The balancing breath
Alternative nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhan pranayama” in Sanskrit, is a wonderful breathing technique. A classic part of the yogic tradition, it is practiced to bring the mind into a balanced and calm state.
As with any of the breathing exercises and meditations that we cover in this website, practice is the best way to experience the calming benefits. Nadi Shodhana in particular will allow you to focus on the changes of the breath as you breathe from one nostril to the other. The special technique will keep you busy at first, so enthusiasm and determination is necessary to begin with, but it will be worth it. As you flow into the easy stream of left and right alternative breathing, the mind becomes open and softer.
We recommend everyone to learn this exercise to bring the mind and body into a meditative state, and practice daily to begin with for 6 minutes for 4 weeks to feel the positive effects. This form of breath can be used as a valuable tool for those moments in life when we are under physical and emotional stress.
Pranayama practices such as this, are best done after the physical postures or asana sequences of a yoga session. However, if you have not had the time to do this, it is ok to learn how to do this technique at any moment, as long as you are in a quiet, protected environment such as your bedroom or your own yoga space.
1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position, either in half lotus with the legs crossed or on a chair where you can keep the back nicely straight. You can also sit against a wall.
2. Focus your eyes down toward your heart centre (past the tip of your nose)
4. Place the right thumb gently on the right nostril, closing it. Inhale slowly through the left nostril.
5. Place the right ring finger gently on the left nostril and slowly exhale through the right nostril. Inhale again through the right nostril.
This is one round. Practice for 6 minutes.
- At the end of each inhalation and exhalation, there will be a moment of retention of the breath. Try not to hold the breath too forcefully but rather “suspend” the breath in these in- between moments.
- Be gentle and soft with each breath. Try not to inhale and exhale too quickly, take your time. At the beginning, it might feel awkward but just keep practicing and soon it will become much easier and enjoyable.
- You will notice that one side is more blocked than the other. This is perfectly normal and just do your best to breathe through it. There is a good chance it will clear up as you practice.
- Nadi Shodan pranayama is recommended for agitated and worried minds, insomnia, colds and sinuses issues. In case of severe illness it can also be practiced lying down.