Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) is a breathing technique designed to balance the body's subtle energy. According to yogic tradition, the body is home to many subtle channels of energy (similar to the meridian system in Chinese medicine). Two of the primary channels, ida and pingala, run along the spine and terminate in the nostrils. Ida, which terminates in the left nostril, governs the pacifying and lunar energy of the body. Pingala, which terminates in the right nostril, governs the activating and solar energy of the body. By balancing the flow of breath into the nostrils, these energies are brought into balance, which helps prepare the body for meditation.
Steps to Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
As with any pranayama practice, pause the practice if you feel anxious, out of breath, or light-headed. Pranayama should have a calming effect on the body. Take your time and work at your own pace.
1. Grab a tissue! Blow your nose first to clear any mucus and congestion.
2. Make a pincher grip with your right hand by tucking your index and middle finger into your palm. Bring your thumb and ring finger to lightly rest just below the bridge of your nose.
3. Find a tall seat, positioning your rib cage over your pelvis. Good alignment will help the diaphragm (the primary muscle of respiration) to work well. Relax the face, neck, throat, jaw, and shoulders.
4. Inhale naturally.
5. Exhale completely.
6. Close and block your right nostril and inhale through the left.
7. Close and block both, then exhale through the right.
8. Inhale through the right.
9. Close and block both, then exhale through the left.
10. This is one round.
11. Repeat for six rounds.
12. Release your nose, sit tall, and take a few natural breaths.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama can be a very soothing practice for the nervous system and is excellent for reducing stress. You can practice it on its own, or as a precursor to a seated meditation practice.