If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you likely noticed that there is a strong focus on pranayama, or the regulation of breath. Most people know the classic, “breathe in, breathe out” structure— but those who’ve practiced for a while might have tried alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana. This practice involves a little more focus than most breathing exercises, but offers heaps of benefits in return.
Nadi Shodhana has been proven to:
Activate the parasympathetic nervous system, meaning release the “fight or flight” mode our bodies gravitate towards in favor of calmness and serenity. It also lowers blood pressure, which is key to living healthfully.Restore the energetic balance between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. By alternating consciously between the left and right sides of our body, it syncs our brain chemistry, improving our ability to focus our minds while rejuvenating our nervous systems. Support our lungs and enhance respiratory functions. It teaches us to consciously breathe deeper, which can aid in endurance for those who like cardio-forward activities including running, cycling, dance, and more.Naturally reduce stress. This bears little introduction— who doesn’t want less stress?
With all these benefits, you might be wondering how to get started. Alternate nostril breathing is great to start your day with, to center you in times of stress, and even to help you fall asleep. I especially like to use it before work, to make sure I put my best foot forward for the day. Regardless of when you choose to use it, here’s how to try Nadi Shodhana:
Find a nice and comfortable seat somewhere. Imagine a thread pulling the crown of your head to the sky. Let your shoulders relax and release your tongue from the roof of your mouth.Relax your left hand into your lap, and bring your right hand in front of your face. The fingers we use for alternate nostril breathing are the thumb and ring finger. Anchor them by placing your pointer and middle fingertips on your forehead, around your third eye center.With your thumb, close your right nostril. Inhale for a count of four through your left.Briefly close both nostrils.Open your right nostril and breathe out four a count of six.Breathe in through your right nostril for a count of four.Briefly close both nostrils.Open your left nostril and breathe out for a count of six.Continue through this cycle 6-8 times. You should feel yourself growing calmer with each cycle. Go back to your regular tasks with a bit more mindfulness and peace.
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