In Yogic philosophy, we know there is a connection between our breath and our emotions or mental state. If we breathe properly we can literally calm the mind. There are even certain breathing practises for specific purposes.
Western science agrees
We want to share a specific technique that is an incredible balancer. It’s a technique that Western science is continuously researching due to its effect on problem-solving, our heart rate, blood pressure and lung function. Some research suggests this breathing practise “helps concentration by increasing amino-acid levels in the brain... It gives stability to otherwise restless ex-addicts... results in an increase in alpha wave activity, along with a reduction of blood pressure, as well as in emotional stability.” This yogic breathing practise has been found to reduce stress and improve practitioners' feeling of happiness.
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What the yogis say
The breath we are going to practise is called Nadi Shodhana. Literally meaning cleaning (Shodhan) the channels (Nadis). Nadis are the energetic channels in our being. Much like meridians. You can’t see them but energetically they are there just like our arteries and veins. Two of the main Nadis, or channels, are called Ida Nadi and Pingala Nadi. They start at the base of the spine and move like a figure of eights intertwining along the spine toward the nose. It is thought that Ida Nadi ends at the left nostril and Pingala Nadi at the right.
Ida Nadi represents the cooling, calming, introverted, soothing, lunar energy. The qualities of the right side of the brain.
Pingala Nadi is the fire, courage and motivation. It’s extroverted and similar to the left side of the brain.
When we balance these two sides we create balance and calm.
We usually translate this breathing exercise as alternate nostril breathing because we will alternate our breath between the two nostrils.
This is how to do it:
- Find a comfortable seat. Either on the floor in meditation pose, on some cushions or on a chair with the back in a natural upright position.
- Allow your breath to calm down to a steady relaxed rhythm.
- Use your hand to guide the breath. Traditionally we use the right hand but if you are left-handed please do what is comfortable. We will instruct using the right hand here.
- Place your right thumb near the right nostril. Rest your right ring and little fingers at your left nostril. The middle and index fingers can rest between the eyebrows.
- Take a deep inhale
- Close the right nostril. Exhale through the left nostril.
- Now the first round: Close right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril.
- Close left nostril and exhale through the right.
- Inhale through the right nostril.
- Close the right nostril and exhale through the left. That was the first round.
- Now continue… Inhale through left, exhale through right. Inhale through right and exhale through left. Using your fingers to guide the breath.
If at any time you feel uncomfortable, feel blocked up in the nostril or get out of the breath please stop and pause.
Start with just 3 rounds. You can then add more rounds when you feel ready.
Your breath should be calm and steady at all times. There is no forcing or discomfort.
Creating a balance
Because this breath is balancing it is the perfect breathing practise to calm down an overexcited, angry, stressed or anxious mind. As well as creating balance when feeling low, tired, heavy or sluggish.
You can do it first thing in the morning to start the day with a balanced mind. At night to calm down and getting ready for sleep. Or any time during the day when in need of balance.
We would love to hear your experience of this breath. Please share in the comments below.