Nadi Shodhana: How to Practice Alternative Nostril Breathing
Pranayama is the science of yogic breathing, it is the control and extension of breath which awakens prana. Prana refers to the energy that comes from all life making the word mean “the breath expansion of life force”. Yamas means “reining in or control, self restraints”. Using breath as a tool helps you reconnect to your body reducing chatter of the mind allowing clarity and relaxation.
Pranayama requires to master these four aspects of the breath:
+ Breath retention after exhalation
+ Breath Retention after inhalation
Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing technique, is a powerful pranayama (breathing) practice with many benefits including easing a busy mind or having trouble falling asleep. Nadi a Sanskrit word meaning “channel” or “flow” and the word Shodhana means “purification”. Breathing through each side of nasal cavity to help centre and balance circulation flow.
Benefits of Alternative Nostril Breathing:
There are many forms of Nadi Shodhana but this form is my favourite. Most deep breathing exercises are best done on an empty stomach but can also be done when it is needed. Start with a few deep inhales followed by a calm and slow exhale. A minimum of 5 breaths like this is used to awaken your inner energy. Once this breathing pattern feels relaxed and natural then start the Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). With one minute of intentional breathing release stress and tension. With five minutes switch your body into rest and digest mode. On a physical level, focused breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a sense of calm decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
In addition to stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system with regular practice of Nadi Shodhana also:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Helps balance hormones
Balances masculine and feminine energies
Helps alleviate respiratory allergies
Fosters mental clarity and an alert mind
Enhances the ability to concentrate and focus
Supports lungs and respiratory functions
Next time you find yourself doing too many things all at once, or you sense panic or anxiety begin to rise, move through a few rounds of alternative nostril breathing. It’s a great way to hit the reset button for your mental state.
Nadi Shodhana Practice:
- Find a comfortable seated position
- Place your left on your left knee with your palm open to the sky (or in a preferred mudras)
- Right Hand: folding your index and middle fingers down towards the centre of your palm at the base of your thumb. Aligning the pinky finger and the ring finger together. Your thumb is used to close off the right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers are used to close off the left nostril.
- Starting with your thumb closing off the your right nostril exhaling slowly out your left nostril.
- Keeping the thumb on your right nostril now inhale through the left nostril
- Switching nostrils press your pinky and ring fingers on the left side and exhale gently then inhale on the same side completing cycle one of Nadi Shodhana.
- Switch to blocking the right nostril and continue for 5-10 cycles allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
Steps 4 to 6 represent one complete cycle of alternative breathing. If you are moving through the sequence slowly, one full cycle should take 30-40 seconds.
Tips: Consistency of length of inhales, exhales and pauses can achieve better results. For example as you inhale count to five, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and hold for 5 seconds. You can slowly increase your count as you continue to practice.