A few weeks ago I had an Ayurvedic Consult, and one of the things that was prescribed to me was a pranayama called alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana.
Nadi Shodhana means nerve cleansing in sanskrit, and pranayama means the extension of prana (life force).
There are many pranayama techniques, and some can be quite intense, but Nadi Shodhana is simple enough for anyone to access, and if you’re busy like me, it’s all you really need since it works with balancing the chakras and clearing the mind.
It’s also incredibly calming, so it’s just as much a meditation technique as it is a breathing practice.
Anyone can do it! Let’s Begin:
(scroll down for video)
1. Begin in a comfortable, cross-legged position. Sit up straight, and do a quick scan of your body. Let go of any tension that you may feel paying close attention to your jaw, forehead, shoulders, and chest. Let go of any tension in your stomach. If you’re pulling your stomach in, let it go. This is especially hard for most people since we carry a lot of stress and nervousness in the pit of the stomach and spend a large portion of the day sucking the stomach in.
2. Bring your hands to Vishnu Mudra. In this mudra the right hand (masculine) is used as it is associated with giving while the left (feminine) is associated with receiving.
3. Exhale completely. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
4. Inhale deep and steady through your left nostril.
5. At the top of your inhalation, close your left nostril with the ring & pinky finger of your right hand as you release the right nostril. Make sure not to release the right nostril until you have closed the left!
6. Exhale through your right nostril.
8. Seal your right nostril again with your thumb, then release your left nostril.
9. Exhale out of your left nostril.
10. You should now be in the original position, with your thumb sealing your right nostril. This is one round.
Do this for just 15 minutes a day to clear and calm the mind!
A few notes for practice:
- Set a stopwatch so that you don’t have to always look at a clock.
- Keep your eyes closed so that you do not open them to look at the time.
- Always exhale first – Always switch on the exhale – Always end on the exhale. Simple enough right?
- When the timer goes off, finish off the round on the exhale.
- Keep a steady inhale and exhale trying to expand the breath, and making sure they are the same length through both nostrils.
- Scan the body: where are you tight? Do you tense your shoulders? Do you feel nervousness in your chest? Are you hips sore?
- Be aware of your thoughts: Are you anxious about a situation? Are you impatient waiting for time to run out?
- Be aware of all of these thoughts in your mind and feelings in the body as you breathe. Don’t act on them, just be aware and watch the ebb and flow.
- Don’t analyze your thoughts and feelings too deeply. You might notice you have pain in a specific area, for example your left shoulder, and want to identify that with something. Don’t spend time Googling “what does the left shoulder mean” because too much analyzation can actually cause anxiety, but if you continue to practice then everything you need to know will gradually unfold! Just breathe and be aware! Besides, we all carry our energy and emotions in different places, so you’re going to have to work with your own mind.
- Your goal is just 15 minutes! As time goes on, feel free to increase it!
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing:
The left nostril, and left side of the body represents the feminine and the moon. The Right nostril, and right side of the body represents the masculine and the sun. We tend to favor one energy over another.
Check right now: Close your left nostril and try to breathe out the right. Now do the same on the other side. Which one could you breathe out of easier? Nadi Shodhana helps to circulate breath through the nadis (nerves) and chakras, to the brain, and bring us back to balance.
By doing this daily and over time:
- You will learn to expand the breath and strengthen the lungs
- Clear the sinuses
- Calm the mind
- You will naturally balance your hormones
- You will develop patience by learning to sit with your breath for 15 minutes
- Learn to use breath to control stress. You will have to do that during your practice, so you will apply it outside of practice.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases heart rate.
You can practice this at any time of the day, and either before or after your asana practice. Just schedule it in and let me know how it’s working for you!