Nadi Shodhana: the breathing technique to clear your mind
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, also called the alternate nostril pranayama, is considered one of the most vital breathing techniques of yoga since it aims to purify the subtle body. The Sanskrit term breaks in two words, Nadi, which refers to the nadis, the subtle channels of energy in the body; and Shodhana, which means purification.
The purification process of the body is essential in order to progress on yoga practice, but this pranayama also brings a balance between feminine and masculine energy, and it’s great to improve harmony between the three doshas, which means it can be done by everyone.
Nadi Shodhana can be quite accessible, it’s easy to understand the technique and to do it for yourself. It’s a great ally for those bad and stressful days, besides all the other benefits it produces. Let’s start with that, the benefits of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama.
Benefits of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
There are many reasons to do the alternate nostril breathing technique. We gathered a few of the most important, that can highlight why you should learn it and incorporate it in your life:
- Raises the amount of oxygen in the body
- Detoxes the body
- Reduces stress and can help with anxiety
- Calms the nervous system
- Invigorates the nervous system
- Improves the efficiency of the intellect
- Prepares to the awakening of the kundalini
- Balance hormones
- Softens the skin
- Increases energy
- Improves health
- Clears the respiratory channels
- Balances the energy of the sun and moon on the body
- Promotes clarity of mind
- Improves focus and concentration
- Improves balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Steps to practice Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
- Place the hands in vishnu mudrá;
- Obstruct the right nostril or preferably just above the nostril blocking the passage of air;
- Inhale through the left nostril;
- Change the nostril, now obstructing the left one;
- Exhale through the right nostril;
- Inhale by the right nostril;
- Exhale through the left nostril.
These seven steps complete one cycle of Nadi Shodhana pranayama. It’s good if you do a minimum of six cycles. You can also include retentions with air in the first place and then add without air, only if you feel comfortable.
Keep your breaths slow and gentle, and do not use Ujjayi while doing this technique. Once you are ready to close your practice, exhale through the left nostril. Put your hands in jnana mudra and stay in silence for a few more minutes. Remember to stay curious about yourself and the effects of the techniques on your body and mind.
Before we keep going, there is one important note that you need to keep in mind: always do pranayama in comfort, this is not the technique where you want to push yourself or get out of your comfort zone.
So, there’s one last thing missing. To do pranayama you must count the duration of your inhalations and exhalations. There are two options: you can either choose the rhythm 1-1, which means you’ll breathe in and out in the same time; or 1-2, which means you’ll exhale in the double of the time of the inhalation. Remember to start with a duration that is comfortable for you, and to improve from there. For example, start inhaling in four seconds.
Every time you feel stressed go back to the comfort zone and stay there for a few days. Pranayama is not a run and this is a great exercise for the ego to stay cool!
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