Nadi Shodhana, also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, is a powerful breathing practice with wide-reaching benefits.
It is a simple yet powerful technique that settles the mind, body, and emotions. You can use it to quiet your mind before beginning a meditation practice, and it is particularly helpful to ease racing thoughts if you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or having trouble falling asleep.
Nadi is a Sanskrit word meaning “channel” or “flow” and shodhana means “purification." What blocks the Nadi?
- Nadis can get blocked on account of stress
- Toxicity in the physical body also leads to blockage of nadis
- Nadis can get blocked due to physical and mental trauma
- Unhealthy lifestyle
When the Ida nadi (left nostril) is not functioning smoothly or is blocked, one experiences cold, depression, low mental energy and sluggish digestion, blocked left nostril. Whereas when the Pingala nadi (right nostril) is not smoothly functioning or is blocked, one will experience heat, quick temper and irritation, itching body, dry skin and throat, excessive appetite, excessive physical or sexual energy, and blocked right nostril.
In addition to calming the mind and reversing stress, alternate nostril breathing also:
- Improves our ability to focus the mind
- Supports our lungs and respiratory functions
- Restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the energetic channels
- Rejuvenates the nervous system
- Removes toxins
- Settles stress
Nadi Shodhana is best practiced on an empty stomach. The early morning is an ideal time.
Choose a comfortable sitting position—either cross-legged on the floor (with a cushion or blanket to support the spine), or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Allow your spine to lengthen so that your back, neck, and head are erect throughout the practice. Gently close your eyes.
Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers we’ll be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose. Never breathe from your mouth.
Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
Inhale through the right side slowly.
Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
Do not force the breath or strain in an effort to create a perfect nadi shodhana, rather during your practice allow the pranayama to create itself.
In the short term, this practice can be immensely rewarding, even when practiced for as little as five minutes on a regular basis, but practicing daily for 10–15 minutes offers even deeper benefits.