How to Practice Nadi Shodhana, also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, is a powerful breathing practice with wide-reaching benefits. Nadi is a Sanskrit word meaning “channel” or “flow” and shodhana means “purification.” Therefore, nadi shodhana is primarily aimed at clearing and purifying the subtle channels of the mind-body organism, while bringing balance to the system as a whole.
It is balancing for all three doshas and is a suitable practice for most anyone.
Benefits of Nadi Shodhana
- Infuses the body with oxygen
- Clears and releases toxins
- Reduces stress and anxiousness
- Calms and rejuvenates the nervous system
- Helps to balance hormones
- Supports clear and balanced respiratory channels
- Helps to alleviate respiratory irritants
- Balances solar and lunar, masculine and feminine energies
- Fosters mental clarity and an alert mind
- Enhances the ability to concentrate
- Brings balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain
Choose a comfortable sitting position—either cross-legged on the floor (with a cushion or blanket to support the spine), or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Allow your spine to lengthen so that your back, neck, and head are erect throughout the practice. Gently close your eyes.
- Connect to your breath. Begin by taking a full, deep inhalation followed by a slow, gentle exhalation. In this way, practice several rounds of Full Yogic Breath to help awaken the prana maya kosha (the energetic body).
- Find Vishnu mudra. Fold the tips of the index and middle fingers inward until they touch the palm at the base of the right thumb (Vishnu mudra). You will alternately use the right thumb to close the right nostril and the right ring and pinky fingers (together) to close the left nostril.
- Inhale through the left nostril. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril. Exhale gently, but fully, through the left nostril. Keeping the right nostril closed, inhale through the left nostril and deep into the belly. As you inhale, allow the breath to travel upward along the left side of the body. Pause briefly at the crown of the head.
- Exhale through the right nostril. Use the ring and pinky fingers of the right hand to gently close the left nostril and simultaneously release the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril, surrendering the breath down the right side of the body. Pause gently at the bottom of the exhalation.
- Inhale through the right nostril. Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale once again through the right nostril, allowing the breath to travel up the right side of the body.
- Exhale through the left nostril. Then again, use the right thumb to close the right nostril as you release the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril, surrendering the breath back down the left side of the body. Pause gently at the bottom of the exhalation.
This completes one round of nadi shodhana. The same pattern continues for each additional round: inhale through the left nostril, exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril, exhale through the left nostril.
This practice will have wonderful benefits even when practised for as little as five minutes a day or when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.