Breathing. We do it all day long but how often do we actually pay attention and bring our awareness to the quality of our breath? We often forget what the ancients knew; how we breathe is directly connected to our emotional, physical and mental states of being.One particular type is a type of Pranayama or yogic breathing is called Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana). The name implies that through working with our vital life force energy, we can use Nadi- refering to the different pranic channels in the body and Sodhanana, meaning to cleanse or purify, as a tool to greater health and wellness.
I was first introduced to this kind of breathing during a yoga retreat with yoga masters Michelle Hebert and Sheri Baptiste, with whom I continue to learn from. I instantly felt the power that this kind of breathing had on my mind, spirit and physiology and later, especially during times of stress, would call on it for instant balancing. Of course my intention was/is to cultivate a daily practice but whether you do this breathing daily or as needed, you will feel its positive impact immediately.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing
Considering that 9 out of 10 of us westerners are chest breathers, meaning we only use the top 1/3 of our lungs, results in us not fully utilizing our total lung potential. Practicing deep breathing by using all portions of the lungs with pranayama can increase the lung capacity by at least one third. People who suffer from exposure to pollution, smoking, or have allergies and asthma can increase the oxygen capacity by bringing the breath deeper into the undamaged tissue.
Simple and Effective Antidote to Holiday and Everyday Stress
Alternate Nostril Breathing boosts brainpower, focus and attention by correcting imbalances in the brain. It helps to create a balanced state of being by clearing the mind of chaos, reducing chronic stress, balancing the nervous system, alleviating depression, smoothing the emotional state and improving the quality and depth of sleep. Nadi Shodhana also improves major body functions including increasing metabolism and improving digestion by boosting oxygen capacity in the tissues and organs of all the bodily systems.
How to Perform Alternate Nostril Breathing -Nadi Shodhana
Alternate Nostril Breathing exercises should be done in a comfortable temperature. Before you begin this breathing practice blow your nose to clear nasal passages. It is also not advisable to do this pranayama if your nasal passageways are congested or if the nose is clogged due to allergies or sickness.
- Sit with your feet crossed or in half lotus or into full lotus if you are feeling flexible thereby creating an erect spine.
- You can also sit in hero’s pose or in a chair with a straight back to keep the spine straight.
- Keep chin dropped slightly
- To Begin:
- Take your right hand and fold down your index and middle finger keeping your ring and pinky up as best you can.
- Take the thumb on your right hand and plug the right nostril and inhale up through the left nostril
- Then close the left off with the ring finger and open the right side and exhale
- Inhale up the right nostril and close the right with your thumb and exhale through the left nostril.
- Keep your Breath smooth and even
- Bring your concentration back to the breath if your mind begins to wander.
- That is one round.
- Do 5 or 6 rounds or repetitions a few times a day
This technique is easy, free and can be done anywhere and at anytime for your health benefit. I hope you find time to incorporate this breathing practice into your life. Through sharing this with all of you I am reminded to do so too!! Blessings. Jill