Nabho Mudra in Dr Sahdev’s ‘Breathe and Heal’ Program
Nabho Mudra involves the tongue touching the palate and is somewhat similar to Khechari mudra in its action. Nabho mudra is mentioned in Gheranda Samhita and is practiced by meditators from various traditions. Nabho mudra is an easy form of Khechari Mudra, which is mentioned in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and can be easily practised by anyone.
In Gheranda Samhita, Nabho Mudra is described as a practice where the practitioner turns the tongue upwards to meet the palate and then retains the breath. The text says that one can also do this during all activities like sitting, walking, etc.
Nabho Mudra or Simple/ Small Khechari – which Gheranda Samhita claims can remove all disease and suffering of the Yogi, forms an integral part of Dr Sahdev’s ‘Breathe and Heal’ Program, a scientifically and yogically correct and very effective breathing and meditation routine, full of possibilities. In Sanskrit, ‘Nabho’ means ‘space or heavens or sky’ and mudra means ‘posture’. So, literally it can be translated as ‘Space or Heavens or Sky Posture’. Mudras are the postures and act as smaller body locks for energy. Mahatma Budha also made use of Nabho mudra and Vipashyana, now more popular as Vipassana (Pali language), during meditation.
The breadth and depth of understanding and knowledge from the Vedas and other classical Yoga books from thousands of years ago is just astounding, overwhelming, breath-taking and divine! In this modern era, we have just begun to understand this unfathomable sea of knowledge, handed down from generation to generation in a few brief and concise verses, and experiential practices. The full potential of all this knowledge in physical, mental, metaphysical and spiritual dimensions can be comprehended by a devout, practising yoga practitioner through regular practice only.
Nabho Mudra is simple, more of a Raja Yoga practice. Khechari Mudra, a more profound, practice, done in Hatha Yoga, involves taking the tongue all the way back to reach the nasal cavity. Traditional Hatha Yoga is intended to lead to Raja Yoga, the ‘Royal Yoga’, the goal of which is the highest state of consciousness known as Samadhi. Khechari is done with a lot of effort like milking the tongue and sometimes even cutting the frenulum of the tongue to free it. Once it is able to reach the nasal cavity, it can then be extended to the roof of the cavity. By stimulating certain regions of the cavity with the tongue, the yogi gets the benefit of amrita or nectar, as per Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Through this nectar, the yogi rejuvenates his body and attains long and healthy life. Whether this nectar is a physical secretion, or modulation of secretions from the master and other glands, is yet to be ascertained.
Many masters say that cutting the frenulum for Khechari is unnecessary and the same results can be gained through constant practice of Nabho Mudra. It is said that during certain stages of meditation, the tongue automatically goes and touches the roof of the palate. By constant practice, the tongue can go further back towards the throat, till it touches the uvula at the back. Finally it can be made to enter the nasal cavity. This takes years of practice.
This mudra was kept a well-guarded secret for thousands of years, and very correctly so. Nabho and Khechari take the Yogi a step closer to gaining full control over the processes of the physical body. It is an old technique to achieve peace of mind and to facilitate a state of silent and deep meditation, and hence achieving the highest state of samadhi or contemplation. Talavya or Talabhya Kriya (‘Talu‘ means palate; ‘Talavya‘ or ‘Talabhya‘ means related to palate) is the preparatory exercise to advance to a perfect Khechari Mudra. It must be learnt directly from a physical ‘Guru‘ and should only be practiced under direct supervision of the Guru. It takes a lot of practice to learn and to do accurately even when explained properly and correctly, and it must not be attempted except under expert guidance of a learned ‘Guru’ or teacher after understanding the procedure correctly. That is more because of what these mudras are capable of rather than just the procedures. Preliminary, preparatory procedures and training in ‘Talabhya Kriya’ and other procedures are essential for serious exponents of Yoga. Amateurish attempts at this may lead to many complications. However, very simple or initial versions can be explained and understood easily and can be taught even to non-yogis and not-so-advanced yogis.
Nabho Mudra can also be considered an easier option to the practice of full Khechari mudra. Though it remains to be documented medically, but clinically and in traditional Yoga practices, many different types of diseases, even intractable ones, have been found to resolve by the practice of this mudra.
As a Sanskrit verse explains about Nabho Mudra:
यत्र यत्र स्थितों योगी सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा।
उर्ध्वजिव्ह: स्थिरो भूत्वाधारयेत्मवनं सदा।
नभोमुद्रा मवेदुषा योद्विना रोग नाशिनी।।
Yatra yatra sthitom yogi sarvakaryeshu sarvada
Urdhvajivha sthiro bhutvadharyetmavanam sada
Nabhomudra mavedusha yogvina roga nashini
The yogi, who stays constant in all aspects at all times, controls the breath
by placing the frontal part of tongue on the palate inside the mouth.
It puts an immediate stop to all mental turmoil.
All the diseases of yogi are destroyed by the practice of this mudra.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika states:
कपाल-कुहरे जिह्वा परविष्ह्टा विपरीतगा |
भरुवोरन्तर्गता दॄष्ह्टिर्मुद्रा भवति खेछरी || ३२ ||
kapāla-kuhare jihvā praviṣhṭā viparītaghā |
bhruvorantarghatā dṝṣhṭirmudrā bhavati khecharī || 32 ||
एवं करमेण षहण-मासं नित्यं युक्तः समाछरेत |
षहण्मासाद्रसना-मूल-शिरा-बन्धः परणश्यति || ३६ ||
evaṃ krameṇa ṣhaṇ-māsaṃ nityaṃ yuktaḥ samācharet |
ṣhaṇmāsādrasanā-mūla-śirā-bandhaḥ praṇaśyati || 36 ||
कलां पराङ्मुखीं कॄत्वा तरिपथे परियोजयेत |
सा भवेत्खेछरी मुद्रा वयोम-छक्रं तदुछ्यते || ३७ ||
kalāṃ parāngmukhīṃ kṝtvā tripathe pariyojayet |
sā bhavetkhecharī mudrā vyoma-chakraṃ taduchyate || 37 ||
रसनामूर्ध्वगां कॄत्वा कष्हणार्धमपि तिष्ह्ठति |
विष्हैर्विमुछ्यते योगी वयाधि-मॄत्यु-जरादिभिः || ३८ ||
rasanāmūrdhvaghāṃ kṝtvā kṣhaṇārdhamapi tiṣhṭhati |
viṣhairvimuchyate yoghī vyādhi-mṝtyu-jarādibhiḥ || 38 ||
न रोगो मरणं तन्द्रा न निद्रा न कष्हुधा तॄष्हा |
न छ मूर्छ्छा भवेत्तस्य यो मुद्रां वेत्ति खेछरीम || ३९ ||
na rogho maraṇaṃ tandrā na nidrā na kṣhudhā tṝṣhā |
na cha mūrchchā bhavettasya yo mudrāṃ vetti khecharīm || 39 ||
When the yogi now curls his tongue upward and back, he is able to, close the place where the three paths meet. The bending back of the tongue is khechari mudra and closes the three paths in akasha chakra. The yogi who remains but half a minute in this position is free from illness, old age and death. He who has mastered khechari mudra is not afflicted with disease, death, laziness, hunger, thirst and swooning. (HYP 8: 32-39)
Hatha Yoga Pradipika states further:
गोमांसं भक्ष्हयेन्नित्यं पिबेदमर-वारुणीम |
कुलीनं तमहं मन्ये छेतरे कुल-घातकाः || ४७ ||
ghomāṃsaṃ bhakṣhayennityaṃ pibedamara-vāruṇīm |
kulīnaṃ tamahaṃ manye chetare kula-ghātakāḥ || 47 ||
गो-शब्देनोदिता जिह्वा तत्प्रवेशो हि तालुनि |
गो-मांस-भक्ष्हणं तत्तु महा-पातक-नाशनम || ४८ ||
gho-śabdenoditā jihvā tatpraveśo hi tāluni |
gho-māṃsa-bhakṣhaṇaṃ tattu mahā-pātaka-nāśanam || 48 ||
जिह्वा-परवेश-सम्भूत-वह्निनोत्पादितः खलु |
छन्द्रात्स्रवति यः सारः सा सयादमर-वारुणी || ४९ ||
jihvā-praveśa-sambhūta-vahninotpāditaḥ khalu |
chandrātsravati yaḥ sāraḥ sā syādamara-vāruṇī || 49 ||
Daily he may eat the flesh of the cow and drink wine. The word go (cow) in Vedic language means tongue; eating it is to thrust it into the gullet, which produces heat in the body causing nectar to flow out of the moon (chandra nadi) situated on the left side of the eyebrow centre, also called ida nadi, and that is called drinking wine. (HYP 8: 47-49)
Gherand Samhita states:
The body becomes beautiful; samadhi is attained, and the tongue touching the holes in the roof of the mouth obtains various juices – first he experiences a saltish taste, through alkaline to bitter then astringent, then he feels the taste of butter then ghee, then of milk, then of curds, then of whey, then of honey, then of palm juice, and lastly arises the taste of nectar. (GS iii, 30-32)
It must be learnt and practised only under an expert guidance. It is explained here as a reference for the benefit of those who are learning under an expert teacher.
- Sit in any of the Yogic sitting postures such as Padmasana, Sukhasana, Vajrasana, sitting in a chair or in stand-at-ease position. Initially, it is prudent to choose one of the sitting postures.
- A correct and easy way of doing Nabho Mudra is by putting the tongue up against the palate, with the tip of the tongue touching between back of your teeth and hard palate, and tongue pressing against the hard palate, and keeping it there for as long as you can do it comfortably. More advanced techniques give access to varied functions.
- A correct and easy way of doing first level of Khechari Mudra is to put the tip of the tongue against the soft palate, behind the hard palate. For this, the tongue has to be turned upside down, bringing the undersurface of the tongue up, and touching the tip of the tongue with the soft palate. Keep it there for as long as you can. If you feel uncomfortable or feel pain, unroll your tongue and relax for a few seconds and again resume. Build up your practice slowly. A low protein diet helps advancing in this process, as does singhasana (the lion pose).
- Also, at the same time, you should be doing Shambhavi mudra – keep the eyesight in the middle of both the eyebrows, at Aagya Chakra. It’s more easily done with eyes closed.
The correct and complete practice of Nabho Mudra is achieved only when your eyesight is between both the eyebrows, in Shambhavi Mudra, and your tongue is in contact with the palate. Both of these should be accomplished together at one time.
Also, Nabho Mudra can be practiced with Pranayama. Gheranda Samhita also instructs about retaining the breath during this practice. That is optional during meditation. During meditation, the breath naturally slows down. During deeper states, one may experience natural suspension of breath for a few minutes. This is called Kevala kumbhaka. Forcing Kevala Kumbhak is unnecessary and undesirable.
Understanding the Action of Nabho Mudra
Though explanation of the full effects and the actions of this simple, and to many seemingly illogical and unscientific, yogic procedure or pose is beyond the scope of this article, yet we can make an attempt to understand basic mechanism of some of the leading physical effects of Nabho Mudra, and to some extent, Khechari Mudra.
During Nabho mudra the tongue is fixed in one spot touching the palate. When the tongue doesn’t move, the onslaught of thoughts also decreases naturally. Thoughts may still occur, but only minimally. This principle is of great help in meditation. Instead of fighting with thoughts, just use Nabho mudra to get substantial help to reduce thoughts per minute.
In Yogic terms, we understand that the cosmic or prana energy can flow through the Sushumna nadi and nourish the entire body. This flow may be interrupted at the region of the throat. The prana energy flows from Vishudhi Chakra to organs of speech.
If the flow of prana energy is obstructed or is obliterated, this may cause or contribute towards the instability or distractibility of the mind. Nabho mudra connects that prana energy directly to the next energy centre, i.e., Aagya Chakra, through various marma points. Thus, it helps bypass the normal route and encourages freer flow of prana. Placing the tongue against the palate is one way to bypass this blockage. This reconnection tends to calm the mind and leads to attainment of eternal bliss. This depends on the point of contact – the alveolar groove, the hard palate, the soft palate, the epiglottis, the nares, etc.; the tongue gets connected to various nadis, or energy channels, by touching marma points. Just by putting your tongue up, you can use Nabho mudra to connect the front and back channels of your body which prevents build up of too much pitta or heat. Nabho mudra can also be used to passively conduct energy flow to various upper centers and marmas (bindu, sahasrara, aagya, sthapani, simanta, etc.).
When practising routines that arouse kundalini, it is one of three safety factors that prevent ‘burn out’ in the head region, while still allowing flow of cooler energy through the crown, the third eye, and all of the associated bindus. The other two safety factors are a fully relaxed jaw release, and a suspended head position, which is said to release krikatika marma.
Medically speaking, our body responds to any kind of threat by the ‘fight or flight’ response.
In either case, sympathetic nervous system kicks in and it leads to a rise in blood pressure, in addition to other phenomena. Tension and stress of daily living are also perceived by the body as a danger signal and have the same physiology, and the body responds through the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.
The sensory nerves from the tongue to the brain, are branches of the trigeminal, facial, glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves; all of these, except the trigeminal, are linked to the parasympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system.
Thus, through the practice of Nabho or Khechari Mudra, we stimulate these nerves which are concerned with relaxation and also monitor taste, secretion of the different salivary glands, respiration, and so on. Through the parasympathetic nervous system, we also gain access to the hypothalamus and the endocrine glands. A side effect of using Nabho or Khechari mudra in the quest for higher consciousness is the regulation of the endocrine system, especially the pituitary gland. Nabho or Khechari allow us to control thirst and hunger. Through more advanced practices, Yogis learn to get conscious control over regulation of brain centres for blood pressure, temperature, respiration etc.
Also, body mechanisms including Carotid sinuses help to control and regulate blood pressure.
Carotid sinuses are two remarkable organs situated at the bifurcation of the carotid artery on each side, in front of the neck and just below the level of the jaws, at the level of the thyroid cartilage or Adam’s apple. The carotid sinuses contain numerous baroreceptors which function as a “sampling area” for many homeostatic mechanisms for maintaining blood pressure. The carotid sinus baroreceptors are innervated by the sinus nerve of Hering, which is a branch of the IX cranial nerve . The glossopharyngeal nerve makes synapses in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) located in the medulla oblongata of the brainstem. The NTS indirectly modulates the activity of sympathetic and parasympathetic (vagal) neurons in the medulla and pons through the hypothalamus. These neurons then regulate the autonomic control of the heart and blood vessels.
The brain responds immediately to such a stimulus by adjusting the heart rate and contraction of the arterioles, thus correspondingly adjusting the blood pressure to keep it within normal range.
Thus, Nabho mudra, in very mechanistic terms, acts by virtue of the anatomical proximity of the root of the tongue to the carotid sinuses in the neck and through access to the parasympathetic nervous system through the nerves supplying tongue. The pull at the root of the tongue acts by applying a subtle drag on these sinuses in the neck, causing them to react as though they have detected high blood pressure, with the result that the heartbeat and the blood pressure decrease. This leads to relief in stress response and overall physical and mental relaxation.
These carotid sinuses as well as the sinus nerves were well known in ancient times. Shiva Samhita says: “Stop the flow of the vigyana nadis (sinus nerves) with the second fingers. This gives siddhi (power or control attained by a Yogi through practice) in the form of happiness and bliss.”
The implications of the above verses are obvious: if you gently press these carotid sinuses then you will become very relaxed and perhaps a little faint. This can help in various other yogic practices that lead to meditation. But all this must not be tried by an uninitiated person or except under guidance and supervision.
Sira Matrika Marmas described in Sushruta Samhita correspond with the position of carotid sinuses. In the science of Marmani Chikitsa or Marma Therapy, there are five types of Marmas on the basis of consequences, in which one type is Sadyapranahara Marma, that means injury to these Marma leads to sudden death. Sira Matrika Marmas are eight in number, lie in the neck on either side of Kanthnadi between Nila and Manya Marmas, along the carotid artery. These are Sadyapranahara Marmas.
Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest fighting systems in the world and is called the mother of martial arts. (Malayalam and Tamil, kalari: school or gymnasium, payattu: to fight or to exercise or to put hard work into. In Sanskrit, ‘Khalurika’ means parade ground or arena, and ‘payas’ means power or strength, or ‘pasi‘ meaning spear) In this martial art, site corresponding to sira matrika is considered one of the death-causing marmani.
In acupuncture, an offspring of Marmani Chikitsa, the point renying or Stomach 9 corresponds to the location of Sira Matrika Marma. The same point is used in acupressure also.
In Dim Mak or Kyoshu Jitsu, renying is considered one of the killer points. This point is also used to subdue the opponent in karate and krav maga.
As explained in the video below, carotid sinus massage is a useful procedure in Medicine too:
Nabho mudra is a very simple practice but it has many subtle influences on the health of body and brain.
- It helps modulate the parasympathetic system which leads to a state of relaxation, and results in immediate calmness of the mind and body.
- Nabho Mudra has a profound effect on diseases of heart, lungs and brain and helps overcome insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, diseases of tongue, throat, eyes and is especially beneficial in all stress – related or psychosomatic diseases.
- In conjunction with breathing exercises, mudras and procedures, this can influence health very positively and can help overcome diseases.
- When the tongue is inserted into the nasal cavity in Khechari Mudra, many small nerves and glands are activated, thereby increasing the autonomous control of the body.
- It is also said to decalcify the pineal gland, which plays an important role in spiritual awakening.
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The Head of Faculty – Dr Jitender K Sahdev, in addition to being a Physician in Modern Medicine from India, is a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Practitioner par excellence in London with over 51,000 hours of Traditional Yoga teaching experience and almost three decades of experience in Modern Medicine, Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and other alternative treatment modalities. He utilizes Ayurveda and Yoga as stand-alone as well as complementary therapies for optimizing the health and wellness of his clients, for easing symptoms associated with disease, and more. He trained under doyens of Yoga in India for almost four decades.
Note : Yoga Therapy is best administered in an individualized manner though some generalized guidelines have been provided for all. You should check with your health care professional before starting this or any new therapy or exercise program or breathing routine. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, migraines or heart or lung ailments. Women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant should consult their physician before performing any of the breathing or physical exercises or undertaking any therapy program.
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