Breathing Part 4 - Learn alternate nostril breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) has the profound ability to completely balance every aspect of the mind, body and overall health. Medical research shows that just ten minutes of alternate nostril breathing can dramatically affect brain waves in a positive manner and 24 minutes a day is ideal – one for each hour of the day.
If there is one practice that will serve everyone it is the practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing.
Why is nostril breathing so affective on balancing health?
The key point to remember is that with stress our automonic nasal cycle gets imbalanced disrupting the natural transition and regular balance between the sympathetic nervous system stimulation and parsympathetic system stimulation. To learn more read Breathing Part 3 - Why Breathing Through the Nose Is So Important.
Alternate Nostril Beathing quickly and effectively brings the nasal cycle back into balance counteracting the effects of our overworked stressful lifestyles.
There are several variations. I am presenting a few here, including how to work with one nostril to increase energy (warm and stimulate) or to decrease energy (calm and cool). My favourite for newcomers is the 3-3-3 variation as its easy and allows time to sense and feel the affects.
Have fun and do send me a note or post a comment about your experiences below.
General postural setup:
Sit tall in a chair, or supported comfortably in a cross legged position. If sitting is not possible, this can be practiced laying down, with the spine and knees support comfortably with a bolster or pillow.
Support your right elbow with your left cupped palm. Using the thumb to connect with the right nostril and the ring finger to connect with the left nostil. Practice these ideally on an empty stomach. Also allow your eyes to fall closed to go inward with your focus and attention (interoception). If this is not possible, allow a soft gaze onto the floor or ceiling in front of you.
When complete any of these versions, release your palms to your lap and notice how you feel.
What is the state of your physical body like? What sensations are present? Have your pain levels decreased?
What about your emotional body? How has your mood changed?
What about your mental body? What is the state of your mind and how has it changed from when you started?
1. Alternating - one breath in, one breath out - this is the traditional and most widely recognized version of this practice. Start by closing the right nostril with the right thumb, inhale through the left, then gently close the left, then exhale through the right. Inhale through the right and then exhale through the left. Continue for as little as five minute and ideally for 10-12 min. Try this twice a day.
Effect: Balancing and nourishing
2. 3-3-3 Variation - In this variation, start my closing the right nostril with your right thumb, then slowly and gently inhale and exhale three times through the left nostril, then close the left nostril with your ring finger and breathe three times in and out of the right nostril. Next open both nostrils and consciously feel the breath coming in and flowing out of both nostrils three times. This completes one round. Repeat this, completing 4-5 rounds or ideally for a duration of 10-12 minutes. Release and return to regular diphragmatic breathing. Notice how you feel.
Effect: Balancing and nourishing
3. Chanbdrahedana (stimulates the cooling channel) - Explore this practice when you are experiencing high energy, too much heat in your system, anger or irritability. Close off the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril, then close the left nostril and exhale through the right. Again, inhale though left, exhale through right. Repeat.
Breathing in through the left nostril [stimulates the lunar (cooling) channel] and out through the right nostril [calms the solar channel (heating channel)]. Continue repeating for up to 5 minutes. Release and return to regular diphragmatic breathing. Notice how you feel.
Effect: Cooling and calming
4. Suryabhedana (stimulates the warming channel) - Explore this practice when you are are in a low mood, feel depressed, have cold limbs, or low mental or physical energy. Close off the left nostril and breath in through the right, then close the right and exhale though the left. Again, inhale right, exhale left. Repeat.
Breathing in through the right nostril [stimulates the solar (warming) channel] and out through the left nostril [calmes the lunar chanel). Continue repeating for up to 5 minutes. Release and return to regular diphragmatic breathing. Notice how you feel.
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