When you get stressed do you get angry, snappy or teary? Or do you tend to ‘stress eat’, leaning on comfort foods to get through the rough patches. Study after study is showing that we are more stressed than ever. According to the American Psychological Association, one in four Americans rate their stress levels as eight or more on a 10-point scale. If you are one of those who feel like these rough patches are becoming too frequent, it might be time to look at other, more sustainable ways of keeping life’s pressures under control.
Nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is one of my favourite ways of bringing stress levels down and balancing the mind and healing the body. The five-minute breathing exercise quickly fills the body with oxygen and can be used to reduce stress and anxiety while sharpening mental clarity and focus. It also clears and releases toxin, rejuvenates the nervous system, helps balance hormones, supports clear and balanced respiratory channels, alleviates hay fever and wheezing and balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
How does it work?
In Sanskrit nadi means ‘channel’ or ‘flow’ and shodhana means ‘purification’. What nadi shodhana does is it clears and purifies the subtle channels of the mind and body, while balancing the feminine and masculine traits. It also pacifies all three body types, or doshas.
Like other forms of yoga and meditation it’s best to practice nadi shodhana on an empty stomach, mornings can work well. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Start by choosing a comfortable position, either sitting cross-legged on the floor or seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Sit up straight and close your eyes.
2. Take a deep breath and exhale, doing this several times to energise the body and shake any lingering thoughts that are floating around in your head.
3. When you’re ready, place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. You’ll be using the ring finger and the little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril.
4. Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril.
5. Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril. Exhale gently, but fully.
6. Now breathe in from the left nostril, deep into your belly and up through the rest of your body, and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right.
7. Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of nadi shodhan pranayama. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils.
8. Try to complete nine rounds alternatively breathing through both of the nostrils, keep your eyes closed and focus on deep, smooth breaths that travel up and down your body.
9. When finishing the practice, after the exhalation through your left nostril, do several full yogic breaths (where the breath moves up through your entire body and then down and out passing through the organs and calming mind and body).
10. Finally, take a moment to just observe how you feel before going about your other activities.
Here’s instructions on how to do nadi shodhana.
How often and for how long is it done?
Nadi shodhana is a really effective practice and it doesn’t require a huge amount of time. In just five minutes a day you will feel the benefits. For those that have a more serious ailment like high blood pressure, five minutes, 3-to 5-times a day is recommended.
Moving the oxygen from one side of the brain to the next, is one of the most profound changes that you can do in terms of feeling settled, grounded and connected with yourself.
Nadi shodhana is just one of the simple practices we can teach to keep stress levels down on a day to day basis, while also sharpening your mental focus and improving health. Why don’t you try this for one month and keep track of how you’re feeling and the changes that take place in your body? You can get in touch with us at the clinic or take part in one of our tailored detox and cleanse programs where we talk about nadi shodhana as well as other aspects of Ayurvedic living, while re-setting and re-booting your whole body.