Our featured yoga practice for May isn’t a zamasana (asana meaning yoga posture) it’s a pranazama! (Pranayama is the control of prana, or life force, through the breath.) Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing, separates the flow of breath between the left and right sides, which helps to achieve balance within the systems of the body.
In yoga physiology, we talk about the nadi channels that flow through the body, connecting at special points of energy intensity, the chakras. The Ida nadi lies at the left of the body, and emulates the calming feminine energy of the moon (the yin) and links to the parasympathetic nervous system. The Pingala nadi channel is on the right side of the body, and represents the strong masculine energy of the sun (the yang) – linking to our sympathetic nervous system.
Nadi Sodha pranayama alternately stimulates the right-brain and then the left-brain. Increasing the flow of air in the right nostril stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and increases the heart rate, produces more sweaty palms, dilates the pupils and opens up the lungs – the fight or flight reaction. Increasing the flow of air through the left nostril however, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and increases digestion, lowers the heart rate and relaxes the body. By practising Nadi Shodhana pranayama, we are aiding the balancing of both of these systems in relation to each other, as well as balancing brain activity. This pranayama is said to purify the energy channels through the body (nadis), clearing the way for our prana to flow more easily.
To practice Nadi Sodha pranayama:
1. Sitting in a comfortable seated position, bring the right hand to mrigi mudra (index and middle fingers lowered, while thumb, ring and little finger extend). Alternatively, you can place index and middle finger on your third eye centre (the point just above the eyebrows in the centre of the forehead), and keep your ring finger and thumb free for this practice.
2. Using your thumb in either hand variation, gently close your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring finger, then open the right nostril and slowly exhale.
3. Keeping the right nostril open, inhale deeply, then close the right nostril and open and exhale through the left. This completes one cycles of this pranayama practice. Repeat as many times as you wish, then return to regular breathing.
At a beginner level, Nadi Shodhana is practiced just by focusing on the inhale and exhale, at equal lengths. Once this has been practiced comfortably, this pranayama practice can be advanced to include fixed breathing ratios and breath retention.
Nadi Sodha pranayama is used to relax the mind and prepare it for entering a state of mediation, so it can be a good idea to practice a short mediation after this pranayama. This month at Zama Yoga Toowong, we are running a Meditation Immersion, to learn about the basics of mediation and all the styles there are within this broad practice! Click here for more information and booking links.