By Saraswathi Vasudevan
Nadi Sodhana pranayama purifies the subtle channels in the body that carry prana, causing your energy levels, sense of well-being and state of mind to rise, says Saraswathi Vasudevan
Of the Purifiers, I am the wind…" says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (BG 10.31) affirming the supreme role of breath in purifying the body and mind. Pranayama, therefore, is the best tool for cleansing. Like asana, pranayama practice includes a range of tools, techniques, ratios, mantra, bandhas and visualisation, making it both interesting and effective in its application at many levels.
The breath is the bridge between the gross body and the subtle mind. The yogis found that if we can control the breath, we can control the bodily functions – both voluntary and involuntary - as well as the mind and its many layers and faculties. Yogis, therefore, could even control the external universe, just with breath and mind control.
While most of us are not interested in controlling the stars and the waves in the ocean, we are definitely interested in learning how to stay healthy, strong and calm in the face of disturbing forces within and without.
The human being is very complex and unique. But underlying all the complexity and uniqueness is one energy – prana, the vital force. If the nadis (channels) that carry the prana can be kept clean, free from major blocks, the prana can flow into every nook and corner, reaching every cell, enlivening, cleansing and nourishing it. Prana carries the intelligence to bring the body into a state of health and homeostasis. Pranayama is the process of unblocking the channels, for the prana to flow freely and do its work more efficiently. We are merely creating conditions through intelligent movement and postures (asana) to open up parts, clearing the path for the prana.
Nadi Sodhana Pranayama
Nadi Sodhana pranayama (also called Nadi Suddhi or anulom-vilom pranayama) is considered the queen of pranayamas. This technique is supposed to help purify the subtle channels in the body that carry the prana. You can see the immediate effect on your energy levels, sense of wellbeing and state of mind.
Sit in a comfortable seated posture - siddhasana, padmasana or vajrasana with spine erect. Using mrigi mudra (using the right hand, fold the index and middle finger against the base of the thumb, hold the ring finger and little finger together). Using this technique you can regulate your inhalation and exhalation through the nostrils by partially blocking the nostril through which you are inhaling or exhaling, keeping the other fully blocked. Inhale through left (halfclosed), exhale through right (half-closed), inhale through right (half-closed), exhale through left (halfclosed). We can practice 20-40 breath cycles every day, with a particular breath ratio that we are comfortable with. When you use the half closed nostril to inhale or exhale with the other fully closed, the velocity of the breath flowing through the narrow passage created by mrigi mudra is higher, facilitating better exchange of gases making the process more efficient. It will also ensure the breath is long (dirgha) and subtle (sukshma), two important qualities that qualify pranayama according to Patanjali. Naturally it helps the body and mind to be cleansed of impurities and the heavy energy of tamas. There is more clarity and attention.
Please note that pranayama practice has to be learnt only from a teacher. Your teacher should know your breath, the most appropriate technique, ratio, length of practice and when to practice. Wrong practice of it can have negative effects on the body and mind.
Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specialises in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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