Now that I have laid the foundation for the 3-part breath (see my last post), I can begin to instruct Nadi Suddhi, my favorite of the pranayama breathing practices. I utilize this almost everyday, sometimes more than once.
“Nadi” means channel for the flow of prana, and “Suddhi” means purification. So as you can see, the aims of Nadi Suddhi are to increase prana, our life source, within the body while purifying the mind.
If you are first starting out with this, just like with the 3-part breath, I recommend establishing a comfortable seated position. Nadi Suddhi is carried out exactly like the 3-part breath except that it involves breathing through individual nostrils alternately. In order to alternate the breath through each nostril, one hand (generally the right hand) is formed into Vishnu Mudra. To do this, make a gentle fist with your right hand. Release the last two fingers and the thumb, keeping the second two fingers tucked into the palm.
Begin by taking an inhalation. Then, close off the right nostril with the thumb and slowly exhale through the left. Keeping the right nostril closed, breathe in through the left. Close off the left nostril, release the thumb from the right, and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close off the right, and exhale through the left nostril. Continue to alternate as you gradually begin to deepen the breath, eventually bring the breath to full 3-part breathing.
As you become familiar with Nadi Suddhi, you can begin to lengthen the exhalation, bringing it towards a ratio twice as long as the inhalation. However, do so only in a way that is effortless, making sure not to strain as you work towards elongating the exhalation. If the right arm gets tired, feel free to support the elbow with the left hand. If you have taken a seated posture, make sure to keep the shoulders relaxed, spine tall, and it is recommended to keep the eyes closed.
The act of simply bringing the awareness to the breath and the alternation of breath between nostrils is so beneficial in centering and calming the mind. In addition to focusing the mind, Nadi Suddhi is said to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It also acts as great preparation for meditation.
I set aside 10-15 minutes every morning to do some meditation in order to start my day off in a calm and peaceful manner. I always begin with some deep breathing, followed by Kapaalabhaati (another pranayama practice that is great for awakening and bringing energy to the body), and then a couple minutes of Nadi Suddhi before going into a period of complete stillness. When I do my Nadi Suddhi in the morning, I like to use it as a tool for optimism. I choose an issue I may be dealing with at that particular moment in my life, whether good or bad, and use Nadi Suddhi to help me draw positive energy towards this issue. As I inhale, I focus on bringing in the positive element of this issue, and as I exhale I focus on releasing the negative energy that opposes this element. For instance, if I have been feeling tired all week (something I despise), then I’ll focus on drawing in energy as I inhale, and releasing fatigue as I exhale.
This can implemented for practically any issue you may want to shed light on in your life. For instance, you could inhale happiness and exhale misery. You could inhale balance and exhale imbalance. You could inhale weight loss and exhale mindless eating. You could inhale productivity and exhale procrastination. Inhale excelling and exhale failure. Inhale tranquility, excel stress. Inhale health, exhale sickness. Etc. etc. etc.
This will help you to both draw positive energy towards you and instill a positive outlook on the issue you may be dealing with or want to change. This explicitly shows that there’s always two sides to an issue, and that the positive side is never too far from your reach. Having the openness to believe that good can come your way will make all the difference. I love starting my day out like this because as cliche as it sounds, it really helps me believe that I can do anything I want in life if I just set my mind to it. Starting with some Nadi Suddhi and meditation in the morning immediately instills some balance geared on the positive side into my day.
I also love utilizing Nadi Suddhi just after a run or a cardio workout before I go into a post-cardio stretch. Typically, I’ll lay on my back with my legs up the wall and do a few minutes of the breathing practice. It really helps to bring my breath back to a calm state and allows me to fully enjoy the present moment and any exercise endorphin high I may be feeling at the moment. I love it because I feel like I’m bring back into my body all of the oxygen I may have lost from any huffing and puffing during running. Plus, it sets me up with a great mindset for the forthcoming stretching. Yeah, I may look a little strange at the gym alternating my nostrils as I breath, but who cares! It makes me feel good and that’s what really matters. I guess you could even say it builds confidence.
Nadi Suddhi is an incredibly useful tool that allows you to bring yoga off the mat and into your everyday life, no matter where you are. As long as you have at least a few fingers and some available oxygen, this breathing practice can truly do wonders in calming both the mind and body. Nadi Suddhi allows you to release all tension and anxiety from the mind and body and fully focus and enjoy the present moment. Nothing feels better than truly living in the present moment because it’s the thoughts that we connect with the past and future that bring us pain.