If you have a regular Yoga practice, you will sooner or later stumble upon Nadi Shodana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing. It´s an ancient breathing (pranayama) technique to free the energy lines of the body, the so-called “nadis” and bring fresh energy to the nervous system. It is a tool to regulate your breathing and effectively cleanse your body. A well-regulated body will shine from the inside to the outside.
You don´t need to be a Yogi to do alternate nostril breathing. Even without doing Yoga it can be very beneficial, if you integrate it in your daily schedule.
How does it work?
Resting in a seated position, with the legs cross legged or seated in a chair with the back straight, you put your left hand onto your left knee or in your lap. Close your eyes.
Take your right hand to your nose, resting your index finger and middle finger in your palm. Exhale completely and close your right nostril with your thumb.
Take a deep breath in with your left nostril, slowly counting to four. Once you have taken the air in, you close the left nostril with your ring finger and open up the right nostril to breathe out the air at the same counting (4).
Now you breath in through your right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed with your ring finger. Close off your right nostril with your thumb and release the breathing through the left. This is one cycle.
Repeat this pattern 5 to 10 times, before you release your right hand to your knee and ease back to normal breathing. Take at least 5 normal breath, before you open your eyes and return to life.
There are further techniques and combinations with breath retention, which can be best learned from a trained pranayama teacher.
What are the benefits?
With alternate nostril breathing you balance both hemispheres of the brain and bring an overall balance to the body. It increases your serenity, concentration and leads to a peaceful and harmonious state of mind.
It is a good tool to emotionally balance insecurities and anxieties as well as harmonizing the body functions.
The cleaning of the nadis (the energy lines in the body) can help prevent colds, allergies and stabilizes the breathing. It optimizes the lung capacity and can be seen as cardiovascular training.
Nadi Shodana is a safe breathing technique for most of us. If you are suffering from high blood pressure or shortness of breathing it is advisable to contact a trained Pranayama (breathwork) or accordingly trained Yoga teacher before you start with alternate nostril breathing. Also talk to your doctor, if you suffer from medical condition such as asthma, COPD, or any other lung or heart concerns.
Nadi Shodana Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing is not only a relaxation technique, but in an important tool to cleanse the body and prevent infections. Pranayama or breathwork is one of the most important Yogic sciences to regulate your breath and calm the body to increase its self-healing capacities and overall wellbeing.
Increasing the awareness of your breathing can help to increase the awareness in other parts of your life, too.
You can integrate your Nadi Shodana practice at any time of the day. It can be helpful to relax your brain before an important meeting or to calm your energies after finishing a demanding task, before you go back to your family. Throughout the day, we have to switch between different functions and tasks – alternate nostril breathing can help us to relax and stay energized.
I normally include Nadi Shodana in my daily morning yoga practice or as part of my daily meditation. Often, I also include it in my 5 minutes evening stretch to release the energies of the day and prepare my body and mind to sleep.
„When the breath is unsteady, all is unsteady; when the breath is still; all is still. Control the breath carefully. Inhalation gives strength and a controlled body; retention gives steadiness of mind and longevity; exhalation purifies body and spirit.“