Let’s talk about your breath, babe.
Your breath is the central tool that unlocks the body, mind, and soul. It is a powerful force that when harnessed, can create immediate changes in your consciousness (state of being). These changes are highly potent and guess what, they are available to you right now, in this very moment.
…… are you curious yet?
I image you landed here because you practice yoga and enjoy how your practice supports you. Your body is stronger. Your mind is clearer. Your heart is softer. Your self-awareness is brighter. Your relationships closer.
In general, your yoga practice helps you be a better you.
But what about your breath (pranayama) practice?
It’s not uncommon for yoga practitioners to only harness their breath during a yoga practice, only to forget it exists right after they step off the yoga mat.
Oh hi, guilty yoga student right here.
But what if we changed this common scenario? What if we tapped into our breath on a regular basis? What if we took our yoga practice one step further down the eight limbed path?
Today’s practice is about leaning into this what if.
Ready to lean with me?
To begin our journey, let’s break down the word pranayama.
Prana represents the basic energy of life and yama means to rein in, so put the two together and we are reigning in our life force.
Think about your yoga practice and it’s relationship to your breath. When your breath is present – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale – your strength is harnessed, your mind is cleared, your life force is awakened.
But what happens when the breath goes missing?
…… you find yourself in warrior II thinking about your grocery list, the errands you need to run, and staring down at your toes that desperately need a pedicure.
The important lesson here is: your breath is energy and you hold the power to direct that energy throughout your body.
When it goes missing, you can bring it back. When it becomes constricted, you can soften it. When it’s too soft, you can enliven it. When it’s sporadic and scattered, you can bring rhythm to it.
Here’s how this works.
Your inhalation breath is charging: it increases your sensitivity, vitality, and aliveness. It expands your body, nourishes, heats, and builds energy.
Your exhalation is discharging: it helps with letting go, relaxation, and releases pain and tension. It contracts the body, helps purify, cool, and preserve energy.
If you want more energy, bring in more oxygen, increase your inhalations.
If you want to relax, release, and let go, invite yourself to take longer exhalations.
See how this balancing act works? You hold the key to your body’s state of being.
Okay, let’s take it one step further and discuss today’s specific pranayama practice: nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).
I vividly remember learning this practice during yoga teacher training and feeling an overwhelming sense of calm come over me. It was as if my body had left the workshop room and traveled to a far away place within my consciousness. This place had no mind chatter, no tension in the body, and no insecurities, it was just a vast field with infinite depth and breadth.
….. and truth be told, it was a little scary too, hello altered state of being without taking drugs to get there.
After yoga teacher training, I dabbled in alternate nostril breathing, teaching it a little here, including it in some of my online yoga classes over there, and sporadically using it in my personal practice too.
Needless to say, the power wasn’t being harnessed.
Fast forward to today, adjusting to living on a sailboat (and missing home), and this breathing technique has become a dear friend to me.
And now, I’m inviting you to befriend it too.
Bring yourself into a comfortable seated position (in comfortable clothes), and let’s begin to to breathe.
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Find a seated, upright posture that you can hold for an extended period of time. If you need a cushion to help elevate your hips, please use one.
- Invite yourself to sit quietly here.
- Begin to awaken your breath with 5 – 10 full inhalations and exhalations.
- Using your right hand, create the Vishnu mudra – fold your pointer and middle finger down towards the palm of your hand. This leaves your thumb and ring finger available to close off your nostril as you switch sides and breathe.
- Bring your right hand to your nose, with your thumb grazing the right nostril, and your ring finger grazing the left nostril.
- Gently press your thumb to your right nostril.
- Inhale up the left nostril.
- Release your thumb, gently press your ring finger to the left nostril.
- Exhale out the right nostril.
- Hold your ring finger in place, inhale up the right nostril.
- Release your ring finger as your thumb rests onto your right nostril.
- Exhale out the left nostril.
- Inhale up the left nostril.
- Release your thumb and rest your ring finger down.
- Exhale out the right nostril.
- Inhale up the right nostril.
- Continue this cycle of breathing for 5 – 10 minutes.
- End with an exhalation on your left (your feminine side)
- Release the mudra and return to your meditation posture
- Notice how you feel, sit with the sensation, allow yourself to surrender here
How glorious does your body, mind, and soul feel? Let me guess.
You feel an overwhelming sense of restoration, calm, and dare I say: BALANCE.
My work here is almost complete.
Below are a few extra tidbits to support your alternate nostril breathing journey, like best practices and benefits.
- Calms and clears the mind
- Lowers the heart rate
- Good for insomnia
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain
- Stimulates the ida and pingala nadis (figure-eight currents of energy that wrap around the chakras)
- Keep your head centered over your midline. Do not tilt or move your heard from side to side.
- Begin by keeping the inhalation and the exhalation equal in length (do this by counting the breath).
- Gradually increase the exhalation as you build up your practice.
- Avoid if you are stuffed up from a cold or allergies.
- Do not practice forcefully.
- If focusing on the chakras, mentally trace the ida and pingala nadis crisscrossing between the chakras as you inhale and exhale.
- Try doing this breath practice without your hand, mentally tracing the alternate breathing pattern with your mind (good for environments where you don’t feel comfortable doing it)
- Try sending your inhale breath to the alternate side of your brain and exhale down that same side of the brain.
And now, my work here is complete.
It’s my deepest hope that you can make space for nadi shodhana pranayama in your life and that it supports your wellbeing like it does for me. And if this breathing technique isn’t for you, I urge you to research and experience a few until one resonates with you.
If you’re searching for a comfortable (and stylish) outfit to relax so hard in, call off the search party, the romper I’m wearing in today’s video will satisfy your needs. Click here to shop my romper at Buddha Pants!
Thank you for breathing with me, xoxo.
Hey! I’m Allie.
I’m a self-growth student, freedom-seeker, yoga teacher and the founder of a tight-knit online yoga community: the Body Mind Soul Studio. I’m here to teach you how to transform your life on-and-off-the-mat with a holistic yoga practice.
I wanna learn it all!
The Yoga Reset Guide is my FREE 7-step journey to deepen your practice and recenter your body, mind and soul. Self-paced, no equipment necessary, perfect for beginners AND veteran yogis.