow yoga sequences. It’s also become a favourite for some of our yoga teachers to use for meditation. The vibrations created help with sense withdrawal (Pratyahara) and also concentration (Dharana).
Who is humming breath good for?
Bhramari Pranayama is good for everyone! It’s a really fun practice to do with your kids and to introduce them into calming breathing techniques.
It’s a soothing breath technique for anyone experiencing stress or anxiety and is a tremendously calming for both the heart and the gut.
In more medical terms – I have heard people say that regular use of humming breathing techniques has helped to improve ear and throat issues or even a head cold. Others have mentioned that it’s helped them with digestive issues – the humming and vibrating lower tones really helping to get things moving down below if there are any blockages there!
The connection with your vagus nerve
Humming is known to stimulate the vagus nerve and activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). We recently wrote about the vague nerve in detail and its importance in your mind-body connection. Acting as a mediator between thinking and feeling.
Humming, singing, chanting, laughing, and deep diaphragmatic breathing all activate your PNS – the rest, digest and restore part of your Autonomic Nervous System.
How to do bumble bee breathing
Bumble bee breathing is easy to practice and can be done anywhere – in the car, at home or in the office.
Firstly, sit up straight in a quiet space and gently close your eyelids. Keep a gentle smile on your face and a soft jaw.
Take both your index fingers up to your ears. There is a cartilage between your cheek and ear. Feel around for it, and then place your index fingers on the cartilage.
Take a deep inhalation through your nose, and as you breathe out, gently press the cartilage while making a humming sound like a bee. Feel the vibrations that come with this sound.
You can play around with the pitch of the humming sound – lowering the pitch and then trying a higher pitched version.
Breathe in again and continue the same pattern for around 4-5 breaths.