Mindfulness: Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Nadi Shodhana, or “alternate nostril breathing,” is a simple yet powerful technique that settles the mind, body, and emotions. If you’re feeling stressed, follow Home Base’s Kayla Furbish, BA, RYT-200 for today’s #HBHealthAtHome segment as she guides you through how to help you find your center. With just a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing, you can restore balance and ease in the mind and body.
Nadi Shodhana is a balancing breath, and it helps to regulate the autonomic nervous system, so the balance between fight or flight and rest and digest. This breath uses a hand mudra, or hand position, and options for that include folding down the first two fingers of your hand, your pointer finger and your middle finger, and then using your thumb and your ring finger to alternately block each side of your nostril. If that’s not comfortable, another option includes using the same two fingers, the first finger, and the middle finger, and placing them at the brow point, and then using your thumb and your ring finger to alternately close the sides of your nostrils. Finally, if neither of those options is comfortable, you could always use your pointer finger and your thumb and alternate.
To begin, find a comfortable seat where you can sit in an upright position with a tall spine, maybe sitting with your legs crossed or sitting on your heels. Take a hand mudra of choice, block the left side of your nose and inhale, filling all the way up, and then when you get to the top block both nostrils, o open the left side of your nose and exhale all the way. Keeping your hand in the same position, inhale on the same side, pausing at the top to block both nostrils, and then exhaling out the right.
As you become more comfortable with this breathing cycle we can add a specified ratio for our inhales and exhales. So the next time you exhale, whichever side you’re on, inhale to the count of four. One, two, three, four. And when we get to the top, we add breath retention or Kumbhaka, holding the breath for a count of two. One, two. Then we exhale from the other side for a count of four. One, two, three, four. Continue on this cycle for a few rounds, inhaling to a count of four, holding the breath for a count of two, and then exhaling for a count of four.
Another ratio you could apply to this Pranayama practice is the two to one ratio with your exhales becoming twice as long as your inhales. As we lengthen our exhales we shift the balance of our autonomic nervous system into the parasympathetic nervous system, or rest and digest, signaling safety to our body, so this ratio helps us to feel more calm and relaxed. Whichever side you’re on after your next exhale, inhale to a count of four. One, two, three, four. Hold for a count of two. One, two. Exhale for a count of eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. You can continue this Pranayama practice for as long as it’s comfortable for you, using a balanced breath with inhales and exhales of equal length or lengthening your exhales to be twice as long as your inhales for a more relaxing breath.
Whenever you’re ready to end the practice, exhale from the left nostril, and then return to a natural breath cycle.