Breathing exercises, known as pranayama form an essential part of yogic practices. There is a saying in yoga that it is not the number of years lived which determines the length of your life, but the number of breaths taken! Therefore it is a good idea for you, to learn to breathe correctly, in order to reduce your stress levels and to use your breath to calm down, relax and quiet your mind, body and spirit. Out of all the yoga breathing exercises, the one which brings the most relief is often considered to be Alternate Nostril Breathing, known for creating a sense of peace and balance if practiced regularly.
What Is Alternate Nostril Breathing?
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhan) is a classic yogic breathing exercise and often practiced at the end of a yoga lesson prior to relaxation stage or period of meditation. It’s a wonderful breathing technique used by many yogis over thousands of years that can help to keep the mind calm, happy and peaceful. Alternate breathing is performed just as it sounds, by alternatively closing and opening right and left nostrils to create the feeling of balance that often results from the practice.
Video: Yoga Breathing: Alternate Yoga Breathing Exercise
When Do You Practice It?
Nadi Shodhan pranayama helps relax the mind and prepares it to enter a meditative state. You should try to integrate this breathing into your regular yoga and meditation practice, so it is a good idea to do a short meditation after doing Nadi Shodhan. Doing alternate yoga breathing helps clear out blocked energy channels in the body, which in turn calms the mind and is an ideal breathing exercise to do before doing a daily meditation.
Alternate Yoga Breathing Benefits
In the classic yoga book Opening to Spirit by Caroline Shola Arewa, she describes seven main benefits of this practice which are:
· Balancing the autonomic nervous system.
· Balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
· Improving concentration on any practical object or subject.
· Stimulating Anja (third eye) chakra.
· Increasing awareness of the chakras.
· Purifying each of the 72,000 nadis
· Aligning the individual force-field with the universal force-field.
How Do You Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing?
Please note: As with all yoga exercises, please listen and respect your body. If you experience any sign of discomfort please stop, rest and if needed see your doctor. You should familiarize yourself with more basic yoga breathing exercises before trying this more advanced practice.
Video: Alternate Nostril Breathing / Nadi Shodhan
Simple Guidelines For The Practice Of Alternate Nostril Breathing
Traditionally Alternate Nostril Breathing is practiced in the ratio of 1:4:2 – for every second/count of breath you inhale, you retain your breath for four times as long and exhale for twice as long – for example, if you inhale for a count of 2, then you hold your breath for a count of 8 and exhale for account of 4. Depending on your level of experience, you can, for example inhale for account of 4, retain for 16 and breathe out for a count of 8.
There are six steps to complete one round of Alternate Nostril Breathing.
Before you start, make sure you are sitting comfortably either on a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Sit upright with a straight spine. Rest your back of your left hand on your left knee, with your thumb and index finger touching; With your right hand, bend your index and middle fingers into your palm, which leaves your right thumb to close your right nostril and your ring and little fingers to close your left nostril.
Sitting comfortably spend a few moments in quiet focusing on your every day breath as you allow your mind and body to settle into the practice.
Step 1. Exhale fully, close your right nostril with your right thumb, slowly exhale through your left nostril for a count of 4.
Step 2. Gently hold your breath, by “pinching” both nostrils between your thumb and ring and little finger, for a count of 16.
Step 3. Release your thumb from your right nostril (keep your left nostril closed) and exhale through your right nostril for a count of 8.
Step 4. Still keeping your left nostril closed, breathe in through your right nostril for a count of four.
Step 5. Close both nostrils and hold your breath for a count of 16 (as in #2).
Step 6. Release your left fingers from your left nostril, keep your right nostril closed with your right thumb and breathe out through the left nostril for a count of 8
This completes one round.
As you will see alternate nostril breathing, is ideal to help calm and balance your energy and quiet an over active mind. It can be an ideal tool to help you keep up your inner balance and focus in daily life.
If you feel comfortable with Nadi Shodhan, over the next three days, schedule 3 dates in your diary, when you will specifically use the time to sit down and practice this yoga breathing exercise. Aim to do 3-10 rounds daily or set your timer and practice for 2-10 minutes. When you do, please share your thoughts, or send me an email because I’d love you know how you got on and how you feel afterwards.
Ntathu Allen, Hatha Yoga Teacher and Meditation Teacher. Now you have a clearer understanding of how easy it is to get stress relief, I invite you to learn more stress relief techniques you can do at work. Check out my Kindle ebook Seven Simple Yoga Seated Exercises To Relieve Back And Neck Pain At Work available in Kindle store.