Alternate Nostril Breathing
An interesting fact about your nostrils, is that you don’t breathe through them equally all the time. Right now, you will be favouring either your left nostril or your right nostril. To observe this block one nostril and breath through the other and then switch.
When the left nostril is dominant it has a more calming effect on the body and mind and when the right nostril is dominant it’s effects are more stimulating.
Within the body there is network of subtle channels known as nadis through which the life force (prana) circulates.
Ida is the left channel of energy within the body. Ida is white, feminine, cold and represents the moon. It originates at Muladhara (Root Chakra) and ends up in the left nostril.
Pingala is the right channel. Pingala is red, masculine, hot and represents the sun. It also originates at Muladhara (Root Chakra) and ends up in the right nostril.
Sushumna is nadi the central channel which Ida and Pingala coil around. The Kundalini moves up the body from just below Muladhara chakra to Sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.
Breathing in through your left nostril will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain. Consciously alternating your breath between either nostril will allow you to activate and access your whole brain.
The practise of Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing helps to unblock the channels through which the prana flows and it balances the flow of prana through the two nadis of Ida and Pingula.
It’s one of my favourite breathing practices!
How to practise Nadi Shodhana
This is how I teach this breathing technique in my Hatha yoga classes:
Sit in Sukasana.
Place the right hand in front of the face, with the the thumb beside the right nostril and the ring finger beside the left. The index and middle finger can rest at the 3rd eye. The left hand can rest on the left knee.
Holding the right nostril with the thumb, breath in through the left nostril as you count slowly to 3.
Closing the left nostril with the ring finger, exhale through the right for a count of 6.
Breath in through the right nostril for the count of 3.
Holding the right nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left for the count of 6.
When you are comfortable with the practise you can lengthen the inhalation to a count of 4 and exhale to and a count of 8 if it feels comfortable to do so.
There should be no straining. Pranayama cannot be hurried
Benefits of Nadi Shodhana
For good health it is essential that there is a reasonably equal balance between the Ida and Pinghala. The alternate breathing helps to unblock the channels through which the prana flows and the flow of prana is balanced through the two nadis of Ida and Pingula.
By making Nadi Shodhana part of your yoga practice, you can also help to improve respiration resulting in more vitality and better health.