The Sanskrit word nadi means 'psychic passage' or specific pathway' through which prana (vital energy) flows throughout the body. The word shodhana means 'purification'. Thus this is a practice whereby the pranic pathways are purified and decongested. This allows the prana to flow freely throughout the body, bringing the physical body into the best possible health and calming the mind. It is one of the excellent meditation techniques.
There are four basic stages of nadi shodhana. Each stage should be mastered before proceeding to the next. This is important, for control over the respiratory system has to be gradually developed over a period of time.
Hand position for Nadi shodhna pranayamaNasagra Mudra (Nose Tip Position) The breath through the nostrils is controlled by the fingers of one hand held in front of the face. This position of the hand is actually called nasagra or nasikagra mudra (nose mudra).
Technique for Nadi shodhana pranayama:The position of the fingers and hand is as follows:
Hold the right hand in front of the face (the left hand can also be used). Rest the tips of the second and third fingers on the forehead at the eyebrow centre. These fingers should be straight. In this position the thumb should be beside the right nostril and the fourth (ring) finger beside the left nostril. The little finger is not utilized. The right nostril can now be left open or closed by pressing the side of the nose with the thumb as required. This allows air to flow, or prevents the flow. The air flow through the left nostril can be similarly controlled with the ring finger. The elbow of the right arm should preferably be in front of and as near the chest as possible. The forearm should be as vertical as possible. This will reduce the tendency of the raised arm to become tired after some time. The head and back should be held upright but without strain. Stage:1 Sit in a comfortable position. If you cannot manage sitting asanas you can sit in a chair with a straight back or you can sit on the floor with legs outstretched and back supported against a wall. Adjust yourself so that there will be no need to move for at least 10 minutes or even longer for those who have the time. Relax your whole body. Hold the spine upright but without arching backwards. Place the left hand on the left knee or in the lap. Raise the right hand and perform nasagra mudra. Close the eyes. For a minute or two be aware of the breath and the body. This will help you to relax and to make the forthcoming practice easier to perform. If you are tense or excited any form of pranayama is more difficult.Part - 1 Close the right nostril with the thumb. Slowly inhale and exhale through the left nostril. Be aware of the breath. Do this for half the time allocated for the practice. Then close the left nostril and open the right. Repeat the same procedure with awareness. Do this for about 1 week.
Part 2 This is the same as part 1 except that one now starts to control the relative duration of inhalation and exhalation. Close the right nostril and breathe through the left nostril. Simultaneously mentally count: 1, 2, 3, each interval being about 1 second. Don't strain but breathe deeply. (yogic breathing) During exhalation again keep the count mentally. Try to make the length of exhalation twice as long as inhalation. But don't strain or make the duration longer than is comfortable. 1 inhalation and 1 exhalation represent 1 round. Do 10 rounds through the left nostril. Then close the left nostril using the fourth finger, open the right by releasing the pressure of the thumb, and do 10 rounds through the right nostril. Be aware of the breath and the mental counting throughout the entire practice. Continue in this way for as long as you have time available. Practise part 2 for about 2 weeks or however long it takes to master the technique, and then begin to practise stage 2. Make sure the nose is unblocked before starting the practice. If necessary do jala neti.
Awareness and duration
It is easy to think of other things during the practice. The mind starts to dwell on many business, Don't become frustrated for this will cause mental stress. Only try to be aware of any wandering tendency of the mind. If it wanders let it wander, but ask yourself the question: "Why am I thinking of other things?" This will automatically encourage the awareness to return to the practice of nadi shodhana. One can practise this technique for any length of time. We recommend at least ten minutes daily.
Sequence and time of practiceNadi shodhana should be done after asanas and before meditational or relaxational practices. It is best done in the morning before breakfast, though it can also be performed at other times during the day. However, it should not be done after meals. Under no circumstances should one force the breathing. Avoid breathing through the mouth.
Benefits of nadi shodhana pranayama
• Encourages the removal of stagnant air from the lungs.
• It is an excellent prelude to meditational or relaxation techniques.
• It induces calmness of mind by regulating the flow of prana in the body.
• Helps to remove blockage of the nadis and thereby allows the free flow of prana.
• The whole body is nourished with an extra supply of oxygen and eliminates carbon dioxide efficiently.
• Purifies the whole blood system and increases the overall health of the body, including its power to resist disease.