Pranayama: Breathing to Calm your Mind and Heal Your Body

Photo by jhoc

Ayurveda and Yoga both recommend that we spend time each day practicing some simple breathing exercises (pranayama) for peace of mind and increased immunity.

One of the most popular and effective exercises is something called Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, a simple technique that controls the flow of vital energy (prana) to the brain and has a very calming and balancing effect.

Note: Nadi Shodhana is pronounced  nah-dee show-dah-nah. It’s a Sanskrit term meaning channel purifying. Nadi means channel and shodhana means cleaning, or purifying. Both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine place great significance on keeping the channels of the body and mind clear and consider it vital to our wellbeing.

The Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing Include

- Calming anxiety
- Relief from stress
- Grounding the mind
- Anger Management
- Clearing the energy channels and encouraging  flow of vital energy
- Enhancing mental concentration and clarity

How Alternate Nostril Breathing Works

Alternate nostril breathing works by balancing the opposite energies in the body, in a very similar way to the Chinese theory of yin and yang. One nostril is cooling, one is heating, one has a male energy, and the other has female. Breathing through one nostril stimulates the left hemisphere of the brain and the other nostril stimulates the right. So by spending just 10 minutes a day switching your breath between nostrils you can balance your brain, calm your mind and boost your immunity. Sound good?

here's how to do it:

Sit up straight (on a chair with your feet on the floor, or cross legged if your prefer), drop your shoulders and bring them back to open your chest. Close your mouth and be sure to keep your tongue and jaw relaxed.

- inhale through both nostrils

- now press the thumb of your right hand to your right nostril to hold it closed and exhale through your left nostril

- inhale throughout he left nostril while still holding the right closed with your thumb

- before you exhale, close your left nostril closed with the ring finger of your right hand and now exhale through your right nostril

- keep your ringer finger on the left side and inhale through the right

- now switch again, holding the right nostril closed with your thumb as you exhale through the left

- inhale throughout the left nostril

- and switch again holding the left nostril closed with your ring finger while you exhale through the right

- inhale through the right


This can sound complicated at first but it's really very simply once you've tried it. Here's an overview of the pattern to help you get the idea:

- exhale left, inhale left
- exhale right, inhale right
- exhale left, inhale left
- exhale right, inhale right

and so on…

The following video from Yoga Today demonstrates the technique beautifully:



If you enjoyed this post please share it. I appreciate your support.





Related Resources:

For another pranayama breathing technique that is excellent for creating a clear and calm mind, please listen to this podcast from Anxiety Slayer: Anxiety Breathing technique: The Bumble Bee Breath



*UPDATE* Our new collection of breathing exercises for relief from stress and anxiety is now available in the iTunes Music Store...