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Alternate Nostril Breathing – Nadi Shodhana

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

One of my daily, go-to breathing practices both for starting my morning and for calming in the face of stress. Breathing in a calm, rhythmic pattern through one nostril at a time brings your autonomic nervous system (ANS) into balance and downregulates your emotional state. In less than 5 minutes a day, this simple practice:

  • Calms the mind
  • Oxygenates the body
  • Brings your nervous system into balance
  • Creates equilibrium between alertness and relaxation

The Practice

  • Find your comfortable seat, spine straight but not stiff so you’re alert yet relaxed.
  • Gently close your eyes.
  • Exhale fully through both nostrils.
  • Use your thumb to close your right nostril, and your ring finger & pinky finger work as a team to close the left.
  • Inhale slowly and gently in the left nostril for a full inhale.
  • After a full inhalation, close the right nostril with thumb and exhale slowly and gently out of your left nostril.
  • This completes one round: inhale left nostril, exhale right, inhale right, exhale left.
  • Practice 5 to 12 rounds as needed, or for 5-10 minutes as part of your morning practice.
  • At the end, drop your hand down, take a big breath in through both nostrils, hold in a few seconds and sigh it out. This is a great time to do a short meditation if you want to make this part of your daily routine.

The Breath

  • Begin by breathing fully into your belly, which extends to create space as the diaphragm lowers. Then continue breathing into your chest, which begins to expand as your belly moves slightly inward.
  • For each breathing cycle, be sure to take a full breath in and to exhale completely; bringing the maximum volume of oxygen into the lungs.
  • With practice, extend the length of the breath, making the inhalations and exhalations full gentle, slow, and extended.

Notes

  • Tradition methods suggest using the right hand even if you are left-handed, but either is okay.
  • Practice begins and ends with the left nostril.
  • While doing the practice, keep your elbow slightly out to the side to give yourself plenty of space.
  • If either nostril is clogged, you can relieve blockage by lying down on the opposite side.
  • If you find it hard to breathe through the nose due to congested sinuses, you can keep your teeth clenched, open your lips and breathe in through the mouth, followed by a normal exhale.

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