Calm your nerves with Nadi Shodhana – Alternate Nostril Breathing (Video below).
Nadi Shodhana is a great breath exercise to help calm your mind and ease anxiety.
Known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Nadi Shodhana is a pranayama (breath exercise) that purifies the subtle energy channels of the body.
The sanskrit word “Nadi” means subtle energy channels, and Shuddha, as in “Shodhana” means purification or to purify. So, Nadi shodhana means to purify the subtle energy channels of the body.
What are Nadis?
Nadis are subtle energy channels in the body that can not be seen by the common eye.
Much like nerves they wrap around the inner network, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
When the Nadis are blocked, unease and health issues occur. When the Nadis are clear the vital energy can flow freely, circulating throughout the body and making you feel healthy, balanced and content.
An Easy Pranayama Practice
Nadi Shodhana is a fairly simple exercise that can be done anytime.
It is also a wonderful technique to use in the beginning or at the end of a yoga practice.
A seasoned yoga practitioner may practice this technique everyday in preparation for their meditation.
What is Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)?
Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, is a technique of breathing in through one nostril and out through the other. This process balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Hence it also balances out the left and right side body.
A more advanced version will ask the veteran practitioner to hold the breath in between nostril transitions, which is called breath retention, but beginners may move back and forth between nostrils without pause.
It is said that inhaling through the left nostril will induce a relaxation response which relates to the parasympathetic nervous system, while inhaling through the right nostril helps invigorate you stimulating the sympathetic nervous system.
Understand Your Natural Breathing Process
In order to practice Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), or any pranayama correctly, it is essential that you have a clear understanding of your own natural breathing process.
Many people tend to take shallow breaths throughout the day, not using the lungs to its full capacity.
When you are breathing properly your lungs expand fully and your belly moves in and out. To get a clearer understanding of your own own natural breath, practice this exercise first.
- Lie on your back with your eyes closed.
- To relax, first take three cleansing breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth. You can sigh if you like.
- Let your body soften to the ground on every exhale releasing all tension from your body.
- Now you will begin breathing in and out through your nose only. Your lips can touch or stay slightly open. Soften your jaw.
- Bring your attention and awareness to to your breath, flowing in and out through your nostrils.
- Feel the breath enter the throat and move down into the lungs.
- Observe the lungs expanding and the belly rising with each inhale.
- Feel the stomach lower on the exhale. The lungs contract as the body releases air back up through the nostrils.
- Continue to watch the natural flow of the breath for 5 to ten minutes.
When you feel comfortable with your breath awareness you are ready to practice Nadi Shodhana.
Benefits of Nadi Shodhana
The practice of Nadi Shodhana has many benefits. Here are 5 of my favorites.
1. Reduces Mind Clutter
It is said the breath is the physical counterpart of the mind. When we slow down the breath we slow down the mind. If the mind is bouncing from thought you will notice the breath is shallow and short. In Nadi Shodhana we lengthen the breath which helps the mind calm down and create more clarity to be actually present, in the world.Slowing down the breath and focusing on it makes us live in the present. Living in the present
2. Improves Mental Focus and Concentration
During Nadi Shuddhi, we try to keep our attention and awareness on the breath. Being focused on the breath brings us into the present moment disapating away the worries of the past and the future. By doing this we practice becoming someone who can concentrate on something without the barading of unnecessary jibber jabber pulling you away from your focus. Practice will only strengthen your focus.
3. Energy Boost
Nadi Shodhana Invites oxygen into your body which gives you more energy. It also calms down all of the tiring muscle tension that is making you feel lethargic and takes away from your energy in the first place.
4. Removes Toxins
Alternate nasal breathing will open blocked up channels in the body and help you release stuck toxins that cannot move because of the blockages.
5. Preparation for Meditation and Other Pranayama Practices
Nadi Shodhana will bring you right to the place that you need to be in your meditation. Calm centered and ready to receive.
How to Practice Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Come to a comfortable seat. You can sit in a crossed legged position on the floor or sit upright in a chair.
Bring your attention to your breath, in and out through your nostrils.
There are two options in the hand held position. .
Make peace fingers with your right index finger and middle finger.
Place them on your third eyes, right above the center of your eyebrows.
You will move back and forth closing your right nostril with your right thumb and left nostril with your left ring finger. The pinky finger glues itself to the ring finger
Fold your right pointer finger and middle finger into the thumb pad of the palm. Use your right thumb to close the left nostril and again glued the pinker and right finger together to close of the left nostril.
After you have chosen the hand position you feel comfortable with, begin.
Remember to breathe into your lungs and naturally expand your belly with each breath.
- Take one round of breath. Blow your nose if you need to.
- Close off the next right nostril and inhale for a count of 3, 4, 5, or 6 through the left nostril.
- Close off the left nostril and exhale out the right nostril for the same count.
- Inhale through the right nostril for the same count.
- Close off the right nostril.
- Exhale through the left nostril.
- That is one round, but repeat for 5-10 rounds.
When you have finished Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) take a moment to pause and enjoy your new found state of being. Feel free to stay here and go right to meditation.