“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
There are three rhythms in the body: the heartbeat, the breath and the brainwaves. They are symbiotic; if we can effect one we effect all three. The breath is the doorway. It is said that breath mastery is self-mastery.
Nadi: energy channel, Shodhan: clearing, purifying, Pranayama: breathing technique/exercise
Nadi Shodhan Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing is a really effective way to clear and center the mind, release tension and “clear the energy channels” prior to meditation. It is also excellent for anxiety, mental fog and working through anger. It involves coordinating breath between the left and the right nostril, stimulating harmony between the right and left sides of the brain. It works therapeutically with the respiratory and circulatory systems, lowers heart rate and balances the nervous system. <—–
Nadi Shodhan can be done any time throughout the day. When I first learned Nadi Shodhan I hated it. It was awkward and annoying and I couldn’t find a steady rhythm. But I find it an indispensable tool for calming my mind, for mental focus, clarity and relaxation. It’s really amazing.
1. Sit in a comfortable meditation posture, whatever that looks like for you. You can close your eyes or keep them open in a soft gaze ahead. Do your thing.
2. Rest your left hand on your lap or use a mudra (often Jnana mudra is used with this exercise.)
3. Bend your pointer and index fingers of your right hand in toward your palm, extending the thumb, ring and little fingers (Vishnu mudra).
4. Inhale through both nostrils. Bring your right hand to your nose and press your thumb against your right nostril, halting the passage of air.
5. Exhale through the left nostril only. Try to aim for a count of 4-ish but find what is comfortable for you. Inhale again through the left nostril only. Try and match the length of your inhale with the exhale.
6. With the ring and little finger now press against your left nostril and exhale through the right. Inhale again through the right and use thumb to block right nostril while you exhale left.
I have read to do at least nine rounds. The next level is to hold the breath at the top of the inhale for the same length of time as the inhale/exhale (count of 4, for example.) If you have never done it before, it can take some concentration and fumbling around before you find the pattern. Be patient. It is great work just to apply our minds in this way and even just the few moments we spend trying to be aware only of the inhale and exhale in itself is a great exercise.
To breathe in is an act of receiving, of absorbing, beginning again. When we breathe out we give back, we expel, we let go again. In the natural space between these two actions that continues throughout our entire lives, is a moment where we are doing neither. In essence, we just are. This is said to be a portal to the infinite, the space where God lives.
More words about Nadi Shodhan here: