What Is Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing)?
Sama Vritti is a Sanskrit phrase, 'sama' meaning 'even, smooth, flat, equal or same' and 'vritti' means 'fluctuations or modifications'. So the phrase indicates a smoothing of the fluctuations of the mind into stillness. As its name suggests, it is said to create quality of 'sameness' or balance in the flow of consciousness.
Sama Vritti is one of the techniques used in the practice of pranayama or yoga breathing exercises. Pranayama is one of the Eight Limbs of classical yoga according to Patanjali, a great Indian sage. Pranayama is practiced by those who are interested in yoga asanas or postures for well-being and also spiritual enlightenment.
Sama Vritti or equal ratio breathing is one of the two basic categories of ratios in pranayama. The other category is called Vishama-vritti or unequal ratio breathing. In general, ratio breathing is called vritti pranayama. 'Vritti' is the fluctuations of the consciousness as mentioned in the sutra (1.2) or aphorism of Patanjali's Yoga-sutras:
Translation: Yoga is the stopping of the movements (vrittis) of the mind
The purpose of doing pranayama is to try to steady and harmonize the consciousness, often as a preparation for meditation or asana practice, by fixing a ratio between the times of inhales and the times of exhales.
How to do Sama Vritti or Equal Ratio Breathing
It is a good idea to begin the practice of vritti pranayama or ratio breathing in the reclining position and then continue to move on to the sitting practice. It is important to remember that it is better to gain proficiency with equal ratio breathing before attempting unequal ratio breathing. Ideally it is best to take two weeks in each position, namely, reclining or sitting positions.
In sama vritti or equal ratio breathing, the times of the inhalations and exhalations are the same. For example you would be doing the following:
inhale = 4 counts
exhale = 4 counts
The Basics of Pranayama Yoga w/ Richard Freeman
Practicing of Sama Vritti
Find out your most comfortable slow breathing times. Check out how many counts you take to inhale and exhale. For example let us say your inhale = 6 counts and exhale = 8 counts you have two options to set up an equal ratio:
Option1: Reduce the exhale to match the inhale:
inhale = 6 counts
exhale = 6 counts
Option 2: Add both numbers:
inhale+ exhale – 6+8=14 and divide by 2
Hence your counts will be:
inhale = 7
exhale = 7
However if your two counts add up to an odd number such as:
inhale = 5
exhale = 6
inhale+ exhale 5+6=13 then decrease by one number
13-1=12 then divide by 2 = 6
Hence your counts will be:
inhale = 6
exhale = 6
Let us say from the first example of inhaling and exhaling for 6 counts, that is, your inhale is already 6 counts so you will be comfortable with that. But you will find that you are either rushing out all your breath in your exhale to fit into the 6 counts instead of your normal 8 counts. Or on the other hand you might feel you still have some breath left over in your lungs. Keep working at it. With practice and patience you will find the proper speed of exhale.
After a few days when you are comfortable with the 6 counts, then add another count to 7 counts. As you proceed in this fashion and get used to a particular ratio for a few days add one count to stretch your limits of your count. You must find a number that seems both stimulating and fulfilling.
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Benefits of Equal Ratio Breathing
The duration of our everyday inhales and exhales are usually unrythmic or irregular. This indicates an imbalance in our everyday consciousness. The practice of sama vritti or equal breathing will create a quality of 'balance' or 'sameness' in the flow of our consciousness. It is helpful in reaching a state of equilibrium and you will notice that your day goes by without you becoming agitated by little things.
Rosen, Richard, The Yoga of Breath – A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama. Shambhala Publications Inc, Boston, 2002.
The Yoga of Breath by Richard Rosen is an excellent book for a person starting out on pranayama practice. There are detailed instructions to follow a programme for a year by yourself.
Of course, it is always better to find a teacher. However, to motivate yourself to continue with your pranayama practice this book can be very helpful. You will learn about pranayama in depth and be clear about why it is important in your life.
About the Author
Sushma Webber writes content for both web and print media. She is interested in creating a balance in life between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. She is interested in mindful awareness practices, yoga poses and pranayama practices, mindfulness meditation, Zen meditation practices and translating these in daily life at work in front of the computer and during various activities of her life.
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