Nadi Shodhana, also called “alternate nostril breathing,” is a yoga breathing exercise that is said to help balance and synchronize the right and left hemispheres of the brain and clear blocked energy channels in the body. It can help to calm and settle the mind, reduce stress levels and also helps lower the heart rate and blood pressure. Also, bringing extra oxygen into the body nourishes the organs and muscles and helps to detoxify the blood. It is also said to help improve the ability to concentrate and help alleviate sleep problems.
It is important, when practicing Nadi Shodhana, not to force the breath, but to let it come out naturally and smoothly. It is always a good idea to get guidance for Nadi Shodhana breathing from an experienced yoga instructor.
How to Perform Nadi Shodhana Breathing
To prepare yourself for Nadi Shodhana, sit comfortably, either on a yoga mat, or in a chair. Keep your back straight with your shoulders relaxed. Rest your left hand on your left knee, palm facing to the sky, with the tips of the thumb and index finger gently touching.
Bring your right hand and fingers into position by extending your fingers, then curling your index and middle fingers down to the palm. To stay relaxed, beginning students may want to rest their right elbow on a bolster placed across the legs so that the pose can be held without difficulty.
Gently press your right nostril closed with your right thumb and inhale naturally through your left nostril. Then press your ring/pinky fingers gently to your left nostril to close it and exhale through your right nostril.
Now inhale slowly through your open right nostril. Then close your right nostril again with your thumb while opening your left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril. This is one full cycle of Nadi Shodhana. Repeat this process gently three to five times.
Considerations for Nadi Shodhana Breathing
Because this is a more advanced yoga breathing exercise, getting guidance from your yoga instructor is recommended. Beginning yogis should focus just on practicing the inhalations and exhalations and the correct posture and hand positioning at first. As you become more experienced, your yoga instructor can guide you on deepening your practice of Nadi Shodhana with breath retention and fixed ratio breathing. Again, this should only be done with help from your instructor.