Nadi shodhanam is a simple pranayama practice that purifies the nadis – subtle energy vessels or channels that interpenetrate the physical body. This exercise is also called “channel purification.” It aims to balance the flow of breath in the nostrils and the flow of subtle energy in the nadis by shifting the breath from one nostril to the next. (For a more detailed description of the benefits and the practice of this exercise, please refer to the Yoga International reprint series titled Balancing Active and Receptive Energies, or Meditation and Its Practice, by Swami Rama P.120. or The Science of Breath by Swami Rama pp.61-67)
Nadi shodhanam should be practiced at least twice a day, in the morning and again in the early evening. It is a good preliminary preparation for meditation. Practice at a time when you won’t be disturbed. The practice will take between 5 to 10 minutes. Always practice on an empty stomach or at least 2 hours after eating.
Sit either on a chair or on the floor in an easy posture like sukhasana. The important element of the posture is that the head, neck and trunk are upright and the spine erect. Relax the body and establish diaphragmatic breathing.
There are several variations of nadi shodhanam. There is a recommended one for beginners (see below). Remember not to retain the breath, but breathe continually without a pause. Exhalation and inhalation are of equal duration. Do not force the breath; allow it to be slow, controlled, and free from sounds and jerks. With practice, you may gradually lengthen the duration of inhalation and exhalation.
To begin, determine which one of your nostrils is breathing more actively, e.g. the one that is most open. This is your active nostril. The other nostril which is somewhat restricted is the passive nostril. If you are not sure, you could close off one nostril then the other with your finger to determine the stronger flow.
1. Bring the right hand to the nose, fold the index finger and the middle finger so the right thumb can be used to close the right nostril and the ring finger can be used to close the left nostril (vishnu mudra). Alternatively, you may place the index and middle fingers on the bridge of the nose between the eyes.
2. Close the passive nostril and exhale completely through the active nostril.
3. At the end of the exhalation, close the active nostril and inhale through the passive nostril slowly and completely. Inhalation and exhalation should be of equal duration.
4. Repeat this cycle of exhalation with the active nostril and inhalation with the passive nostril two more times.
5. At the end of the third inhalation with the passive nostril, exhale completely through the same nostril keeping the active nostril closed with the finger.
6. At the end of the exhalation, close the passive nostril and inhale through the active nostril.
7. Repeat two more times the cycle of exhalation through the passive nostril and inhalation through the active nostril.
8. TO SUM UP:
1 Exhale Active
2 Inhale Passive
3 Exhale Active
4 Inhale Passive
5 Exhale Active
6 Inhale Passive
7 Exhale Passive
8 Inhale Active
9 Exhale Passive
10 Inhale Active
11 Exhale Passive
12 Inhale Active
9. Return your hand to your thigh and exhale and inhale through both nostrils evenly for three complete breaths. This completes ONE cycle or round of the nadi shodhanam practice. It is customary to do three cycles or rounds of the practice.
Note: When practicing three rounds in one sitting, the second of the three rounds begins with the opposite nostril, and the pattern of alternation is therefore the reverse of rounds one and three. The third round is exactly the same as the first round.
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