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Pranayama: Controlling Your Breathing

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 26 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Alternate Nostril Breathing Balance

Pranayama means the control of prana. In yoga this is achieved by learning techniques, which help you to control your breathing. When you are able to control how you breathe you are better able to cope with stress and other physical demands. The mind becomes calmer and you are more prepared to adapt to life's demands.

By spending a few minutes practising methods of Pranayama you will become aware of the balance that exists within the body and the mind. By adjusting the breath you notice how the body and mind respond to this ancient practice, leaving you feeling better balanced and in control.

Nadi Suddhi

Alternate Nostril Breathing
This breathing practice encourages balance between the left and right nostril and cleanses the nasal tract. It encourages concentration and awareness and helps relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Nadi Suddhi is recommended for sufferers of respiratory problems including asthma, nasal allergies and bronchitis. It is not recommended for those suffering from high blood pressure or suffering from a cold or nasal congestion.

How to Start

Sit comfortably in a position that doesn't restrict the chest and diaphragm. Take time to settle allowing the spine to lengthen and your breathing to settle down.

Fold the index and middle finger of the right hand into the palm. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril and the two outer fingers to close the left nostril. Practice the technique a few times trying to keep the shoulders relaxed and the spine long and chest open.

Now inhale through the left nostril while keeping the right nostril closed with the right thumb. Note how the breath travels across the nostrils…Open the right nostril and exhale through the right…Now inhale through the right keeping the left nostril closed and exhale through the left….

Take time to become familiar with the technique trying to keep the breath even. Take note of the turnover as the breath travels from one nostril to the other and the pause between the exhalation and the inhalation.

Build up the practice until you are able to complete 9 rounds (one round is completing an inhalation and an exhalation on each side).

Lower the right arm and return to your normal breath.

Take a few more moments to check how you are feeling, noticing any changes in your breathing. Regular practice will help you become aware of the difference between the right and left sides of your body and how you breathe. By concentrating on the inhalation and exhalation through the alternate nostrils, you will be able to bring balance into the body and centre the mind.

Try to fit this in during the day or early evening. The knowledge that you can create this feeling of balance and peace will help you prepare for sleep. Many poor sleepers find it difficult to disconnect from the day's activities and lie awake going over events. By learning how to concentrate on the breath and still the mind, you will be able to train yourself to disengage from the day and enter peacefully into the night.

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