Alternative breathing or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is the most commonly practiced Pranayama. It is an important purification practice because it clears the obstructions in the flow of Prana in the Nadis.
According to Hatha Yog Pradipika the person is ready to practice breath retention only after the Nadis and Chakras are purified.Nadi Shodhana always precedes before any Meditation practices.
When a person knowingly or unknowingly misuses the body mind apparatus for a long period of time the three Doshas or Humours-Vata, Kapha or Pitta becomes imbalanced , blocking the flow of Prana in the Nadis.
Blockages in Nadis may be due to:
- Lack of adequate physical movements.
- Incorrect posture.
- Harmful diet or wrong diet or untimely eating habits.
- Excessive accumulations of metabolic wastes such as gout.
- Inharmonious lifestyle like inadequate sleep or failure to adapt to rhythms of nature.
- Direct intake of toxins like addictive substances.
How to practice-
- Basic way to practice alternate nostril breathing is always start inhaling through left nostril and exhale through right nostril, and inhale through the same nostril from which you exhaled and exhale through the other, and so on.
- So one completes one round this way.
- 1st week-One should try practicing inhalation and exhalation in the ratio of 1:1 for eg:-if one inhales for 3 secs then exhale also for 3 secs or so on.
- Don't hold your breath at all.
- Allow your lower lungs to expand first, then your middle lungs and then your upper lungs and make sure one's abdomen goes in as one exhales.
- Practice this for 5 minutes at one stretch.
- If one gets tired in between can rest and start again.
- If one feel tired using their hand due to some problem then can give support for their elbow.
- 2nd week-One can try the required ratio of 1:2 of inhalation and exhalation
- Maintain the same ratio at that moment of practice for 5 minutes.
- Then slowly one can increase the practice from 5 minutes to 10 minutes.
- If one gets tired then rest and can start again.
- One can practice the same ratio for at least 5 to 6 months for 30 minutes without getting tired.
- One can start with retention of breath later as one gets comfortable with the 1:2 ratio of breath in and out for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Before one starts the breath retention one must learn the Bandhas or Prana locks.
- If one starts retention then it can be in the ratio initially 1:1:1 of inhale : hold : exhale for 1month at least.
- Then slowly can practice 1:1:2 ratio of inhale: hold : exhale.
- The ideal one is 1:4:2 ratio of inhale : hold: exhale.
- But to reach this ideal ratio one must practice the Alternate Nostril breathing for years.
Signs of Purification of Nadis-
- Symptoms of physical disorder or disease disappear and there is feeling of lightness in the body and mind.
- Excessive fat and mucus disappear indicates balance in kapha dosha.
- Stability in body and mind indicates balance in Vata.
- Digestive system functions well when pitta is balanced.
- Body becomes thin and glows,digestive power increases.
- When all Doshas are balanced then one feels fresh through out the day and emotionally more balanced.