CYCLIC SIGHING – it’s far from being new!

CYCLIC SIGHING – it’s far from being new!

There’s been some attention recently in the media to a breathwork method which has been called ‘cyclic sighing’ This follows the publication of a study in Cell Reports Medicine which found “the exhale-focused cyclic sighing, produces greater improvement in mood (p < 0.05) and reduction in respiratory rate (p < 0.05) compared with mindfulness meditation.”

What is described here as ‘cyclic sighing’ differs only slightly from one of the breathing methods which I’ve been teaching in my Breath4Health classes since 2020. In the study, people exhaled slowly though their mouths. The version I’ve been teaching slows the exhalation by chanting a mantra. The inhalation is done the same way, through the nose, in two equal stages, with a slight pause between. The traditional name for this practice is ‘anuloma krama’, i.e., ‘normal’ staged breathing, where it’s the inhalation that is broken into stages (kramā).

It’s Exercise 6.5 in Breath For Health. Our teacher, Mr TKV Desikachar’s student, Paul Harvey, taught this traditional anuloma krama at the British Wheel of Yoga annual Congress nearly 40 years ago. It’s just one of the many breathwork or prāṇāyāma methods which Desikachar taught us.  And mantra isn’t the only additional mental focus that he, and now I, could bring to this method. There is much more that we have to learn from India’s ancient yoga tradition.

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