Just returned from an incredible month in Bali, adding to my yoga teacher tools. Imagine if you will, spending all day for a month practicing and absorbing teachings of yoga – it was incredible. Plus being in the spiritual center of Bali, Ubud, where each day the sights and sounds of their deep honoring of deities and nature abounded was also incredible.
What did I come back with? A further commitment and deepening of my own practice, along with more ways to share the ancient art and science of yoga with others. I had particularly chosen the course I did for its emphasis on the breathing practices of yoga, called pranayama, as well as for the advanced meditation techniques. One of the breathing practices which is helpful for anyone to do daily is alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. Nadi = subtle energy channel; shodhan = cleansing or purification; and pranayama = breathing practice or technique.
Doing this practice, even if only for a few minutes can help you feel calmer and release accumulated tension and fatigue. The mind is typically calmer after a few minutes of this practice and your breathing tends to deepen, which can also help move the nervous system from the “fight or flight” response. If you have any stress in your life, you can benefit from this practice. The nice thing is that you can do this technique without any equipment or special clothing! You just need to have a quiet place and a few minutes to yourself.
To begin, find a comfortable seated position, either in a chair or on the floor. It is important to have the natural shape of your spine, so do take the time to set yourself up well. You will use one of your hands to alternately close and open one and then the other of your nostrils. With your hand in front of your nose, the traditional position is to either bring your first and second fingers toward your palm or place the tips of those fingers lightly in between your eyebrows. You then use your third finger and thumb for closing the nostrils. Close your eyes, and breathe in through both nostrils. Closing the right nostril, breathe out through the left, then breathe in through that same side. On the exhale, close off the left, and breathe out through the right. Breathe in through the right, and switch again on your exhale. Continue in this pattern, alternating the nostril used on the exhale.
Let your breath be smooth and even – it should never feel as though you are struggling for air. If your even and smooth inhales and exhales gets disturbed, stop and return to your normal breath for a little while until it stabilizes. Then begin again. Start with doing this for a few minutes, and gradually increase your time up to 5 – 10 minutes. After you are finished, enjoy the calm!