One of the most profound yoga techniques I have had the privilege of learning is Nadi Shodhanam, alternate nostril breathing. I have used this breathing technique for over a decade and it has served me so well – from helping me to quit smoking (no joke!) to keeping my mind balanced and settled on a daily basis.
From the Ayurvedic view, the alternate nostril breath is ideal as we transition into the fall-winter months, as it creates balance by bringing a stability and regularity to an erratic and changing time. Working with the breath and prana (our vital life energy) are powerful tools in working with Vata dosha – the air & ether based organizing energy of the body-mind.
How to practice:
1. Find a comfortable seated position. Please remember that sitting in a chair is completely legal 😉
2. Take a few moments to become aware of your body, breath, emotions, mind and heart.
3. Transition your focus to your breath, and allow the breath to flow naturally.
4. Using the right hand, come into Vishnu mudra – bring the index and middle fingers of the right hand to the base of the thumb. Extend the R thumb and R ring and pinky fingers.
5. Bring your R hand to your face. The R thumb will gently close the R nostril, and the R ring and pinky fingers will gently close the L nostril.
The technique itself – these instructions describe one round:
a) Use the R thumb to gently close the R nostril and inhale in the L nostril.
b) Switch the fingers after the inhalation so the R ring and pinky gently close the L nostril and exhale through the R nostril.
c) Inhale in the R nostril.
d) Switch the fingers and exhale through the L nostril.
As you practice keep the breath gentle, easy and smooth. Remember not to hold or force the breath. Be gentle and kind to yourself as you practice.
Begin by trying 5 rounds, then go back to natural breathing. Over time, work your way up to 5 minutes, even 10 minutes daily.
The benefits of this technique includes:
* Balances and integrates the right and left hemispheres of the brain
* Calms the nervous system and mind
* Reduces stress and anxiety (for most people)
* Develops focus and concentration
* Cultivating a calm, smooth and soothing energy
* Purifies the subtle energy channels of the body-mind (nadis)
Cautions & Contra-indications to be aware of
* Always practice to capacity, if at any point you feel uncomfortable it is time to stop
* Not to be practiced on a full stomach
* Not to be practiced if you have a headache, fever or congestion
If you are unsure of anything as you begin the practice, then connect with a qualified and experienced yoga teacher to get further instruction and personalization of the technique for you.
Enjoy the practice!
Om shanti & prema (deep peace and love),
Mona teaches Ayurvedic Yoga at the Janati Yoga School in Kingston Ontario, where she lives with her wonderful husband, their enthusiastic dog, and ninja kitten. When she’s not teaching, practicing or talking about yoga, you might find her enjoying a good meal, kayaking, climbing a mountain in Ireland, or zip-lining over a forest in Costa Rica, Roatan, or Whistler BC.