Monday, August 03, 2009

MPOW #26 - Nadi Sodhana - Alternating Nostril Breathing

"Breathe. Breathe in the air.
Don't be afraid to care." -Pink Floyd

If I only have a few moments alone to find calm and center myself, I often turn to nadi sodhana, or alternating nostril breathing. "
Yogis believe that this exercise will clean and rejuvenate your vital channels of energy, thus the name nadi sodhana (purification of nadis or channels)." From the Yoga Infocenter. For this mindfulness practice of the week, try out this millenia-old breathing technique.

Along with being calming and centering, this technique is often revitalizing. It is balancing. I love to use it on a bus or plane ride, first thing in the morning, or before drifting off to sleep. I also used it between interviews while I was interviewing for my current job. And while out salsa or tango dancing, I will center myself with it during breaks.

The Practice

I describe this technique from the perspective of a right hand, but it is possible to use either the left hand, or anything else that can block your nostrils if the right hand will not work for you.

Find a comfortable position with spine erect.
2. Hold your right hand in front of your face, palm facing you.
3. Put your middle and index fingers together, touching them lightly in the center of your forehead. Your thumb and ring fingers should rest on your right and left nostrils, respectively.

4. Use your ring finger to close your left nostril, then inhale slowly and steadily through your right nostril.
5. At the end of your inhalation, release your left nostril while using your thumb to close your right nostril, then exhale slowy and steadily through your left nostril.
6. Inhale slowly and steadily through your left nostril, keeping your right nostril closed.
7. Switch nostrils, and exhale through your right nostril.

Each inhalation starts on one side, and the exhalation completes on the other side. Keep alternating bath and forth. Keeping track of the same breathing count on each side is an excellent technique to keep yourself patient and maintain steady breathing.

Fun Diversion

As you practice this, you will likely notice that one nostril is more open than the other. Yogic traditions have found that the open nostril switched roughly every 108 minutes throughout the day. It will be easier to breath on the right side for 108 minutes, then at the transition equally easy to breath on both sides, then switches over to the left for 108 minutes, going back and forth. It is said that when the left side is freer, this is a more outwardly energetic and excited time, the yang side. When the right side breathed easily, this is a calmer side of your day, the yin side.

This breathing pattern brings the two sides into equilibrium. Laying on your right side encouraging your right nostril to open more, and laying on your left side encourages your left nostril to open more. You can use this information to assist you in going to sleep or awakening.

You might want to play with this yourself to see what you can learn from it.


  1. Since I had such a good experience the first time I used this technique to calm myself down and start thinking straight again...I've also been using it in the morning on the way to work to help "wake me up" and since it makes me a bit giddy, hopefully nicer to people as being anywhere at 7 am is quite a stretch for me in any compacity :).

  2. This is a powerful go-to technique for me, too. I wonder if there's a study out there with a physiological explanation of why this is so invigorating.