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Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

Our mind and body are continuously affected by the events and circumstances of life. These events can often cause energy blocks within the body. As the energy begins to stagnate, it can result in our physical and mental energies lowering, leaving us prone to disease or a feeling of being ‘unbalanced’. 


The practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing aims to restore balance by distributing prana (our vital life force) evenly through the left and right energy channels known as Ida and Pingala nadis. And by doing so balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, bringing a state of balance or equilibrium to the body and mind.


When the right nostril is more active this is reflected on the left hemisphere of the brain (thinking side) and we are more extroverted. When the left nostril is more active this works with the right hemisphere of the brain (the feeling side of the brain) and we are more introverted. If the flow remains in one side you are only experiencing one side of the self.


The practice works with the nervous system by removing any energy blockages and ultimately helping to restore the vital energies in the mind and the physical body. 


The left energy channel ,Ida, represents the moon, and works on the para-sympathetic nervous system and the right energy channel, Pingala the sun is the sympathetic nervous system. Once Ida and Pingala Nadis are evenly distributed and working together this is when Sushumna Nadi (central energy channel) can flow freely. 


When you start practising Alternate Nostril Breathing it is important to begin with the entry level practices before moving to the most advanced. Ensure that the breath is flowing freely before you begin the practice; it is important not to force the breath and to keep it as natural as possible.  Each stage should be mastered before moving onto the next.


The benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing:

~ Calms the body and central nervous system,   encouraging a more tranquil emotional state

~ Releases tension and de-stresses the mind.

~ Harmonises the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

~ Balances the nervous system.

~ Helps to bring the mind back to the present moment.

~ Restores balance and helps to remove emotional and energy blockages in the body. 

~ Great preparation for meditation.


Case Study: Alternate Nostril Breathing and Menopausal Hot Flushes

Extract from ‘Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life’ by Dr Claudia Welch


Rachel was fifty-one and had been seeing me for a few years. Her periods had ended a year earlier and she had begun experiencing hot flushes 6 months before that. Thanks to acupuncture, herbs, practising yoga and having a daily routine, the hot flushes were much reduced since then, but still irksome.


One evening, when she broke into a sweat on a dinner date with her husband, he asked, “Hasn’t Claudia been telling you to do that oil massage thing? Why don’t you try that?”

Newly inspired, Rachel began to do the daily self massage with warm oil (abhyanga). When she saw me a few weeks later, the hot flushes had disappeared.


For the next two years, she was symptom free but her relationship with her husband was straining under broken commitments and the prospect of separation, and the business she had worked for a decade to nourish was faltering.


With the increased stress, her hot flushes and insomnia returned, despite her lifestyle and self-massage. She called me one afternoon. She was unwilling to take synthetic hormones or sleeping pills and hesitant to try bioidentical hormones, but felt a need for more support.


Rachel had been going to yoga classes for 5 years. I suggested she find a teacher well versed in pranayama (breathing exercise) to teach her gentle, deep alternate nostril breathing and practise it for 15 minutes daily.


She did this, and within days her hot flushes had disappeared and she was sleeping soundly.


Over the next year, as her marriage ended and her business endured multiple setbacks, she found that she was symptom free as long as she practised her 15 minutes of alternate nostril breathing daily. If she missed one day her symptoms would return.


Even though this added 15 minutes to her daily routine, Rachel liked the fact that she wasn’t taking hormones, drugs or even extra herbs. She wasn’t spending an extra cent and was finding relief through her own breath.