Breathing for Stress Relief: How to Practice Alternative Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

One of the most commonly practiced pranayama (breath control) practices is Nadi Shodhana or alternative nostril breathing. This highly effective technique can be used to soothe an agitated mind anywhere -- at work, prior to yoga or meditation, on an airplane, or anytime you feel unsettled during your day.

This powerful practice takes less than 10 minutes and can yield immediate results. 

Benefits of Nadi Shodhana

  • Reduce stress & anxiety
  • Oxygenate the blood
  • Promote mental clarity and focus 
  • Quiet the mind 
  • Enhance respiratory function 
  • Balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain

How to Practice 

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor or cushion or sit upright in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground, feet hip-distance apart, knees over your ankles, shoulders over your hips. 
  2. Place your hands on your knees. Close your eyes and breathe in and out through your nose at an even cadence.
  3. As you inhale, feel your belly expand. As you exhale, draw your belly in toward your spine.
  4. Complete three rounds of breath. 
  5. Keeping your eyes closed, raise your right hand in front of your face and place your index finger and middle finger in the space between your eyebrows. Inhale deeply. 
  6. Use your thumb to block the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Suspend at the bottom. 
  7. Inhale through the left nostril. Pause at the top. 
  8. Use your ring finger to block the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Suspend at the bottom.
  9.  Inhale through the right nostril. Pause at the top. 
  10. Use your thumb to block the right nostril and exhale left. 
  11. Repeat this cycle (steps 6-10) for 5-7 minutes, keeping the length of your inhales and exhales slow and even.  
  12. To complete the final cycle, exhale through the left nostril and lower the right hand to your knee.
  13. Breathe in deeply through both nostrils. Exhale fully.
  14. Complete three rounds of breath. 
  15. Note: Always inhale and exhale through the same nostril. Focus your awareness on your breathing and when your mind wanders redirect it to your breath without judgment. 

You can repeat this practice as often as needed throughout your day. I personally utilize the practice multiple times a day, both before yoga and meditation, or to clear my mind before an important meeting. 

Interested in learning more about simple yoga practices to improve your day? Aria Yoga offers personalized private meditation and yoga lessons to empower you with the tools to feel better in your body and live with less stress and anxiety. To learn more, visit www.ariayoga.co or contact us at inquire@ariayoga.co. 

 

About the Author. Elisar Hares, ESQ. is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Aria Yoga Co. She has completed 200 hour yoga teaching programs in two disciplines, power vinyasa and PranaVayu. In addition, Elisar studied inner engineering, meditation, and Ayurvedic healing modalities through the Isha Foundation and the Chopra Center. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, Elisar founded Aria in order to give people tools to live healthier, happier lives.