Alternative Nostril Breathing is an Ancient Yogic Breathing Exercise
In Yoga literature, ‘Nadi’ translates to a ‘tubular channel’ via which energy or life force flows throughout the body. The chief Nadis are Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Nadi Shuddhi literally translates to ‘Purification of the Invisible Energy Channels’. Co-ordination of these Nadis is said to confer health, strength, mental acumen and longevity of life.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Cleanses and tones the entire nervous system.
- Relieves symptoms of disorders of the respiratory tract
- Reduces stress
- Enhances a feeling of calm.
- Makes Practitioner feel more energetic because of improved oxygenation
- Increases rate of metabolism thus aiding weight loss.
Padmasana (Cross legged lotus posture) or Siddhasana (Perfect Yoga pose for meditation) is recommended for Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama. If traditional yoga postures seem difficult, sitting in a chair is acceptable as long as soles of the feet are on the floor and the back is straight.
Nadi Shuddhi Procedure
Close your eyes or let them relax so they are slightly open. Using either hand, first stretch out your fingers and then bend in your middle and index finger. The thumb and ring fingers are going to be used to close the nostrils alternately to breathe in through one nostril and out through the other.
- While retaining the hand position, block the left nostril (using the ring finger, if you use your right hand), while breathing out through the right nostril.
- Still keeping the left nostril closed, breathe in through the right nostril.
- Now open the left nostril and close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out.
- Keeping the left nostril open, breathe in through the left nostril, then close the left nostril and breathe out through the right side.
- Steps 1-4 comprise one cycle. Repeat 10 cycles to start with. The duration can be increased with increased comfort and practice.
Nadi Suddhi takes some concentration to get the sequence of breathing in and out through the correct nostril. So it keeps mind from wandering and focuses on the breath. It might also be helpful to chant ‘Om’ while doing this exercise to use this as a meditative exercise.
If you are using this breathing technique for a few minutes at the beginning of your meditation session, move on to the even, deep and regular breathing for the rest of your session and close your meditation with a deep breath in and slowly release it. This would help enhance the calming effect of the meditation.
If you have abnormal blood pressure or general breathing issues, consult your physician before undertaking any breathing exercise.