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Yoga Pranayama-Alternate Nostril Breathing

Nadi-Sodhana means purification of the nerve currents (nadis). The nadis are nerve channels providing the way for prana, or the vital-life force energy of the body to flow. Sodhana means “to cleanse” to purify. This is one of the most basic breathing practices you will learn in yoga.

The purpose of this breathing exercise is to counteract physical and mental tension. By regulating the breath, and deepening and lengthening it, you balance your nervous system, relieve stress, calm the mind, and bring harmony to your body, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

The left nostril (the passive side), is the path of the nadi called Ida, the right nostril (the dynamic side), is Pingala. The flow of the two currents shifting from one nostril to the other is reflected in the breath. In a state of physical and mental tension your breath will be shallow and spasmodic, whereas when your mind is calm and your body relaxed, the flow of the breath will be smooth and even.


In Nadi-Sodhana you adopt a particular hand position or Mudra. The mudra used in this exercise is called the Vishnu Mudra. position. Here is how to do the Vishnu Mudra:
Use your right hand and fold the middle and index fingers into your palm. This leaves your thumb, ring finger and pinkie sticking up from your palm.

•Sit comfortably. Adopt the Vishnu Mudra.
•Gently press the side of your right nostril with your right thumb.
•Rest the tip of your ring and little fingers lightly on the side of your left nostril.
•Inhale deeply through your left nostril. Open the right nostril and exhale slowly with your left nostril blocked.
•Inhale through the right nostril.
•Block the right nostril and exhale through the left.
•Inhale through the left nostril then apply pressure to the left nostril with your ring and little fingers.
•Release your thumb from your right nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
•Practice this for three complete rounds.

Now we will change the practice a little with breath counting. Coordinate your breathing so that you can inhale to the count of four. Hold the breath for a count of four then exhale for a count of four. Practice this for four to eight complete rounds. Counting the breath can provide an even deeper calming effect. You may have to work up to counting the breaths and that is fine. Either practice is excellent for calming our minds or helping us stay focused.

When you have completed the practice bring both hands together in your lap. Let your breath come naturally for a minute. Bring both hands together in prayer position in front of your heart, drop your chin, Namaste`.

Contraindications for Alternate-Nostril Breathing Exercise: Do not practice retaining the breath if you suffer from high blood pressure or epilepsy. Always check with a medical professional when trying any type of breathing exercises. Live well, practice yoga.

Reference: Yoga for Stress Relief; by Swami Shivapremananda

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