Exploring the energetic Effects of Practice – BRAHMANA, LANGHANA, and SAMANA

Written by: Anupam Raman 

The tools of yoga can be divided into three energetic principles. First, there is expansion (brahmana). Second, there’s reduction (langhana). Third, there is balance (samana). We have all worked with these within our yoga practice. To distinguish them, let’s look at their qualities.

To EnergizeTo reducePromotes stability
Creates Internal HeatCools the systemMaintains internal temperature
Tonifies the systemRelaxes the bodyMaintains the energy level
Stimulates alertness of the mindDecreases agitation in the mindMaintenance

We create brahmana, langhana or samana effects by our choice of asana, the sequencing of a class, having movements be dynamic or static. For more advanced practitioners, these effects can also be created by breath adaptation in asana practice, the directional flow of breath and during Pranayama, chanting and mantra japa. 

For example, Brahmana practices are appropriate for when our system feels weak and depleted. Brahmana practices act as “energetic deposits” for the body. Think of Brahmana as expanding, accelerating, and energizing and building internal heat. Sounds that are louds, high pitched and fast can also create this effect. For our Pranayama practice this refers to a lengthening of the inhalation, with the possibility of adding a short pause or retention at the end of the inhale. This tends to energize and heat the body, which could be perfect for someone who’s underlying energy is a bit sluggish. Brahmana breathing tends to affect the chest and lungs more and anatomically fits better with opening the front of the body and backbends as well as viyasa are Brahmana techniques. 

On the other hand, when we have mental distraction, acute anxiety, or stress, we can encourage a calm and relaxed nervous system by applying langhana tools. Sounds that are soft, low and slow create this effect as well. For Asana, langhana is quieting, calming, cooling and internalizing, which includes forward bends, side stretches and twists. Langhana also means “to eliminate, reduce”; it helps rid your system of any kind of excess. Langhana can be about purging, as well. Think of Langhana practices as “energetic withdrawals”. Langhana in pranayama practice refers to extending the length of the exhalation, with a possible pause or hold at the end of the exhale. Langhana breathing tends to work better for forward bending practices and has a greater effect on the upper and lower belly, hence the link to the processes of elimination.

Samana (to balance) promotes mental stability and equilibrium for the body. When you combine backbends, forward bends, and twists in a sequence, we end up with a Samana effect. Symmetrical postures that straighten the spine are Samana. In Pranayama, equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale produces a samana effect. Sounds that are mediated or combine brahmana and Langhana also create a samana effect.