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This is the first Pranayama that should be practised by a newcomer.

Nadi Shodhana is alternate nostril breathing without retention; Anulom – Vilom is with retention.
In this technique, breath is inhaled, retained, and exhaled between the left and rights nostrils alternately. The purpose of this is to balance the body. In Ayurvedic terms, to balance the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Doshas, the air/ether, fire/water, and water/earth combined compositions of the body.

Pranayama is based around the concept that the right nostril holds the properties of the sun, or Surya, and the left nostril hold the properties of the moon, or Chandra. The right therefore is known as the Surya Nadi, and the left is the Chandra Nadi, the word “Nadi” meaning nerve. The balance of sun and moon in an individual signifies mental harmony and physical health.

Hourly, the balance between the right and left nostril is subject to change; and any disorder in the subtle balance of hot and cold, results in mental and physical disease. For example, a sinus sufferer breathes predominantly through the cold left channel, whereas someone suffering from internal heat breathes predominantly through the right. An asthma sufferer has a shortage of breath in both nostrils. It is the function of this Pranayama to balance the breath between the nostrils, to purify the body, and to cleanse the mind; and the object of Pranayama in general is to regulate the breath overall.


METHOD

   1. Sit in meditation posture, with the spine held upright, and the mouth and eyes closed. Raise the right hand and turn the palm towards you. Exclude the ring and middle finger by bending them inwards so they are touching the palm. This leaves you with the thumb and the ring and little finger. Keeping the ring and little fingers together bring them towards the thumb; and bring the thumb towards them, until they touch. Thus, these two fingers and thumb form a kind of pinch-grip.


   2. Raise this grip to the nose (at this point you will begin blocking the nostrils alternately; you must only press the nostril from the outside with just enough pressure to block the middle part of the inner nose, known as the septum. Pressure should not be applied so heavily that the tip of the nose bends either way;) block the right nostril with the thumb, and breathe in slowly through the left nostril. When the inhalation is complete, block the left nostril with the two fingers, and unblocking the right nostril, slowly exhale. Exhalation time should ideally be double the inhalation time. When the exhalation is complete, breathe in through the right nostril. When the inhalation is complete, block the right nostril, and unblocking the left nostril, slowly exhale. This is one round of Nadi Sudhana.


While practising this technique focus intensely on the breath. Notice how the breath is cool on inhalation, representing the Chandra Nadi, and how the breath is warm on exhalation, representing the Surya Nadi. On inhaling, visualise the moon at the Ajna Chakra, and on exhaling, visualise the sun at the same point, at the centre of the forehead. It is also useful to visualise the incoming, cool air, as being blue in colour; and the outgoing, warm air, as being yellow, orange, or red in colour.

Initially practise 10 rounds of this technique.

When you feel comfortable, begin to retain the breath for a couple of seconds, before exhaling. Gradually extend the time of retention according to your capacity e.g. 5 sec. - Inhalation, 5 sec. - Retention, 10 sec. - Exhalation.

This can be practised before meditation, or even just to relax and balance yourself out. The number of rounds you do should be controlled by your ability; it is better to do fewer rounds, but to do them properly.