Often referred to as alternate nostril breathing, Nadi Shodhana is a yoga breathing technique that numerous studies have found to increase feelings of well-being, improve memory, relieve stress, and increase physical relaxation. I’ve recently been teaching Nadi Shodhana in my yoga classes and class members have reported feeling much calmer after the practice, some have texted me later on to tell me they have had much more positive, productive days and one class member says she uses the technique to prevent panic attacks. This is a really powerful tool.
The Sanskrit words Nadi Shodhana (Sanskrit being the classical and intellectual language of India) translate as something like Channel Cleansing. In yoga texts composed around the middle ages, this technique was classified as a cleansing practice as it was seen as cleansing or purifying the energy lines or channels that were visualized to be running through the body. Though it is most often referred to in English as alternate nostril breathing, this being a description of the practice, I prefer to use the original name as it gives me a sense of how it actually feels.
There are various ways to approach the technique but the simplest approach involves gently pressing on the side of one nostril with your thumb or ring finger to block the flow of the breath and then breathing in or out through the open nostril. A simple practice would be as follows:
- Find a comfortable seated position, close the eyes or soften the gaze
- Exhale through both nostrils
- Gently press on the side of the right nostril, and inhale through the left nostril
- Press the side of the left nostril and unblock the right to exhale through the right nostril
- Inhale through the right nostril
- Press the side of the right nostril, unblock the left and exhale
- This constitutes one round.
We usually practice about 10 rounds or for a couple of minutes but you can practice for longer. As you experiment see if you can slow your breathing down, so you are slowly breathing in and out through alternate nostrils. Focus on the sensation of the passage of the breath.
At first, it might seem as though one of your nostrils is blocked, this is more than likely due to the nasal cycle, something we are usually unaware of. At any time one of our nasal cavities will be partially congested and we will be breathing in and out mostly through the other nostril. It’s thought that this biological function helps give each nostril a chance to rest to prevent our nasal cavities from drying out. As you work with the practice you will likely find the nostrils start to feel more even and you balance the right and left sides.
If you want to know more about Nadi Shodhana, please do get in touch. I am always more than happy to talk about yoga and would love to know how you got on with the practice.
Take good care of yourself, Clair.