Lesson 5: Alternate Nostril Breathing; (Nadi Shodhana)

This style of breathing is a breath manipulation technique that is said to clear the passageways of the body, to make room for our life force to flow through the body unencumbered. This breathing technique requires focus and is often referred to as the Art of Breath Control.

This ancient breathing technique is known in yoga as NadÄ« Shodhana. To get the gist of the practice, one can look at its etymology: In Sanskrit, NadÄ« describes the body’s energy channels, while Shodhana means “to purify or cleanse.”

This breathing technique is used for bringing the body into balance as well as reducing stress and anxiety. By focusing your attention on only breathing through one nostril at a time, the mind and body come into alignment with each other. This breathing technique is also good for regulating the nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

This technique can be practiced for as short as five times on each side or for 10-minutes at a time to fully bring the body into balance and calm the mind. This technique is a great preparation tool for preparing the body and mind to meditate before or after yoga.

A study on this breathing technique shows positive signs of strengthening lung health and reducing respiratory rates. Also showing positive signs for improving cardiovascular health and blood pressure.

Here is how to practice this technique:

  1. Sit in a comfortable seated position.
  2. Press the pointer and middle finger of your right hand together. Place them on the upper bridge of your nose, between the eyebrows, so the thumb falls on the outside of the right nostril and your ring finger is outside your left nostril.
  3. Close your eyes and gently apply pressure to your right nostril using your thumb until it’s closed. Inhale slowly through the left nostril for three counts.
  4. Release the right nostril and gently apply pressure to your left nostril using the ring finger. Exhale slowly through the now-open right nostril for three counts. Then, inhale through the right nostril for three counts.
  5. Release the left nostril, and gently apply pressure to the right nostril again.
  6. Exhale through the left nostril for three counts. This concludes one sequence. (It always starts and finishes on the left side.)
  7. Repeat for up to 10 minutes, or longer if you’re comfortable. You can increase the length of inhales and exhales beyond three seconds- just make sure they are consistent. Keep your pointer and middle finger on the bridge of the nose for the entire practice.
  8. When you are ready, bring your attention and awareness back to the room you are sitting or lying in. When you are ready, wiggle your fingers and toes. With a soft smile on your lips, whenever you are ready you open your eyes. Continuing to feel calm and at peace within.

Once you become comfortable practicing this technique on your own, enhance it by holding your breath after each inhale and exhale for a count of three.

Holding the breath between inhales and exhales strengthens the mind/body connection and brings it into alignment faster.

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