This is one of my favorite pranayama breathing exercises and a great way to clear the mental chatter to prepare for either an asana or meditation session. Nadi means energy channel, shodhan means to cleanse or purify, and pranayama is the name for yoga breathing exercises. This breath exercise is also called alternate nostril breathing. When you practice nadi shodhana, you are clearing out blocked energy channels, and when that happens, the mind begins to clear. With a calm mind, you will be more peaceful and happier. I don’t know about you, but I am all for anything that will help de-stress my monkey mind and bring me bliss!
I taught this breath exercise in my yoga classes this week and want to share the instructions here so you can practice this beneficial exercise at home.
First, find a comfortable seated position. Sit up straight with relaxed shoulders. Easy sit pose (as shown in the image above) is great, but if that doesn’t feel good, you can do this with legs out in front of you or sitting in a chair. If necessary, place a folded blanket, towel, or yoga block under your tail bone to help you sit up with a straight spine. Then, place the left hand on the knee, and bring the right hand to your nose. Your index and third finger rest at the third eye (center of the forehead), right thumb on the right side of the nostril and ring finger, and pinky finger on the left side of the nostril. Do not apply heavy pressure to block off the nostril; just gently press in each side. Keep the breathing gentle and natural, and do not force it.
1) Use right thumb to close off right nostril.
2) Inhale slowly through left nostril, filling up with a complete inhalation.
3) Pause for a second at the top of the inhale.
4) Now close left nostril with ring and pinky finger, and release the thumb off right nostril.
5) Exhale completely through your right nostril.
6) Now, inhale through right nostril.
7) Pause at the top of the inhale.
8) Use the right thumb to close off the right nostril.
9) Breathe out through left nostril.
10) This is one round. Start slowly with 4 to 5 rounds, and gradually increase up to 7.
Bring the hands down to the knees, and sit quietly for a few moments to let the effects of the nadi shodhana pranayama settle in.
If you are having a stressful day, take a break, sit down, and settle into a session of nadi shodhana to instantly feel better.
Want to learn more pranayama breathing exercises? Check out this post on bhramari breathing (bumble bee)!