Pranayama is the conscious regulation of breath which is believed to expand the vital force- that force which is responsible for what we call ‘Life’. “The first Pranayama practice is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) which activates and harmonizes Ida and Pingala nadis”.
Nadi: subtle channels in the pranic body, conducting the flow of vital force.
Ida nadi: Major nadi running on the left side of the spine and which governs the mental processes.
Pingala nadi: Major nadi running on the right side of the spine, and associated with the mundane realm of experience and externalized awareness.
Technique of practice:
“When the Prana is inhaled through the left nostril, then it must be exhaled through the other. When it is inhaled through the right, exhale through the other. The yamini who practices in this way, through the right and left nostrils, alternately purifies all his nadis within three months” (Chapter 2 Verse 10 Hatha Yoga Pradipika)”
This Pranayama can be practiced once a day for eight to fifteen minutes, the duration increased gradually. It is best to get up early in the morning, take a bath, do Sun Salutations or other Asanas (Postures) and then practice alternate nostril breathing. If you also have the opportunity to practice in the evening, then do it before eating.
Benefits of Pranayama Yoga Practice:
According to Hatha Yoga all the channels that carry the vital force in the body will be purified with regular practice of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. A practitioner of Pranayama not only tries to breathe but at the same time tries to keep his attention on the act of breathing, leading to concentration. This act of concentration removes his attention from worldly worries and “de-stress” him. This may decrease release of adrenaline i.e. decrease sympathetic activity and hence decrease heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure etc.
It is well known that both the nostrils do not take part equally in breathing at a time. One nostril predominates the other and follows a definite cycle. In the yogic system of breathing, the right nostril dominance corresponds to activation of ‘Pingala’ subtle energy channel; related to mundane aspects of the life and left nostril to ‘Ida’ subtle energy channel, related to the mental processes. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama effects the proper balance between ‘Ida’ and ‘Pingala’ i.e. mundane and mental aspects of our lives to gain spiritual upliftment.
Researchers have also found that 15 minutes of Alternate Nostril breathing done for 4 weeks reduces the Diastolic Blood Pressure, Pulse Rate and Breathing Rate and Increases breathing capacity and Pulse Pressure, Increases oxygen consumption by 18 % and increases Hand Grip Strength. This indicates that this practice is good for people suffering from anxiety induced ailments like High BP, Diabetes, Insomnia etc.; Bronchial Asthma; Obesity; Hypothyroidism and Rheumatoid Arthritis
People suffering from blocked nose or fever should avoid this practice.
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