Anulom Vilom Pranayama: 7 Simple Steps for Focus & Calm 

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Anulom Vilom Pranayama is a simple yet powerful Yogic breathing technique that has been practiced in India for centuries.

It is a form of pranayama that involves alternating nostril breathing, which is believed to help balance the body’s energy and promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is Anulom Vilom?
  • Anulom Vilom benefits
  • Differences from Nadi Shodhana
  • How to practice Anulom Vilom & 5 tips
yogi practicing Anulom Vilom Pranayama

What is Anulom Vilom Pranayama?

Anulom Vilom Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a pranayama technique that involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time while closing the other nostril with the fingers. 

Anu roughly translates as with and Loma means hair implying “with the grain” or “natural”, and as such may sometimes be called ‘with the grain’, or ‘following the grain’. It is the opposite of Viloma Pranayama which means against the grain.

This breathing exercise is designed to balance the flow of energy in the body, which is believed to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Anulom Vilom Benefits

Anulom Vilom Pranayama offers a wide range of benefits for both the body and mind. Here are some of the most notable Anulom Vilom benefits for practitioners:

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Anulom Vilom Pranayama has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by calming the mind and body.

It promotes relaxation, which helps to reduce feelings of tension and anxiety. Practicing this pranayama technique regularly can also improve your overall mental well-being by reducing symptoms of depression and promoting a sense of calm.

In a 2013 study conducted with medical students, there were two groups who underwent an intervention for six weeks. One group practiced Anulom Vilom and Bhastrika Bellows breathing, another type of pranayama.

The other group practiced Surya Namaskar, and the two groups were monitored for any changes to their overall well-being and stress levels. 

Though groups improved their general well-being, only the group that practiced pranayama including Anulom Vilom saw significant improvements in cognition and anxiety, demonstrating the benefits of it in reducing stress and improving performance. 

yogis doing anjali mudra at yoga class

2. Improves Respiratory Function

Anulom Vilom Pranayama is a great way to improve respiratory function. It strengthens the lungs, enhances lung capacity, and increases oxygen supply to the body.

Practicing this breathing technique regularly can also help to alleviate symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

Research has shown that practicing Anulom Vilom Pranayama for 30 minutes a day can improve your respiratory function if you are affected by rhinosinusitis, or sinus inflammation, a condition that interferes with your ability to drain mucus from your nose and sinuses.

3. Improves Heart Health

Anulom Vilom Pranayama has been shown to improve heart health by reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving circulation.

This pranayama technique also helps to reduce the risk of heart disease by promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

4. Enhances Concentration, Focus and Performance

Anulom Vilom Pranayama can improve your concentration and focus by calming the mind and reducing distractions.

yogi practicing pranayama

Studies have also shown that practicing Anulom Vilom can improve sensory motor performance and enhanced processing ability of the central nervous system.

As such, this pranayama technique can be especially useful for students and professionals who need to concentrate and perform for specific periods.

5. Boosts Immunity

Anulom Vilom Pranayama boosts immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells in the body. These cells help to fight off infections and diseases, keeping you healthy and free from illness.

Furthermore, research has suggested Anulom Vilom, along with other types of Yogic pranayama, could improve neurocognitive, psychophysiological, biochemical, and metabolic functions in healthy people.

How is Anulom Vilom Different from Nadi Shodhana?

Anulom Vilom Pranayama and Nadi Shodhana are both pranayama techniques that are often confused or thought to be similar. Though both Anulom Vilom and Nadi Shodhana involve alternate nostril breathing, there are some key differences between the two.

In Anulom Vilom, there is no need to hold your breath.

two yogis meditating together

Whereas, in Nadi Shodhana, there is a pause between the inhale and exhale, and a pause between the exhale and the next inhale, which are called retention (holding the breath) and suspension (holding the emptiness after exhaling).

Nadi Shodhana is also known as “alternate nostril breathing,” but compared to Anulom Vilom it is considered to be a more advanced form of pranayama that involves breathing through one nostril at a time, interspersed by holding the breath.

This technique is designed to clear the nasal passages and balance the body’s energy flow. Nadi Shodhana is typically practiced after Anulom Vilom Pranayama, as a way to further balance the body’s energy.

Anulom Vilom Pranayama, on the other hand, is a more basic pranayama technique that involves inhaling and exhaling through alternate nostrils, without the focus on breath retention which is done in Nadi Shodahana.

Because of this, Anulom Vilom is often practiced as a precursor before Nadi Shodhana. It is a great starting point for beginners who want to improve their respiratory function and reduce stress.

Best time to Practice Anulom Vilom Pranayama

Ideally, Anulom Vilom should be done on an empty stomach, preferably at least 4 hours after you’ve eaten.

It should also be practiced in a cool, comfortable and conducive environment. For maximum benefits, the best time to practice any pranayama is two hours before sunrise to one hour after sunrise.

7 Steps to Practice Anulom Vilom Pranayama:

Now that we have discussed the benefits of Anulom Vilom Pranayama and how it differs from Nadi Shodhana, let’s take a look at the steps to practice this pranayama technique:

Step 1:

Sit in a comfortable seated position with your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. You can sit on a cushion or a folded blanket if it makes you more comfortable. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax your body and mind.

Step 2:

Place your left hand on your left knee with your palm facing up.

Bring your right hand to your face and place the tips of your index and middle fingers on your forehead between your eyebrows, also known as the third eye, or Anja chakra.

Step 3:

Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and inhale deeply and fully through your left nostril. 

Step 4:

Use your ring finger to close your left nostril. Exhale slowly through your right nostril.

Step 5:

Inhale deeply and fully through your right nostril, then close your right nostril with your thumb. 

Step 6:

Exhale slowly through your left nostril. This completes one round of Anulom Vilom Pranayama. 

Step 7:

Repeat the process from Steps 3-6 for several rounds for around 5-10 minutes, then slowly release your palm on your lap and allow your breathing to return to normal, through both nostrils.

From here you can transition to Nadi Shodhana pranayama, meditation or anything else you wish to do. 

If you are a beginner, it is recommended to start with 5-10 minutes as your practice duration, then gradually increase the length of your practice as you become more comfortable with it.

yogis practicing pranayama together

Tips for Practicing Anulom Vilom Pranayama

If you are new to Anulom Vilom Pranayama, it can be tricky. Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind to help you practice this Pranayama technique more effectively:

  • Breathe deeply and fully: To get the most out of this pranayama technique, it is important to breathe deeply and fully. Take long, slow breaths and focus on filling your lungs with air.
  • Use your fingers gently: When practicing Anulom Vilom Pranayama, use your fingers to close and open your nostrils. This will help you maintain a steady rhythm and prevent air from leaking out of your nostrils.

Avoid straining your fingers or applying too much pressure on your nostrils with your fingers. Instead, maintain a light touch. 

  • Practice regularly: To experience the full benefits of Anulom Vilom Pranayama, it is important to practice it regularly. Aim to practice for at least 5-10 minutes a day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the technique.
  • Practice in a conducive, quiet space: To help you focus and relax, practice Anulom Vilom Pranayama in a quiet, peaceful space where you will not be disturbed.
  • Listen to your body: As with any form of exercise or meditation, it is important to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. If you feel uncomfortable or dizzy, take a break and resume when you feel ready.
yogi practicing pranyama

Anulom Vilom is a simple yet powerful pranayama technique that offers a wide range of benefits for both the body and mind.

Practicing this breathing exercise regularly can reduce stress and anxiety, improve respiratory function, boost heart health, enhance concentration and focus, and boost immunity.

Remember to practice regularly and listen to your body to get the most out of this powerful technique.

If you liked this article, why not check out our article on Bhramari Pranayama?

Photo of author
Wenlin is a Women’s Well-being Coach, Qigong and Yoga specialist for women and Red School Menstruality Mentor who is passionate about empowering working women to overcome overwhelm to find flow, ease and joy in their life. Wenlin brings with her over 15 years experience working at the intersection of mindfulness, creativity, psychology and wellness, with over 3,000 hours of training and 8 years of experience supporting women across Asia, Europe and the USA. If you want to learn how to find more flow and ease in your life, Wenlin is here to support you.

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