What is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Yogic scriptures promote Nadi Shodhana, or alternate-nostril breathing, as a practice that can help calm the mind and the body. It is also known as the “channel-clearing breath” as it aims to open and clear the body’s central channel. In Sanskrit, Nadi means channel, and these allow “Prana” – also known as the life force – to flow throughout our bodies to support every cell. You can view Nadis as our body’s irrigation system. When our Nadis are clear and open, the Prana can flow smoothly, energizing our state and keeping us healthy. When our Nadi’s are clogged, we feel lethargic and contract illness and disease.
There are three main Nadi channels in yoga: the sun or Pingala (connected to the right side of our bodies and heat), the moon or Ida ( connected to the left side of our bodies and cold), and the central channel, also known as Sushumna or Avadhuti, uses both the left and the right channels. The central channel is connected to our thoughts and pure flow. Once the channel is activated and our minds are clear, we can connect to our central channel and be more conscious.
If you have ever felt that your life is out of balance, start by being aware of your channels. Usually, every 90 minutes, the strength of your breath alternates between the left and right nostrils. At first, the left is the clearest and easier to breathe through, which will change throughout the day with the right nostril. If you notice that your left is frequently blocked, Nadi Shodhana breathwork can help you balance the two to be more even used and balance the external factors of your life.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Steps
Before starting the practice, find a nice place where you will not be disturbed and clear your sinus with a nasal wash or simply blowing your nose.
- Find a friendly, comfortable, seated position and keep your spine straight and lifted.
- To begin, take your thumb and block the right nostril while inhaling through the left.
- Next, take a full breath through the left and then gently close the left nostril with the ring and little fingers.
- Let go of the right thumb from the right nostril and exhale through the right.
- Finally, switch your finger and block the left nostril. Breathe in through the right and exhale out the left. You have now completed one round of Nadi Shodhana.
- Repeat this whole cycle for at least ten rounds, and aim to continue it for up to fifteen minutes to gain the most benefits of the practice.
If you would like to combine the breathwork with mudras, here are some suggestions:
- Left hand: Chin or jnana mudra
- Right hand: Nasika mudra
You can also try to visualize the breathwork as you practice. Imagine you see the air passing through the open nostril and see it move between your eyebrows. When you exhale, connect to your emotions. If you feel angry, tired, or have a cold, try to expel the negative energy during the exhalation. When you inhale, think of positive emotions such as love, power, calmness, or whatever you feel your body and mind need.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Benefits
Are you wondering how precisely this alternate breathing brings the body back into balance and helps calm the inner turmoil?
- It helps to calm the cardiovascular system composed of the heart, arteries, capillaries, and veins. It is the part of our system that delivers oxygen and nutrients to our bodily tissue. Although the practice does not increase oxygen, it does contribute to keeping lower blood pressure and reduce your heart rate.
- It activates the vagus nerve and releases transmitters such as Acetylcholine from the neurons, which targets tissue and helps us relax.
- When practiced without retention, it can help pregnant women balance their emotions.
- It improves lung capacity through training.
- Your mind becomes still and lucid, allowing calmness and purification to encompass you.
- It enhances concentration & clear thinking by balancing and synchronizing the left and right sides of the brain hemispheres.
- It helps release stored tension and fatigue. Try it in the morning to wake you up, and you will see how activated you are without even a cup of coffee.
- It is practical training for attaining deep meditation.
Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama Precaution
It is best not to do this practice if:
- You are in the middle of your menstruation cycle.
- You are pregnant
- You have very high or shallow blood pressure
- You have a heart condition
- You suffer from vertigo or epilepsy