Nadi (channel / flow) + Shodhana (cleaning / purification)
Nadi Shodhana Definition
Nadi – channel or flow
Shodhana – purification or cleaning
Nadi Shodhana involves blocking one nostril at a time to control the airflow.
Nadi Shodhana Deep Dive
Pranayama practices have been used by yogis throughout history as cleansing practices that help prepare the body for meditation and, ultimately enlightenment.
Pranayama is the practice of restricting, lengthening, or retaining breath and is a great way to focus the mind.
Nadi Shodhana is also known as alternate nostril breathing and is the practice of breathing through one nostril while blocking off the other. This breath practice is said to balance the flow of prana (energy) in the body and bring a sense of calm.
Yogis believe that there are millions of nadis within the body.
These subtle energetic channels are dominated by the three main strands, which are Ida (left), pingala (right), and shushumna (central) which begin at the base of the spine and end at the nostrils. Ida and pingala cross over each other and are overlaid on the shushumna – the central channel.Ida the left nostril is referred to as the moon and pingala, the right nostril is referred to as the sun. Almost always the practice will begin by inhaling through the left nostril. Each nostril comes with additional associations:
- Left Ida Nadi = lunar, feminine, yin, introspection and cooling. It is said that the left nostril relates to the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore has a calming effect including lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
- Right Pingala = solar, masculine, yang, heat, logic and focus. It is associated with the sympathetic nervous system and can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Some state that when there is more right nostril dominance, the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant and when there is more left nostril dominance, the right hemisphere of the brain is more dominant.
Nadi Shodhana Benefits
The benefits of pranayama and breath practices are far reaching and Nadi Shodhana is no exception. Below you’ll find some of the reported benefits of this practice.
- Clears toxins
- Clears respiratory channels
- Quiets the mind and promotes concentration
- Calms the nervous system
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Aids hormone balance
- Is said to promote balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain
- Prepares the mind and body for meditation
- Believed to purify the nadis (subtle energy channels within the body) to promote movement of prana.
Recent studies have shown that alternate nostril breathing can also have an impact on
- The regulation of blood glucose
- A decrease in blood pressure
- Increased heart rate variability (HRV)
Nadi Shodhana In Your Life
How to set up your practice
It is best to practice Nadi Shodhana in a comfortable seated position such as sukhasana (cross legged) but you could practice while sitting on a chair. Prioritise having an erect spine wherever you decide to practice.
Close the eyes or drop the lids a little so that the gaze is soft and peripheral and make sure your environment is quiet and you won’t be distracted.
Some say that it is best to practice pranayama early in the morning but give it a go throughout the day and see what works for you. This is a great way to start or close your yoga or meditation practice but it’s best not to practice on a full stomach.
It’s really important to spend some time before and after the practice assessing how you feel so give yourself a minute or so before and after the practice to check in. Look out for changes in natural breathing rate, feelings of relaxation and pace of mind.
How to practice Nadi Shodhana
- Make sure that your body is as relaxed as possible and if you need to move or support yourself make sure to do this before you begin.
- Take some slow smooth breaths to begin with and let yourself settle. Watch the breath come and go.
- When you are ready place the ring and pinky finger of your right hand over your left nostril and your right thumb on your right nostril. You will use your hand to block off one nostril at a time. Make sure to use a light but secure pressure. The index and middle finger can rest on the palm in Vishnu mudra or on the space in between the eyebrows.
- Inhale through the left nostril by blocking off the right nostril
- Exhale through the right nostril by releasing the right nostril and blocking the left nostril
- Invite a gentle pause at the end of the exhale
- Inhale through the right nostril by blocking off the left nostril
- Exhale through the left nostril by releasing the left nostril and blocking the right
- Return to normal everyday breathing when ready
This is one complete round of Nadi Shodhana alternate nostril breathing. It is important not to force the breath and to stay as relaxed as possible. Try a few rounds to begin with and see how you get on – you can build up to as much as 15 minutes per day
- You can rest your elbow on a cushion if your arm gets tired.
- If, for some reason, you want to practice without the closing off of the nostrils you can do a visual version of Nadi Shodhana. Everything stays the same except you imagine and visualize the breath moving through one nostril and out of the other. This is a good one to do when lying down.
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