Explain the technique of Nadi Sodhna Pranayama with its benefits.

By Himanshu JoshiYoganadi sodhna

Nadi sodhna is a breathing technique that meant for channel purification, clear blocked energy channel thus calm the mind. It also known as alternate nostril breathing. The main benefit for nadi sodhna is that it infuses the body with oxygen, reduces stress and anxiety, calm and rejuvenates the nervous system, balances both nadis and helps to balance hormone. It relaxes the mind to enter meditation.

To perform naadi sodhna pranayama, we sit  comfortably and place the left hand on the knee with chin mudra. As for the right hand, we can use nasagra mudra or Vishnu mudra. Where the index and middle finger are lightly press in between eyebrows. And the ring and thumb on the left and right nostril respectively. The duration of the inhalation and exhalation is controlled.

As we close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left. Mentally,  we count  “1 OM ; 2 OM; 3 OM” until inhalation end. Breath deeply using yogic breathing technique. Now shift to close the left nostril with the ring finger and release the pressure from the thumb on the right nostril  and breath out. Count “1OM; 2 OM; 3 Om”. Both inhalation and exhalation has to be the same duration.  

Next, inhale through the right , on the same count as before. Close the right and exhale through the left. The complete set is one round.  One should practice for 10 rounds with eyes close for better concentration.

After a few days, one can increase the inhalation/ exhalation length by one count.  As we continue to practice, increase the length day by day will it reach 12:12. If there is discomfort, reduce the count and do not speed up and do not force the breath.

After mastering this 12:12, we may change to 1:2 like breath in 5 count, exhale 10 count.  Practice and continue to add one count each time till achieve 12:24. This ratio produce calming effect for the brain and heart and reduce stress related conditions.

The next stage to proceed will be nadi sodhana with antar kumbhaka (inner retention). Close right nostril and breath in through left nostril slowly for 5 counts. At the end of inhalation, close both nostrils and retail the air within your lungs for count of 5. The glottis might feel slightly contracted when holding the breath.

Open the right nostril, breathe in slightly through the right nostril, and then slowly breathe out with the same nostril for 5 counts. The slight inhalation at the end of the retention is to bring back the respiratory muscle in action and relieve the lock in the glottis.

It is important to exhale smoothly with the same length of 5 count. At the end of the exhalation, we need to immediately inhale through the same right nostril with the count of 5, keeping the left nostril closed.

Retain the breath with 5 counts with both nostrils closed. Release the left nostril and breathe in slightly and exhale for 5 counts. This one considered as one round. Practice for 10 rounds with conscious count.

The ratio of timing during inhalation, kumbhaka and exhalation is important. After mastering 1:1:1, increase it to 1:1:2 (inhale 5 counts, retention for 5 counts, exhale 10 counts). And later on, proceed to 1:2:2 (inhale 5 counts, retention for 10 counts, and exhale for 10 counts).

We then increase 1 count to the 1:2:2 ration. For example, inhale for 6 counts, retention for 12 counts and exhale for 12 counts (6:12:12). Next , to 7 counts inhale, 14 counts retention and 14 counts exhale (7:14:14). Practice for 1 to 2 years and target to  increase to 24:48:48.To advance from here, increase the ratio to 1:3:2 and then 1:4:2. 

Once we have master all this, we move on to the next technique which involves antar and bahir kumbhaka (internal and external retention). Inhale thought the left nostril, retain the breath with antar kumbhaka, and exhale through the right nostril like the technique earlier. Here, after complete exhalation, close both nostrils and hold the breath out for a chosen count.

Not too long at first. The glottis also might feel contracted here. Exhale slightly from the right nostril before inhaling. Inhale slowly through the right nostril and hold it. Exhale through the left nostril and hold the breath out again with both nostrils closed. This is considered one round. Always breathe out slightly before inhaling in the left nostril to start the next round. Ideally, practice 5 rounds.

The timing ratio is 1:4:2:2 (5 counts inhale, 20 count inner retention, 10 count exhale, 10 count external retention). The inhalation count can be increased after the exhalation and external retention feels comfortable. 

The breathing should be silent in all nadi sodhana breathing techniques and not forced. When the duration is increased, breath will become light and subtle. It is relaxed and rhythmic. The flow of breath has to be smooth without any jerk.

Practice with yogic breathing engaging the diaphragm and chest. We can use jala neti to cleanse the nostrils if we have blocked nose before starting the practice. During times when one nostril is more dominant , we should not force the breath and should not breathe through the mouth. If any discomfort felt, we need to reduce the duration if needed.

The awareness should be on the breath and the counting. Nadi sodhana should be practiced after asanas and heating and cooling pranayama. Also before bhamari (humming bee breathing) and ujjayi pranayama.

It can be practiced any time of the day  but avoid after meals, about 10 to 15 min or 5 to 10 rounds. It is a long term practice. The main benefit of nadi sodhana is that our body is nourished with extra supply of oxygen, carbon dioxide is efficiently expelled and blood is purified. Thus the brain be able to work efficiently. It clear our thoughts , concentration  and increase vitality.

It also lowers stress and anxiety and balance the energy. It clears pranic blockages and balance ida and pingala nadis, promoting sushumna to flow and lead to deep state of meditation and spiritual awakening.