Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pranayama: Alternate Nostril Breathing (Balancing the Brain)

Here's instructions on how to perform alternate nostril breathing as demonstrated by my teacher, Alan Finger.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
alternate-nostril-breathing

This profound technique creates a balance between the right and left sides of the brain.

The right nostril governs the sympathetic nervous system; it is related to the mathematical, analytical, active, left side of the brain, harnessing Ha, or sun energy. The left nostril governs the parasympathetic nervous system, the creative, free-associative, passive side of the brain, ruled by Tha, or moon energy.

Every eight-eight minutes, one of these nostrils is dominant, then for up to four minutes both nostrils operate equally, and for the next eight-eight minutes the other nostril becomes more dominant, and so on. You can experience this when your nasal passages are congested; all of a sudden the congestion passes from one nostril to the other.

Alternate-nostril breathing tricks the brain; it does not know which nostril to make dominant, so it lets the breath flow evenly in and out of both. This allows the brain to balance and move into a more meditative state.

On an energetic level, it balances two of the three main nadis (energetic channels) in the body.

The result is that the consciousness draws inward, allowing you to sense the central meridian, Shashumna nadi and draw the energy from the base of the spine back up to the crown.

1. sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. place the back of your left hand on your left knee with your thumb and index finger forming a circle.

2. take the first two fingers of your right hand to the fleshy part of your palm, letting the thumb and last two fingers remain extended. Lift your breastbone to stabilize your collarbones and shoulder girdle, and let your chin drop down to lengthen through the back of your neck.

3. lift your right hand to your nostrils and place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril where the hard cartilage and soft cartilage meet. Note: the thumb and ring finger remain in contact with the nostrils throughout this breathing technique.

4. exhale through both nostrils, block your left nostril completely with your ring finger, and inhale through your right nostril. block both nostrils and hold your breath as long as is comfortable. (Note: if pregnant, skip retention of breath.) when you need to exhale, keep your right nostril closed and let the breath out through your left nostril.

5. keeping your left nostril open and your right nostril fully blocked, take your next inhalation through your left nostril. hold your breath in as you block both nostrils, and when you need to exhale, breath out through your right nostril. this completes one round of alternate-nostril breathing.

Practice at least six rounds to prepare your mind for meditation, more if your mind is particularly busy. try to lengthen your breath and, if possible, develop the ability to use the ratio 1:4:2. [inhale (1) hold (4) exhale (2)]

Blessings and Namaste,
Anna

No comments: