A Guide to Pranayama | Voya

A Guide to Pranayama breathing

Pranayama breathing is an ancient yogic practice originating from India. Prana means life force in Sanskrit and ayama means extending. Pranayama focuses on the breath because breathing is a constant factor in life. When we breathe, we know we are alive. There are a number of different types of pranayama breathing techniques. They are practiced to calm the mind, reduce stress, and assist with digestion, among other benefits. This article will focus on one method of Pranayama Breathing known as Nadhi Sodhana in Sanskrit, or Alternative Nostril Breathing.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is traditionally used to help calm the nervous system, promote concentration, and even purify the blood. There are three main parts to Alternate Nostril Breathing which will be outlined below. You may also like to watch Gisele Bündchen share her practice of alternate nostril breathing and how it helps her to overcome anxiety.

Remember to never force or restrict your breathing and remain aware of how you are feeling throughout the practice. If you feel lightheaded or uncomfortable at any time, do not continue. Before you begin, also consider if this practice is right for you in this moment. If you have a medical condition (such as diabetes, vertigo, high or low blood pressure, to name a few) or are pregnant, consult your doctor before attempting this breathing exercise.

1. Prepare for the Practice

Start by sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight. You may decide to cross your legs or sit in a chair. Relax your body. You may like to stretch or rotate your shoulders to release some tension before you start. Take three, deep, conscious breaths, and exhale slowly each time.

2. Begin Alternate Nostril Breathing

To begin, take your right hand and place your index finger and middle finger on your forehead and between your eyebrows. Gently place your thumb on your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril. Then, place your ring finger on your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Keep your left nostril closed and inhale deeply through your right nostril. After a full inhale and exhale on the right side, remove your finger from your left nostril and place your thumb on your right nostril. Take a long inhale through your left nostril. Then, exhale through your left nostril. Repeat the inhale and exhale on each side, breathing deeply and calmly each time. Finish an exhalation through the right nostril. Feel free to continue the practice for five or ten minutes, or for as long as is comfortable for you.

3. Close the Practice

Once you have taken a number of long, deep breaths through each nostril, let your hand rest and take a few moments to feel the benefits of the practice. Either with your eyes open or closed, turn your attention to how you feel. Does your mind feel more calm? Does your body feel more relaxed? Do you feel more balanced and clear? Take a few normal, relaxed breaths with appreciation for yourself for taking the time to give your mind and body the benefits of the practice.