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Nadi Shodhana - A Breathing Technique to Calm Down Anxiety

The Benefits, Types and Practice
2 min

Nadi Shodhana breathing is most typically known as Alternate Nostril Breathing. It’s a very powerful breathing practice with an incredibly diverse benefits. Nadi comes from Sanskrit meaning “channel” or “flow.” Shodhana also comes from Sanskrit and means “purification.” As it sounds, Nadi Shodhana clears and purifies the subtle channels of the mind and body. In addition, since it alternates between the right and left sides of the nostrils, it balances the masculine and feminine sides of the body.

Nadi shodhana,  is practiced by using the fingers to close off one nostril at a time as you alternate breathing slow, diaphragmatic breaths in and out of each nostril.

This simple practice can be done before or after the physical postures (asana) of yoga. You may also use this breathing technique as a stand-alone practice that you can do prior to any stressful situation or a stimulating environment.

Benefits of Nadi Shodhana

While there may not be any conclusive evidence that suggests exactly how alternate nostril breathing works to relax the nervous system, it does seem to have a calming effect. Here are some of the potential benefits of nadi shodhana:

  • It modulates the nervous system and shifts us into a parasympathetic state. By lengthening our breaths, it take us out of fight or flight mode, and into the calmer, clearer space of “rest and digest.”
  • It helps to ground our crazy, Vata energy.
  • It helps to “smooth out” the energy within the subtle channels of the body.
  • It’s such a powerful, yet simple practice. We can do this every day, for 5-10 minutes, after our Asana practice, or even on its own.

In addition it helps:

  • clear your sinus passages.
  • get rid of sinus headaches.
  • lower your blood pressure.
  • improve your respiratory health.
  • eliminate toxins.
  • increase your body’s oxygen.
  • improve your body/mind connection.

Wow! That’s a ton of goodness from just one simple breathing exercise!

But there are different types (at least three that we will look at here) of doing Nadi Shodana. Each has its specific goals and benefits as well. Which are they?

1. CHANDRABHEDANA 

  • Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable position on the floor.
  • Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • Close your right nostril with right hand thumb.
  • Inhale from the left nostril.
  • Close the left nostril with the right hand index and middle fingers.
  • Exhale from the right nostril.

This completes one round of Chandrabhedana pranayama. You can gradually do up to 20 rounds.

Benefits

Chandrabhedan cools the body and cures heartburn.

Contradictions

Avoid this pranayama if you suffer from low blood pressure. Note: This pranayama is to be done only during summer

2. SURYABHEDANA

  • Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable posture.
  • Close your left nostril with your index and middle finger of the right hand.
  • Inhaling from your right nostril.
  • Close the right nostril with your right hand thumb.
  • Exhale through the left nostril.

This completes one round of Suryabhedan pranayama. You can gradually do up to 20 rounds.

Benefits

  • Increases body heat and energy levels

  • Improves digestion

  • Purifies blood

  • Delays ageing.

Contraindications

  • Avoid doing this pranayama if you suffer from acidity, hypertension or heart problems.

  • It is to be done only during winter.

3.ANULOMA-VILOMA 

  • Sit in a comfortable balanced meditative pose.
  • Use the right hand thumb to close your right nostril.
  • Inhale from the left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with your right hand’s index and middle fingers
  • Exhale from the right nostril.
  • Do the reverse: inhale with the right nostril.
  • Close your right nostril with your right hand thumb.
  • Exhale with the left nostril.

This is one round of anulom-vilom pranayama.

Benefits

  • Balancing body temperature

  • Relieving stress

  • Cleansing the nadis in your body

  • Improving blood circulation

  • Promoting longevity.

It can be done year round and by everyone.

The more advanced you become with this alternate nostril breathing practice, the longer you will be able to go. A good goal is to be able to practice this breathing style for 10 continuous minutes.

Good luck!


About the author

Irina Bachvarova

Yoga Guru

Master in Sports Pedagogic and director at Bulgarian Ashtanga Yoga Academy.

Irina is the author of the first Bulgarian book for Ashtanga Yoga and trusted Yoga Guru for TV series, produced by Bulgarian National Television.



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