Nadi Shodhana: Alternate nostril breathing for balance and calm

Pranayama plays a crucial role in the yoga practice and offers numerous physical, mental and spiritual benefits. One pranayama technique that I love and practice regularly is Nadi Shodhana – alternate nostril breathing. It seeks so balance our nervous system and has a very relaxing and grounding effect. Best thing about it? You don’t have to practice it for a long a time to feel the benefits and can easily incorporate it in your daily life. A couple of rounds are enough to release tension and stress.

What is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama?

Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a simple yet powerful breathing practice that aims to regulate the flow of air through both nasal passages. It seeks to create balance and to calm the nervous system – leaving you less stressed, worried and anxious.

What are the effects of Nadi Shodhana?

Alternate nostril breathing not only supports our lungs and clears our energetic channels, it also balances out the nervous system and enhances the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest & digest). This will help us feel more relaxed, focused and calm. By practicing Nadi Shodhana regularly, we can create less stress response over time.

Nadi Shodhana: The science behind it

Most of the time we are breathing through only one nostril. This is not a bad thing – in fact, our nasal airflow naturally alternates between nostrils throughout the day and this phenomenon is a normal physiological process.

The right nostril is associated with the “pingala nadi,” which represents the masculine energy. It is linked to the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for activating the “fight or flight” response, increasing alertness and preparing the body for action. The left nostril on the other hand is associated with the “ida nadi,” representing the feminine energy and is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system that promotes relaxation, rest and digestion.

Nadi shodhana pranayama allows the air to flow through both sides – creating balance and harmony in our body and mind. For this reason, it radically reduces stress and promotes a state of peace and well-being.

Let’s practice! How to Nadi Shodhana

The beauty of Nadi Shodhana lies in its simplicity and versatility. It can be practiced anywhere, at any time, providing you with a powerful tool to manage stress, find inner calm and cultivate a deep connection with your breath. Here is how to do it:

  1. Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor or on a chair with your spine tall and shoulders relaxed. Rest your left hand on your left knee.
  2. Position your right hand: Curl your index and middle fingers toward your palm. Place your thumb gently on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril.
  3. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly through your left nostril. Fill your lungs completely with air.
  4. After the inhalation, close your left nostril with your ring finger, releasing the right nostril, and exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril. Then, inhale deeply through the right nostril.
  5. Close the right nostril again with your thumb, release the left nostril, and exhale fully through the left nostril. This completes one round.
  6. Repeat the cycle for several rounds, increasing the duration as you become more comfortable. Focus on the flow of breath and maintain a relaxed and steady rhythm.

When to practice Nadi Shodhana?

This practice is extremely helpful when you feel ungrounded, anxious or nervous. You can use Nadi Shodhana before meditating or practicing asana to quiet your mind, or in the evening before sleeping as it helps to unwind. You can practice it anytime when you feel  unbalanced or need a little zen: It’s a quick and effective way to calm down –  you will feel the benefits already after a few minutes.