Nadis Sodhana Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a great way to lead into your morning meditation practice. It is a controlled breathing practice designed to purify the nadis (energy channels). There are over 72,000 nadis in the body. Of these the three most important nadis are ida, pingala, and susumna. Ida and pingala, which originate in the left and right nostril respectively, govern the dualities within us. Susumna nadi, the central energy channel, runs through the center of the spinal cord. Alternate nostril breathing takes us from the external (ida and pingala) to the internal (susumna). It is here in susumna nadi that we can deepen our experience of meditation.
BKS Iyengar: “the blood receives a larger supply of oxygen in Nadi Sodhana than in normal breathing, so that one feels refreshed and the nerves are calmed and purified. The mind becomes still and lucid.”
Alan Finger: “it creates a mind-set conducive to witnessing our thoughts without participating in them.”
Donna Farhi: “helps to balance the body and mind as well as soothe and calm the nerves, leaving you in a mentally alert but relaxed state. It is a terrific way to combat jitters before a potentially stressful event.”
2. The back of the left hand rests on the top of the left knee, with the thumb and index finger touching to create jnana mudra, an energy seal, which induces a relaxation response. The arm remains straight yet relaxed.
3. The right hand forms vishnu mudra, an energy seal where the index finger and the middle finger fold over into the palm, and the thumb and the last two fingers remain out. This mudra preserves the truth of who you are.
4. Lift the right hand to the nostrils and place the thumb on the right nostril and ring finger on the left nostril. The fingers rest just below the part of the nose where the hard cartilage ends and the soft cartilage begins. NOTE: The thumb and ring finger remain in contact with the nostrils throughout the breathing technique, just varying the pressure.
5. Inhale – Slide the thumb up the side of the right nostril to create an opening and breathe in. Use the ring and pinky fingers to keep the left nostril blocked.
6. Close the right nostril.
7. Exhale – Slide the ring finger up the side of the left nostril to enable the breath to flow out the left nostril.
8. Inhale – Breathe back in through the left nostril while the right nostril remains closed.
9. Close the left nostril.
10. Exhale – through the right nostril.
11. This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing. Try to develop a slow rhythmic breath on both the inhalation and the exhalation.
12. Begin by practicing 3 rounds initially, slowly building up to 6 rounds.
13. After your final round, lower you right hand to rest on your knee, touching the thumb and index finger together in jnana mudra.
14. Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable. Observe the effects of the practice on the body and mind.
1. If you feel dizzy or the breath becomes strained in any way, stop immediately and consult your physician.
2. Traditionally this practice includes breath retention but for beginner pranayama students, this is not recommended.