Last year, Vogue magazine declared “Breathing Is the New Yoga”, highlighting Art of Living’s Sudarshan Kriya.
And recently, Hillary Clinton attested to using the “alternate nostril” breathing technique as a saving grace during the stressful 2016 presidential election.
We’re glad they’re catching on =) For the last 35 years, The Art of Living has taught over 30 million people how to use breathing exercises to quiet the mind, reduce stress and make meditation easier… and alternate nostril is one of our favorites.
Whether running for president or running late for work, Alternate Nostril Breathing is an excellent way to tap into the body’s natural stress-reduction mechanisms.
In Sanskrit, Alternate Nostril Breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”, and it has many benefits. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. It also relaxes the mind in preparation for meditation, which can be helpful for those struggling to settle down before meditating. When performed for just a few minutes, Alternate Nostril Breathing can instantly reduce stress and fatigue, and is a quick and efficient practice to do before high-stress situations such as job interviews and public speaking engagements.
How To Do Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
- Sit in a comfortable position with the spine long and the hips relaxed. Release any tension from your jaw. Close your eyes.
- Place your left hand on your left knee with the palm face upward, or in the Chin Mudra by pressing the index finger and thumb together.
- Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows with the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open and close the left nostril and use the thumb for the right nostril.
- On an exhalation, close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the left nostril.
- Breathe in through the left nostril and then close with the ring finger.
- Release the thumb on the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril, close with the thumb, release the ring finger from the left side and exhale through the left nostril.
- These two full breaths are called one round of Alternate Nostril Breath.
- Perform 5 to 9 rounds of this alternating breath between the nostrils.
- Remember to always inhale through the same nostril you just exhaled through.
The Nadi Shodhana Pranayama will relax the mind and prepare it for meditation, making it a great technique to perform before meditating. It can also be practiced as part of the Padma Sadhana sequence.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
- Calms and centers the mind
- Brings the mind to the present moment and out of the past (releasing old fears, regret, and worry)
- Therapeutic for the circulatory and respiratory systems
- Stress relieving and relaxing for the body and mind
- Helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
- Helps purify and balance the nadis, the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
- Maintains body temperature.
3 Things to Remember When Practicing Nadi Shodhana Pranayam
- The breathing pattern is breath out, breathe in, switch sides.
- Do not force the breath - keep it gentle and natural. Allow the breath to be smooth and even without creating force or pressure. Do not breathe through the mouth or make any sound such as in Ujjayi breath.
- Place the fingers very lightly on the forehead and nose. There is no need to apply any pressure.
Medical and Health Considerations
While a regular yoga practice can result in improved health, know that it is not a substitute for medical treatment. It is important to learn and practice yoga under the supervision of a trained teacher. In the case of a medical condition, practice yoga after consulting a doctor.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is an excellent addition to meditation or Sudarshan Kriya - the primary technique on the Art of Living Happiness Program. Over 65 independent studies show Sudarshan Kriya effectively reduces cortisol (stress) levels, increases mental focus, enhances immunity, and decreases depression and anxiety, with quick and lasting effects.
While getting a taste in a short online video is a great start, it’s good to learn in person from a certified teacher to ensure you’re doing them properly, especially with more advanced and powerful techniques.