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As we go about our day breathing, our breath is continuously shifting back and forth between the left and right nasal channels. Each channel is linked to the opposite brain hemisphere, right with the left and left with the right. Alternate Nostril Breathing is a pranayama practice that balances the bodies energies. Also called Nadi Shodhana or Anuloma Viloma, this technique brings oxygen to both sides of the brain improving brain function, regulating emotions, calming a busy mind, and energizing a tired body.
Start by sitting in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Make sure that you are sitting up tall, shoulders aligned over the hips. You may want to sit up with the back to a wall for added support. Before you begin take a few deep breaths to center and clear the mind. Bring your right hand up to the face, placing your thumb next to your right nostril and your ring finger next to your left nostril with the index and middle fingers resting on the forehead. If you’d like, you can bring the left hand under your right elbow to provide support for the right arm. Use the thumb to close the right nostril and then slowly draw in the breath through your left nostril, then close the left nostril with the pinkie or ring finger as you exhale out through the right nostril. The next inhalation goes in the right side, then releases on the left, followed by an inhalation on the left. Continue the cycle as you exhale on the right, inhale on the right, exhale on the left, inhale on the left and so on.
If you are newer to the practice try it out for a couple minutes and gradually increase your practice time. As you become more comfortable with the breath you can hold the inhalation and/or the exhalation for a few counts before bringing in or releasing another breath. It is believed that the best time to practice Nadi Shodhana is during sunrise, noon, sunset, and at midnight, when energies are more balanced. It is also recommended that this pranayama technique is practiced on an empty stomach. Be kind to your nose, pressing gently on the nasal passages when you close them or avoid pressing entirely by blocking the nasal passage with the finger instead. Remember to inhale and exhale slowly and evenly.
We hope that you have enjoyed this practice. We look forward to providing more instruction on pranayama through our blog and videos.
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+