Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
The word nadi means channel and shodhana means cleansing or purification. Nadi Shodhana translates as the practice that purifies the energy channels of our body. While Nadi Shodhana is reputed to be a practice that can lead to spiritual awakening, it can also do amazing things for our mind and our body. It is recommended for those who are anxious, stressed, or engaged in mental work; and is a great way to end any Hatha Yoga session.
Assume Nasagra Mudra by resting the index and middle finger of the right hand between the eyebrows, palm of the hand facing you. Both the hand and fingers should be relaxed. The ring finger is above the left nostril and the thumb is above the right. These two fingers will be used to control the flow of breath in the nostrils.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Technique:
Sit in a comfortable meditation position, with the spine straight. Begin to relax the whole body by closing the eyes. Begin yogic breathing until the breath becomes stable and even. Assume Nasagra Mudra with you right hand. Relax your left hand on the knee in Jnana or Chin Mudra. Close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale in through the left nostril. Count the length of the inhale, 1,2,3,4,5; until you reach your full yet comfortable inhalation. Do not strain. That will be the count that you maintain through your practice.
Close the left nostril with the ring finger, release the thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through the right nostril to the same count as inhale 5,4,3,2,1.
Next, inhale through the right nostril, counting as you did before. At the end of the inhale, plug the right nostril and exhale through the left continuing the counting.
This is one full round of Nadi Shodhana. Inhaling left, exhaling right, inhaling right, exhaling left, creates a full round. Start by doing 10 rounds at a time or for 5 minutes. Slowly increase the amount of time you practice by adding one more minute every one to two weeks if there is no strain.
Note: If you are unable to breathe through the nose or one sinus is clogged you will not be able to do the practice. The air has to move without obstruction to perform the Pranayama. To clean the sinus, perform Jala Neti, nasal cleansing with water. Neti pots can be purchased at most pharmacies and Indian groceries, and the procedure is simple to perform. Ask an experienced Yoga educator for further information on Jala Neti and the technique.
Do not rush to lengthen of the inhale or exhale. After a week or two of practicing your count, you can begin to lengthen the ratio by one. Continue in this way increasing the count every few weeks until you reach 12:12. If there is ever any strain or discomfort reduce the count.
In the traditional Yoga texts there are numerous rules, regulations, and warnings for practicing Pranayamas. The most important point, found in every text, is to practice moderation and use common sense. Never strain, and never go beyond your capacity. The lungs are very delicate and can easily be damaged. Pranayamas also increase the flow and absorption of Prana, the life force-also known as Chi in Chinese medicine. This can have numerous effects on many different levels of our being. Anyone who is interested in dedicated study of Pranayamas or going beyond the beginning level of techniques should seek the guidance of a Guru or experienced Yoga educator. One should always practice under competent guidance, and never rush.
And, all the wonderful benefits:
Nadi Shodhana supplies the body with extra oxygen. With this extra oxygen, carbon dioxide is forced from the body and the blood is purified of impurities and toxins. The extra oxygen helps the brain to function at its best. A few minutes of practice will induce a deep state of relaxation and peace. It helps to relieve stress, bring mental clarity, and focus. It is a wonderful technique for people who are feeling stressed, anxious, or tired. It brings the Pranas into harmony and helps to balance Ida Nadi, the passive channel, and Pingala Nadi, the active channel. One of the central focuses of Hatha Yoga is to balance Ida and Pingala Nadi so that Prana can flow into the central channel, Sushumna Nadi, which leads to deep states of meditation and spiritual awakening.