Ancient Yogis advised to blow shankh (conch) daily during puja times at home or in temples. In many households, the puja is incomplete without the blowing of a conch shell, which is kept as an object of worship. Dating back to the puranic times of churning the milky ocean (samudra manthan) when shankh is said to have appeared for the first time, it was wielded first by Lord Vishnu as a weapon. Krishna blew his conch, known as Panchajanya, signaling the start of the Mahabharata war and victory to the righteous.
Conch shell is a natural wonder. Found in the depths of oceans, it is a natural home of sea snails to protect them from predators. As the creatures grow, they cast it away. Large sea snails are known to have a unique shell, containing points at both ends. It is popularly known that if you place a conch shell to your ear, you will hear the sound of the ocean. This is caused by its cavity that resonates sound and produces a form of noise from its surroundings. Keen observers would notice that this is the sound of the sacred syllable 'Om'.
The penetrating yet sweet sound fills the surroundings with positive vibrations. This is why the conch is blown at every festival and auspicious occasion. Besides the spiritual aspects, blowing a shankh has several health benefits. It is a great exercise for the diaphragm, chest, neck muscles as well as the urinary tract and bladder. As you blow the conch, your lung muscles get expanded, improving their aerial capacity.
Conch blowing is thus an exercise for strengthening one's thyroid glands and vocal cords. In fact, children with stammering or speech impairment issues are trained to blow the conch in the right way, which helps in correcting speech problems. While blowing conches, you are required to keep the spine erect to ensure a perfect outflow of the air.
Regular blowing of a conch shell, therefore, improves one's posture. It is interesting that modern medicine has adopted the positive benefits of blowing a conch shell by inventing a device known as a Spirometer. It is a handheld device which is suggested for patients recovering from surgery or protracted illness, to help expand their lungs. Patients are asked to breathe as slowly and deeply as they can into the mouth of the device, causing a ball to rise towards the top of a chamber in the device. The word Shankha in Sanskrit means pacifying the inauspicious and impure. No wonder blowing a conch is a sign of auspiciousness and fills the mind with optimism, willpower and bliss.
Shankh in the Puja Devout readers would know that among the shankhs, the one whose spiral twists rightwards, known as Dakshninavarti or Valampuri shank, is considered the best and auspicious. According to Vastu Sastra, one should place the shankh on the right hand side in the puja room. The conch should be placed in such a way that its open part (mouth) is upwards and the beak is on the side of the worshiper.
The best conch shells are said to be found in India in the sea adjoining Ramesvaram in the south.