What is Nadi Shodhana?
Nadi Shodhana is a breathing exercise, or pranayama which translates as ‘channel clearing’ breath. It helps to clear blocked energy channels within the body, so that prana (aka, chi or life energy) can flow more freely through the system.
Due to its calming effect on the mind, many use Nadi Shodhana as a preparatory exercise before meditation.
How does it work?
What are Nadis?
Yogic Philosophy believes that we have around 72,000 nadis within the human body. Nadis are energy channels that make up our pranamayakosha (our energetic body). You can think of these nadis or energy channels as being similar, but not the same as the nerves within the nervous system. Our prana runs through these channels.
Amoungst these thousands of nadis, we have 3 main ones. The left nostril is the Ida Nadi, the right nostril is the Pingala Nadi. These 2 nadis begin at the base of the spine, wind their way up the spine and end in the nostrils. The Sushumna Nadi runs through spinal cord, again from the base of the spine, but this channel ends at the crown of the head, passing through the bodies 7 main chakras or energy centres (I will explain the chakras in more detail in another blog post).
You may not have noticed, but at any given time, one nostril is more dominant in breathing than the other. You can check which one by placing your hand underneath your nose and exhaling. You will feel that air flows more strongly through one nostril than the other. The dominant nostril switches automatically throughout the day, on average, about every 90 minutes.
When your left nostril is dominant, you are likely to be in a calmer and more passive state, where as when the right nostril is dominant, you are likely to feel more active and ready to go. The left nostril is related to the right side of the brain and the right nostril to the left side.
When energy can flow freely through both nostrils evenly, it is an indication that your energetic system is in balance, and your prana is moving through the Sushumna Nadi. A calmer and more meditative state can be achieved. Practicing Nadi Shodhana can help this even flow and thus will bring a feeling of calm to the whole system.
This alternate nostril breathing can also be used to switch the dominant nostril and thus alter your way of being, e.g. if your right nostril is dominant and you are feeling restless and worked up, you can practice this breathing exercise to switch the dominant nostril and allow the calming and soothing affect of left nostril dominance in (and vice versa for the left- if you have feeling lethargic and want to become more active)
How to do Nadi Shodhana
Nadi Shodhana is best practiced on an empty stomach, so a good time to practice is first thing in the morning.
Find a comfortable seated position, either cross legged (or cross legged on a cushion) or on a chair if that is more comfortable. In which ever position you are in, make sure you have a straight spine.
Bring your right hand into Vishnu Mudra (pictured below). To come into this mudra, hold out your right hand and bend the index finger and the middle finger down towards the palm of your hand. Leave the ring finger and the pinky finger and thumb straight.
Take a breath in here. Exhale completely through your nose. Inhale again. Place your thumb over your right nostril and exhale completely through your left nostril (see picture below). Inhale though your left nostril again (keeping the thumb over the right nostril).
Now exhale through the right nostril (by closing the left nostril with your ring finger).
Inhale again through the right nostril. Switch sides again and exhale through the left nostril.
This is one round. We always start by exhaling fully through the left nostril – then inhaling through the left – covering the left nostril with the ring finger – exhaling through the right nostril – inhale right – covering the right nostril with the thumb and exhaling through the left – inhale left – exhale right – inhale right – exhale left. etc.
The breath should be smooth, even and silent. You can try and match the length of your inhale and exhale by counting inhale 1,2,3,4 exhale 1,2,3,4 etc.
Click on this short video link for a short 5 minute Nadi Shodhana lesson I have recorded.
What are the benefits of Nadi Shodhana?
Nadi Shodhana has many health benefits.
- Lowers the heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety.
- Balances the solar and lunar (masculine and feminine) energies.
- Prepares the body and mind for meditation.
- Calms the mind. Focusing on the breath and it’s movement through the body is a powerful practice within itself.
- Infuses the body with oxygen.
- Improves focus and concentration.
- Balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain.