Even though we are in the middle of our winter months, it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning. “Spring” you say? Yes indeed. Although the cold season encourages us to go deep into hibernation, mindfully contemplating what might be holding us back, now’s the time to start the process of cleansing away the old clutter from our past year, making our intentions known for the future. This is a great time for cleansing and renewing our bodies BEFORE spring gets here, finding reprieve from our busy schedules, unhealthy diets, and my main focus here, cultivation of our breath.
One of my all time favorite ways of cultivating this cleansing effect internally through the breath is Alternate Nostril Breathing (also known as Nadi Shodhana). This breath exercise gently works, just as it sounds, by alternating the breath between the two nostrils. It’s even safe for pregnancy. This purposeful approach to breathing is great to use during cold and flu seasons. It’s also an excellent way to bring the mind back to the present moment instead of it’s tendency to jump around between the past and future. There are also endless ways of advancing this breathing technique using retention (holding the breath), bandhas (engagement of areas along the spine in the chakra system used for “locking” in the energy), and focusing on either inhalation or exhalation to create differing effects on the nervous system.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing / Nadi Shodhana:
- Cleans and opens nasal passages
- Regulates blood pressure and heart rate, relieving stress symptoms
- Regulates flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid to the brain, refreshing the mind and harmonizing the two hemispheres of the brain
- Balances the nervous system between fight or flight/rest and restore, effectively managing anxiety and depression symptoms
- Teaches the cells, through rhythmic breathing, to work more efficiently
- Greater lung capacity is utilized with better proficiency
If you feel like your curiosity has been sparked, don’t hesitate to ask me more questions. Self-care is my specialty and I’d love to help you achieve the perfect balance in your home practice. And if yoga is still not your thing, who doesn’t need a fantastic massage on a regular basis. = ) Hope to see you soon!
Practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Sit comfortably seated either cross legged or in a chair and with spine erect (no slouching; support your back against a wall if need be). Take a minimum of 3 deep breaths to bring yourself into the moment and prepare your senses to be fully present with your breathing.
With right palm towards the face in Vishnu Mudra, or your chosen hand and gesture, begin by inhaling through both nostrils to fill up with breath.
Thumb blocks right nostril forcing exhalation on the left.
Inhale left side.
SWITCH, releasing right side, now blocking left nostril with inner edge of ring finger.
Exhale right side.
Inhale right side.
SWITCH, and repeat, changing sides to exhale; exhaling and inhaling to each side individually.
Complete the practice by exhaling on the right side, then release hand away from nose to inhale through both nostrils together.
After completing the practice, sit quietly in meditation observing the positive changes and stillness within your body and mind.
If you are new to this exercise, begin slowly with just a few breaths, 30-45 seconds at a time. Work your way up to 5 or 10 minutes. Don’t rush. Take it slow and easy. There should be no discomfort or feelings of hyperventilation.