Nadi Shodhana Benefits & How Alternate Nostril Breathing Works

Including how to do nadi shodhana pranayama.

Nadi Shodhana benefits are what you get from nadi shodhana breathing pranayama. In short, it’s breath meditation using alternate nostrils.

Each nostril has a separate and different “pathway”. So it makes sense that directing your breath through those different pathways can have very different affects.

Nadi shodhana breathing purifies the channels of energy in the body, restores balance to the body, and creates a feeling of peace in the mind.

It’s a powerful breathing practice that dissolves all feelings of anxiousness, irritability and unease.

How to do nadi Shodhana pranayama will be covered towards the end of this post, after a quick outline of nadi shodhana benefits.

nadi shodhana benefitsIn alternate nostril breathing, gentle pressure by the thumb, ring finger, & little finger, is used to open & close your nostrils, so as to regulate air through separate & different nasal “pathways”. Try it!

What is nadi shodhana breathing?

In Sanskrit, nadi shodhana means ‘purification of the nerves’.

It’s a digital pranayama that’s done by applying a particular pressure on the nose with the thumb, index and ring fingers.

The picture with this post shows how to use your fingers to do this.

The pressure of the thumb and fingers regulates the flow of inhalations and exhalations alternatively though both nostrils.

The early yogis discovered it as a way to shift the flow of energy in the body.

At the same time, nadi shodhana breathing rejuvenates the body and mind.

The many benefits of the various forms of pranayama have now been scientifically proven.

In Iyengar yoga, this practice is usually taught after you’re familiar with Ujjayi (done lying down), and viloma pranayamas. These pranayamas are about inhaling and exhaling the breath in stages.

Alternate nostril breathing is another version of inhaling and exhaling in stages. But it is one where you are using the pressure of the fingers to regulate the flow of air in and out through the right and left nostril.

Overview of how alternate nostril breathing works

Yogi’s  discovered that the brain is divided into the right and left hemispheres.

Nadi Shodhana is an ingenious way to shift energy up the spinal column.

The practice also balances hot and cold energy channels. The right nostril is the heating channel, and the left is the cooling channel.

Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) ensures that neither channel is dominant. This helps restore balance to the left and right sides of the brain.

Nadi Shodhana benefits

This type of pranayama breathing often shifts students’ attitude to pranayama. The nadi shodhana benefits can come quickly, and are very apparent. Better sleep, plus calmness and focus, are some of the quick benefits that students mention.

You’ll find the physical process of breathing via alternate nostrils, and its impact, to be a mentally engaging practice that totally “consumes” your mind while you are doing it.

As you may know, mindfulness is also an apt description of this process. The great thing about nadi shodhana is that when you do the process, then the benefits of this breathing, including a type of mindfulness, will follow.

Because nadi shodhana pranayama starts with a physical process, and one that requires focus, your “monkey mind” is much less likely to interrupt the outcomes you are working to achieve.

What you get is a rewiring of the brain. If you are feeling scattered and frenzied, then in just a few cycles of this pranayama the mind becomes settled, calm and reflective.

Sit straight via a chair or cross legged

The spine needs to be straight, and your chest needs to be able to expand easily.

You can achieve this either by sitting upright in a chair, or sitting cross legged. When a chair is used, or even when sitting cross legged, don’t lean back against anything that will constrain the easy expansion of your chest.

If you are sitting cross legged, then your spine obviously needs to be strong. That’s why such sitting pranayamas are sometimes only done after doing considerable amount of time doing yoga.

Using a chair is a sufficient alternative, and will get you the benefits of nadi shodhana much earlier than otherwise.

Start with a few cycles of nadi shodhana breathing and build up overtime.

How to do nadi shodhana pranayama

  1. Sit in a comfortable upright position with the spine erect. Apply the chin lock (jalandhara bandha). Sit on a chair with a straight back, or sit cross legged. If you are cross legged, sit on some height, like a folded blanket. Use enough height so that your knees are lower than your hips.
  2. Bring the right hand up, and place the tip of the thumb in the hollow below the septum bone of the right nostril. Then place your ring and little finger in hollow below septum of the left nostril. See the picture of the finger clasp I’m describing.
  3. Partially block both nostrils. Breath in and out through both partially blocked nostrils for a few rounds.
  4. Block the left nostril completely. Narrow the right nostril and breath out through the right. Inhale slowly and steadily, through the partially blocked right nostril.
  5. When the lungs are full, block the right nostril. Don’t move the septum or alter the pressure on the left nostril.
  6. Hold the breath for a small time, and adjust the fingers as needed. Partially open the left nostril and breath out through a now partially opened left nostril.
  7. Adjust your fingers, keep the right blocked and breath now in through a partially blocked left nostril . Fill your lungs. Block the left nostril completely. Hold the breath for a small moment, and then adjust the fingers to partially open the right. Breathe out through the right and so on.

Overtime, with practise, you will be able to refine the pressure of the fingers on the nostril, and the narrowing of the nasal passages.

Be sure to keep your fingernails trimmed.

After the practice, lie down in Savasana or relaxation pose.

Classes on how to do nadi shodhana pranayama

Flametree yoga teaches three pranayama classes each week. These classes regularly teach and do nadi shodhana breathing.

All classes are LIVE online. Students find online pranayama is very effective and convenient.

One of these classes is Introduction To Breath Meditation. It is a LIVE online class, taught by Margi, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher.  It’s currently at 6.30am (Darwin NT time), on Sunday mornings. On 9th June, it will move to 6.30-7.30am on Wednesday morning.

The other two classes are pranayama, at 6.30am on Tuesday and Friday morning. They are both online and in Flametree Yoga Studio at Woolner, Darwin. These are taught by Chris Lalor, a certified Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher.

Chris has spent decades studying and practising pranayama. It’s one of her great passions, due to the huge benefits it has personally delivered for her.

Flametree packages that include alternate nostril breathing

Introduction to Breath Meditation is available in beginner and non-beginner yoga,

Pranayama is available to non-beginners at yoga.

Use one of the packages below to start or re-start yoga.

If you’re an existing student, you can use any of your regular class package to come to any of these classes. Some students even upgrade their packages so they can do pranayama as well as their regular yoga classes. All packages are listed here.

Doing both breath meditation and yoga will definitely increase the benefits you get. Including nadi shodhana breathing in your practise is another case of that old adage that two and two make five.

BEGINNER Yoga students, or those doing beginner yoga in 2 Darwin studios, get 2 weeks free. Learn more.

NEWCOMERS who can do yoga, or lapsed students, get 14 days unlimited beginner classes for just $29. Learn more.

All packages, including ten passes, are listed here.

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