Nadi Shodhana is a yogic breathing technique that aims to balance the flow of energy in the body.
The practice involves breathing in and out through alternate nostrils while blocking the opposite nostril, which stimulates and purifies the nadis, or subtle energy channels, in the body.
Nadi shodhana is an essential practice in traditional Hatha Yoga, and it has numerous benefits, which include reducing stress and anxiety, improving respiratory function, and promoting mental clarity and focus.
In this article, we will explore:
- what Nadi Shodhana means,
- the benefits of practicing Nadi Shodhana pranayama,
- how to practice Nadi Shodhana level 1 and level 2,
- and tips to improve your practice.
What is Nadi Shodhana?
Nadi means subtle energy channel; Shodhana means cleaning, purification. Nadis are subtle energy channels within the deeper layers of your body that can get blocked due to various reasons, such as stress, toxicity in the physical body, or mental trauma.
These can be likened to rivers that irrigate your body.
When these rivers are blocked, you’re not able to function fully and be your best self. Of all of the hundreds of rivers that irrigate you, the three nadis that are the most important are the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.
By breathing through alternate nostrils, Nadi Shodhana helps clear any blockages in the Ida and Pingala energy channels, restoring balance throughout the body, mind and spirit.
What Are The Symptoms Of Blocked Nadis?
When the Ida nadi is not functioning smoothly or is blocked, this can manifest in the form of a cold, sluggish digestion, feeling depressed, experiencing low mental energy or congestion in the left nostril.
On the other hand, when there is an imbalance or blockage in the Pingala nadi, this may manifest in the form of excessive heat in the body, excessive physical or sexual energy, anger, impatience and irritation, dry skin and throat, itchiness at certain areas of the body, excessive appetite, or congestion in the nostril.
5 Benefits of practicing Nadi Shodhana pranayama
Both basic and advanced nadi shodhana practices have numerous benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health.
Here are some of the benefits of practicing nadi shodhana:
#1: Reduces stress and anxiety:
As you go about your day, triggers from the external world can propel you into “fight or flight” mode even if you’re not in imminent danger. This is a result of your sympathetic nervous system, the part of your body responsible for this function, which also activates when you’re under stress.
Nadi shodhana helps to calm the mind and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. The slow, deep breaths increase oxygen flow to the brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers the relaxation response in the body.
When your body is in this relaxed state, it can rest, digest and restore, which are crucial functions empowering healing and repair at a cellular and overall level.
#2: Improves respiratory function:
Unsurprisingly, as a pranayama technique, Nadi shodhana can help to improve respiratory function and increase lung capacity. It’s been shown to improve cardiorespiratory function, enhancing the way your heart and lungs work together to make sure you’re receiving enough oxygen.
The deep, rhythmic breathing can help to clear the airways and improve oxygen exchange in the body. Studies have shown that Nadi Shodhana even helps competitive swimmers maintain respiratory endurance while swimming in the water.
#3: Promotes mental clarity and focus:
One study found that nadi shodhana helps to clear the mind and promote mental clarity and focus by decreasing blood pressure and increasing alertness. This pranayama technique can help to improve concentration, performance and increase productivity.
#4: Enhances immune function:
Nadi shodhana can help to enhance immune function and improve overall health. The practice can help to reduce inflammation in the body and boost the immune system.
#5: Balances the nadis:
As we’ve explored in the earlier section, Nadi shodhana helps to balance the flow of energy in the body and stimulate the nadis, or subtle energy channels. This can help to improve overall health and wellbeing.
Best time to practice Nadi Shodhana:
Nadi shodhana can be done at any time of day, but it’s best to practice on an empty stomach or at least two hours after eating.
As Nadi Shodhana restores calm and improves alertness, it may be preferred to practice this at least 2 hours prior to bedtime, instead of immediately before bed.
How to do Level 1: Basic Nadi Shodhana
The basic nadi shodhana practice is simple and can be performed by anyone, regardless of whether they are a beginner or experienced practitioner of Yoga or Pranayama. Here is how to do it:
- 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.
- 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.
- Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then use your ring finger to close your left nostril. Exhale slowly through your right nostril.
- Inhale through your right nostril, then close it with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril. This completes one round of nadi shodhana. Repeat the process for several rounds, switching nostrils after each inhale and exhale.
How to do Level 2: Advanced Nadi Shodhana
The advanced nadi shodhana practice builds on the basic technique from level 1 and requires more focus and concentration.
The main difference is that the inhalation is only through the left nostril and exhalation through the right nostril for 20 rounds. Then this process is repeated for another 20 rounds where the inhalation is through your right nostril and exhalation through your left nostril.
Here is how to do it:
- Sit in a comfortable seated position with your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Place your left hand on your left knee with your palm facing up, and bring your right hand to your face. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax your body and mind.
- Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then use your ring finger to close your left nostril. Exhale slowly through your right nostril. Repeat this cycle for another 19 times.
- When you complete 20 rounds, allow your breathing to return to normal for about 2-3 minutes. Then repeat the entire process, instead, this time inhale only through your right nostril, and exhale only through your left nostril. Repeat this cycle for 20 times in total.
- At the end of the cycle, release the technique and allow your breathing to slowly return to normal.
7 Tips for practicing Nadi Shodhana Level 1 and Level 2:
If you are new to alternate nostril breathing, you might find it challenging or difficult. Keeping in mind these 7 tips can help you improve your experience as you continue your practice:
- Take slow, deep breaths and try to make them as smooth and even as possible.
- Use gentle pressure on your nostrils to avoid straining or causing discomfort.
- Keep your attention focused on your breath and try to be present in the moment.
- Practice for at least five minutes and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the technique.
- If you get confused with the order of which nostril to inhale and which to exhale from, remember this rule of thumb: The inhale and exhale is through the opposite nostril. When you breathe in through your left, you breathe out through your right; when you breathe in through your right, you breathe out through your left. And whenever a nostril isn’t in use for an inhale or an exhale, it should be gently held shut with your finger or your thumb.
- Start with Nadi Shodhana Level 1 first, practice it routinely until you feel comfortable and attain a certain degree of competency at it. Then when you feel ready to progress on to Level 2, you can try it.
- This technique, especially Nadi Shodhana Level 2 can be challenging at first, so don’t get discouraged if you find it difficult to coordinate your breath and finger movements. With practice, you will become more comfortable with the technique.
Nadi Shodhana is a powerful breathing technique that can have numerous benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, incorporating Nadi Shodhana pranayama into your daily practice can help to improve your overall well-being.
By following the basic and advanced techniques outlined in this article, you can experience the benefits of nadi shodhana and improve your health and wellbeing. Remember to be patient and consistent with your practice, and enjoy the journey of exploring the power of your breath.