By: Stacy Wiseman, RD, LDN
Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is a pranayama breathing technique that is used to calm the mind, body and emotions. Research has shown that this type of breathing can have positive impacts on the autonomic nervous system resulting in decreased blood pressure and improved respiratory/lung function. It is a powerful practice to help relieve stress, anger and anxiety and can help prepare your mind for improved meditation practices.
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, or you sense panic or anxiety begin to rise, move through a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. It is a terrific way
to hit the reset button for your mental state.
1. Choose a comfortable sitting position—either cross-legged on the floor (with a cushion or
blanket to support the spine), or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Allow your spine to
lengthen so that your back, neck, and head are erect throughout the practice.
2. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your
3. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your
eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers we will be actively using are the thumb
and ring finger.
4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through both nostrils.
5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and
6. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath
at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
7. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at
the bottom of the exhale.
8. Inhale through the right side slowly.
9. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
10. Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the
11. Repeat five or more cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
12. When you are ready to close your practice, complete your final round of nadi shodhana with an exhalation through the left nostril. Relax your right hand and place it comfortably in your lap as
you take several full breaths.
13. Allow your breath to return to normal. As you do, notice your state of mind. Steps 5-9 represent one complete cycle of alternate nostril breathing. If you are moving through the sequence slowly, one cycle should take you about 30-40 seconds. Move through five or more cycles when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or in need of a reset button.
Tip: Try to match the length of your inhales, pauses, and exhales. For example, you can start to inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, hold for five. You can slowly increase your count as you refine your practice.
Contraindications of Nadi Shodhana
Avoid practicing Nadi Shodhana if you have a cold or runny nose. This would disturb the breathing or might choke the windpipe while breathing.
Practitioners who are prone to dust particles or are allergic should avoid this practice around that area. An open space with clear air or an indoor airy room could be the better option in this regard.
Patients with sinus problems should avoid practicing Nadi Shodh ana while they experience pain or inflammation in the nasal or throat region. The practice would hardly reach the desired results in such discomfort.
Feeling shortness of breath in Nadi Shodhana is a sign you are pushing your breath beyond your normal limits. Stop the practice immediately when feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous.
Individuals who are suffering from an of infection of the mouth, nose, throat, or lungs should avoid practicing Nadi Shodhana.
The practice of this Nadi Shodhana should not be done after a meal, and one should wait for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours after eating to begin the practice.
In today’s chaotic, stress-filled world alternate nostril breathing can provide relaxation and clear
stressors from your mind. While the potential benefits are promising, remember that you need to
practice alternate nostril breathing regularly to see and maintain results. Breathing techniques are not a substitute for medical treatment. Always talk with your doctor before beginning any breathing practice, especially if you have any medical concerns or conditions.
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