In the branch of Yoga called Pranayama (Prana = breath, life; Yama = discipline) there is a technique called Nadi Shodhan Pranayama. I learned this technique from my yoga mentors in Bombay and in an ashram in Rajnandagaon in Central India. It’s the best way I know to quiet my mind when I feel agitated. I have taught the technique to many students and patients over the years as a way to address obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and 'blah' feelings.
This Yogini is practicing Nadi Shodhan Pranayama, a style of meditative breathing
You place the tips of your middle and pointer finger of the right hand between your eyebrows and use your thumb and ring finger to open and close your nostrils. Now follow this pattern:
1. Inhale through one nostril for four counts,
2. Hold (with both ring finger and thumb closing the nostrils) for eight counts
3. Exhale through the other nostril for eight counts.
Here you can see the hand position used for this breathing practice
Now you try. Inhale left (4), hold (8), exhale right (8), inhale right (4), hold (8), exhale left (8). After a few rounds of this, the inhalations become quite dramatic (especially in a room full of people practicing during the cold season) and the exhales are harder to slow. I always remind my students that breathing is a priority (!) and that they should do whatever is necessary to get the breath they need. If you have a stuffy nose, for example, this might mean breathing through the mouth.
This is an alternate hand position used for Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
Since starting to work with primal posture, I have realized some new uses for Nadi Shodhan Pranayama. Most of us have shallow breath. With muscle tension in our backs and chests, typically brought on by poor posture, it is difficult for the lungs to fully expand. We end up breathing enough to not die - and that’s about it! Even after we learn to restructure ourselves and melt away unnecessary muscle tensions, this shallow breathing pattern often remains out of habit. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama helps change that. You breathe more deeply than usual doing this technique – and also after. It’s as though you have primed the pump.
Muscles all around the spine and rib cage are gently stretched and massaged through deep breathing, which can be therapeutic and relaxing for the entire system
You will discover that deep breathing alongside healthy structure induces the tissues around your torso to move constantly. You have now found your inner massage therapist and an important key to self-healing. Your back muscles get a gentle stretch, your discs rehydrate, and the circulation around your spinal tissues improves - simply by breathing more deeply. As you adopt this habit, you will breathe your way to a healthier life.