I stood at the back of the class, amazed and quite frankly, embarrassed. I've seen my retriever pant through the day, every day during the summer but I had no idea it could serve any other purpose than to help my dog feel less hot. And this exercise isn't just called panting, it's got a name, 'Panting Dog Breath of Fire'.(Also read: Different types of yoga and their many health benefits)
According to my Mr. Sunil Saini, yoga instructor at a popular Delhi gym, "Panting is a powerful breathing Pranayama technique that is part of an ancient school of yoga called the Kundalini yoga. It dates back centuries and is known to cleanse the system and detoxify the body." He added, "Kundalini yoga uses breathing exercises to channel a person's inner energy or creative potential. A similar breathing technique is found in Reiki and other kinds of energy medicine."
What is Kundalini Yoga
According to the Kundalini Research Institute, Kundalini yoga is 'one of the most comprehensive of yoga traditions, combining meditation, mantra, physical exercises and breathing techniques; it is a Raj Yog, encompassing the eight limbs of yoga into a singular practice of excellence and ecstasy.'
In his blog, Sadhguru explains how in yogic culture, Kundalini is symbolized as a curled up snake which represents the energy that manifests within you. It's mostly dormant and is also referred to as your third eye. The snake remains all curled because it symbolizes your inner energy. The curled up snake isn't visible to the world and neither is your inner energy. Kundalini yoga focuses on self-awareness and if done right, can re-energize you through and through.
(Also read: Five Easy Yoga Poses For Common Health Problems)
The word Kundalini itself is of great significance in old Indian tradition. According to Samael Aun Weor, author of the book 'Kundalini Yoga: The Mysteries of the Fire: Ancient Secrets of Hinduism Revealed', Kundalini is the spouse of Shiva, it's the spirit of electricity, it's the serpent who's tailed is coiled three times and is intimately related with the Prana that circulates through the 72,000 nadis or astral conduits that nourish the chakras. The other exercises that fall under Kundalini yoga are also known to be odd, weird and a bit embarrassing in nature. No wonder this school of yoga encourages you reveal your inner self.
How to master the 'Panting Dog Breath of Fire'
Ideally, this exercise should also be done at the end of any kriya and just before the final relaxation pose. Sit on your heels in a Vajrasana pose and straighten your back. Open your mouth, stick your tongue out as far as it can go and start panting. With every exhalation your stomach should go in or contract immediately. You can continue to do this from anywhere between 15 seconds to five minutes, though one minute is ideal. Be sure to drink a lot of water after you're done as this will help release the remaining toxins.
How Does it Help?
1. Cuts back toxins and heavy metal in your body
2. Helps keep your acne breakout in control and gives you great, glowing skin
3. Strengthens your immune system and helps fight infection
4. Helps improve your respiratory system
5. Works your abdominal muscles
6. Helps fight allergies and cure headaches
Besides panting, there are a number of other breathing techniques that are known to improve physical well-being, heal common ailments, and increase self-awareness. Some of them can be practiced at home, but it's ideal to get an expert to take you through them. It can be as easy as abdominal breathing which needs to be slow, relaxed but requires extreme concentration.
Another kind is the Brahmari breathing which is a technique that uses sound vibrations, like that of a humming bee, to calm the mind. Another exercise that falls under Kundalini yoga is the 'Breath of fire' which is pretty similar to 'Panting dog breath of fire' but only that there's no need to pant. Cross your legs, close your mouth and breathe rapidly by pumping the navel. This helps build lung capacity, release toxins and build overall strength.Other Kundalini Yoga Postures You Should Try:1. Camel pose or the UstrasanaAlso known as the heart chakra, this posture can help improve digestion and strengthen your muscles. How to do this posture: Sit on your knees but they should be straight and in line with your shoulder. Place your hands on your hip or your lower back and start bending backwards. If you feel like you can go all the way back, place your hands on your feet and stretch more. Hold the posture for as long as you can and relax.2. The Downward facing Dog pose or Adho Mukha SvanasanaThis posture is often included in classes for beginners as it's fairly easy and very effective. Keep your feet apart, only a bit, get on your toes and put your arms forward on the floor. Try to touch your neck on the ground but be sure to keep it straight. Find your balance and maintain this posture for as long as you can.3. The Perfect Pose or SuvasanaThe perfect pose, as the name suggests, needs to be executed seamlessly. You need to sit, fold your legs, lift your ankles to keep them on your thighs. Don't sink or band your back and try to keep your back absolutely straight. This might not work for those who are doing yoga for the first time, and in that case you can keep your ankles on the floor.