Nadi Shodhana front view
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Nadi Shodhana: Alternate nostril breathing for an altered state of mind

This beautiful and cleansing form of Pranayama does exactly what it promises from its Sanskrit origins, with ‘nadi’ meaning ‘channel’, and ‘shodhana’ meaning ‘purification’. It can reduce stress and anxiety, and help to engage and balance both hemispheres of the brain. As discussed in Sama Vritti, the practice of ‘Pranayama’ is to expand/prolong (‘ayama’) the life-force (‘prana’), where the life-force is the breath.

This practice can be a lovely way to get some meditative space in the mind, and some people who may struggle with other forms of meditation can find the gently active component helpful. If you’d like to try it for yourself, here’s how…

Firstly, find a comfortable seat either in Sukhasana or on a chair (with the soles of the feet grounded). Find length through the spine, neck, and out through the crown of the head. Try and soften any areas of tension, relax the shoulders down away from the ears. Take a few cleansing breaths here, breathing in through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth. The eyes can be closed or softly focused. When you are relaxed and comfortable, begin the practice of Nadi Shodhana:

Nadi Shodhana front view
Find a comfortable seat and bring the right hand up to the face

1). Bring the right hand up to the face and place the tips of the index and middle fingers to the third eye space between the brows. You will be using the thumb to close the right nostril and the ring finger to close the left nostril.

2). Inhale steadily and fully and then close the right nostril with the right thumb. Imagine a flow of energy travelling up the right side of the body as you inhale.

3). Exhale completely through the left nostril whilst keeping the right nostril closed. Imagine the flow of energy travelling down the left side of the body as you exhale.

4). Inhale steadily and fully through the left nostril whilst keeping the right nostril closed, imagining the energy coming back up the left side of the body alongside the breath.

Nadi shodhana left side view
Keep the right nostril closed with the thumb as you exhale out of the left nostril

5). Gently release the thumb and allow the right nostril to be open whilst simultaneously closing the left nostril with the right ring finger. The little finger rests against the ring finger.

6). Exhale completely through the right nostril whilst keeping the left nostril closed, once again tuning into the flow of energy travelling down the left side of the body.

7). Inhale steadily and fully through the right nostril whilst keeping the left nostril closed, drawing the breath and the energy up through the right side.

Nadi shodhana right side view
Keep the left nostril closed with the ring/little fingers as you exhale through the open right nostril

8). Gently release the ring/little fingers and allow the left nostril to open whilst simultaneously closing the right nostril with the thumb. Exhale here.

These steps are for one full round of Nadi Shodhana.

Repeat the steps to complete as many rounds as you wish, or if you prefer not to count rounds, continue to breath through alternate nostrils for as long as you wish. Even just 5 minutes can be beneficial, but a longer practice can increase the positive effects.

When you are ready to finish your practice, take a few moments to reflect on how you feel now compared with how you felt at the start of your practice. Take a couple of deep cleansing breaths in through both nostrils, and sigh them out through the mouth. Release the practice.

NOTES:

  • Some people prefer to have the right hand positioned to close the nostrils from underneath the nose. Either way is fine.
  • If the right arm gets tired, just switch arms.
Nadi shodhana under hand placement
Some people prefer to have the hand underneath the nose for closing off the nostrils

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