“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray
When it seems impossible to stay focused at work or school, or you’re trying to center the mind at the beginning of your yoga or meditation practice, or perhaps you find yourself in need a short break from the daily grind and are in search of some grounding energy, alternate nostril breathing is the way to go. It’s the perfect way to move inward and center the mind, body, and spirit.
Alternate Nostril Breath, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Pronounced: nah-dee show-DAH-nah / prah-nah-YAH-mah
Origin: Nadi means “channel” or “flow,” and shodhana translates to “cleansing” or “purifying.”
Type of Yoga Practiced In: Nadi Shodhana can be practiced in all forms of yoga and most definitely in your personal practice. It’s also a good technique for calming oneself throughout the day.
Benefits: Much like other breath techniques, Nadi Shodhana fills the body with fresh oxygen, but has a cooling effect, unlike Breath of Fire or Lions Breath, which heats the body and increases energy levels. The most noticeable benefit of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is its effects on the mind. As it clears out blockages throughout the energy channels (nadis) in the body, it calms the mind and brings awareness into the present moment.
The alternate nostril breathing balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain and also helps with circulatory and respiratory issues. It is said to lower the heart rate, while releasing stress, fatigue, and anxiety. You may notice the gentle flow of prana (life energy) flowing through the nadis (channels) in the body and a cooling sensation when done correctly.
- Find a comfortable seat. You may want to lean against a wall or sit in a chair. It’s important that you find ultimate comfort before practicing meditation and pranayama. Sit tall, lengthening the spine and softening the shoulders. Relax the muscles in your face and throat. Begin deep breathing in and out through the nose. Take a few minutes to release any stagnant energy in the body and establish a deep sense of awareness of the breath and body.
- To begin Nadhi Shodhana find Mrigi mudra by bringing the pointer and middle finger of the right hand together and into to palm. Bring the ring and pinky fingers together and straighten them up as much as possible.
- Your right thumb will hold the right nostril closed as you inhale through the left nostril. Release the right thumb and hold closed the left nostril as you exhale out the right nostril. Understand why we call it, “alternate nostril breathing?” Continue this, inhaling through right nostril with left nostril held closed by pink and ring finger. Upon your exhale, press the thumb gently onto the right nostril, exhaling out the left nostril. That is one round or cycle.
- Practice this for five to 10 rounds. Notice the soothing and calming effects even within the first few rounds. Remember to keep your inhales and exhales of even length!
Length of Practice: Nadi Shodhan can be practiced anytime throughout your day. It’s good to do on an empty stomach, so early morning is great. You can also practice before bed to calm down for a good night’s sleep. I find it’s a great way to prepare for a slower yoga practice, like yin, yoga Nidra, or restorative. Try five to 10 rounds until you feel comfortable to practice longer and eventually work up to a few minutes.
Speed of Practice: The length of inhalations and exhalations should be even in length and speed. Since this is a cooling and centering breath technique, take it slow. The slower and deeper the breath, the better.
Recommended Asana: Try alternate nostril breathing seated with legs crossed, lotus pose, or sitting on the heels.
Fun Facts: Use this breath technique to help with allergies!