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Pranayama - Nadi Sodana (Alternate Nostril breathing)

This breathing practice is a very old practice and it is the first pranayama mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the classic texts on yoga philosophy. It is usually done after asanas (postures) and before meditation or can be done as a stand-alone practice.

  • Suitable for those suffering from high blood pressure or during pregnancy.

  • Not suitable for anyone suffering from low blood pressure or sinuses or fever.

  • Avoid when you have a cold, migraine or headache or have eaten within the last 2 hours.

Nadi Sodana is a cleansing and balancing practice; it aims to cleanse the nadis (the imaginary points in the body that block pranic energy from freely flowing through the body), to clear the mind and to bring balance to the body. Scientific research carried out more than 20 years suggested that breathing through the left nostril stimulates the right side of the brain, associated with the masculine side (energy, passion, power) and breathing through the right nostril stimulates the left side, associated with the feminine side (creative, cooling, introspective). Nadi Sodana helps to achieve a balance between these two dimensions of our being, and between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.


How to


Sit upright in a comfortable position on mat, on a block or bolster, with your legs crossed or extended; you may want to sit with the back against the wall to keep upright if you tend to slouch or sit in Hero pose.


If you are sitting on the mat, have the knees below or at the same level as the hips (otherwise, we are restricting the abdominal breathing which plays an important role in making our breathing mechanism as efficient as possible and facilitate the maximum amount of oxygen intake).


Alternatively, you may sit on a chair with the feet flat on floor, hip-width apart (alignment knee and ankle @ 90 degrees).


Relax the shoulders.


Try to keep the position steady, without moving the spine too much during the practice, so choose a very comfortable position that you can keep for the duration of the practice and avoid tension in the body or physical distractions.


Use your dominant hand and bring it up toward your nose, in mrgi mudra (see pic below - my dominant hand is the right), using the thumb and ring finger to open/close the nostrils. Apply only enough pressure to gently close the nostril. If you get tired during the practice, you may support the elbow with the opposite hand. Rest the non-dominant hand on the knee or thigh, palm up or down.




Inhale and exhale through both nostrils a few times and then, close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. (Always start with an exhale on the left side and complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.)


Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your finger - Release the right nostril and exhale through this side. Inhale through the right nostril, then close it and open the left nostril and exhale through the left side. This completes one round.


Continue for up to 10-12 rounds, keeping the counting of the seconds for inhale and exhale equal (4:4, 5:5, etc) to start with. Do twice daily if you can or whenever you need to.


You can also practice Nadi Sodana without the hand mudra by visualising the breath movement (eyes soft or closed). This is particularly useful when you are experiencing some stress and need to calm down without anyone around you noticing it.


I remember a student a few years ago telling me that he had practised visualised Nadi Sodana at the doctor surgery, just before checking his blood pressure (white coat syndrome anyone?); reportedly, the blood pressure was perfect! 😁


Benefits


Alternate nostril breathing helps to:

  • reduce stress

  • relax your body and mind

  • reduce anxiety

  • promote overall well-being

  • positive effect on cardiovascular function

  • improve lung and respiratory function

  • reduce high blood pressure


Practising Nadi Sodana regularly helps to maintain the pineal gland, associated with the pituitary gland and the flow of hormones into the blood.


If you have any questions on how to practice, drop me an email (ross.merakiyoga@btinternet.com) or call me!


Namaste

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