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The ins and outs of nadi shodana

Feeling overwhelmed? Underwhelmed?

The secret to feeling more… whelmed could be right under your nose.

My favourite pranayama, or breathing exercise, is nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. It’s translated as nadi purification and is believed to balance the subtle energy or prana of the energetic body.

There are two nadis, energy channels, the ida and the pingala, the masculine and the feminine, that wind their way up the body like a DNA strand from the pelvis up to the nostrils, meeting at chakra points.

When we breathe solely through the left nostril it activates the right side of the brain – the “feminine” side that’s responsible for emotion and creativity. When we breathe solely through the right nostril is stimulates the left side of the brain, the side responsible for the more “masculine” functions of logic and language. So an active practice stimulating both hemispheres brings them into balance. This has been scientifically proven.

By infusing the body with oxygen, the practice also releases toxins, calms the nervous system, rebalances hormones and enhances mental clarity and concentration.

Studies of competitive swimmers have also shown that nadi shodhana pranayama improves vital lung capacity and gets more oxygen to the muscles.

Perhaps most importantly to all of us though is the fact it can reduce stress, improve cardiovascular response and lower heart rate and blood pressure. So it’s worth a try!

Here are the ins and outs:

· Sit comfortably and start with a couple of normal deep breaths.

· Raise your right hand to your face and press the first two fingers into your forehead.

· With your thumb, very gently close the hole of the right nostril and take a deep breath in through the left. Don’t press too hard, you just have to seal the hole not close it.

· Pause at the top of the inhale.

· Then close the left nostril with your ring finger, take the thumb away from your right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.

· Breathe in through the right.

· Pause.

· Close the right nostril with your thumb, take the ring finger away from the left nostril and breathe out.

That’s one full round.

Aim for at least 10 rounds and you can gradually work up to more.

You can also work at increasing the exhale. So inhale for a count of four. Hold for two. Exhale for six or even eight counts.

Fun fact that I love to wheel out: Hilary Clinton reckons nadi shadona kept her grounded when she lost the presidency. That’s a pretty powerful endorsement if ever I heard one.

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