Prana means life force or breath sustaining the body; ayama translates as "to extend or draw out." Together, pranayama refers to the formal practice of controlling the breath. As the 4th limb of yoga, pranayama is considered to be the bridge between the ‘lower’ rungs of Hatha yoga and the ‘higher’ rungs of Raja yoga. It serves to bring the body and mind under conscious control. This conscious awareness is the ultimate purpose of yoga.
One of our favourite pranayama techniques is Nadi Shodana (also known as alternate nasal breathing) as it is so calming. This technique balances the left and right cerebral hemispheres, Ida and Pingala Nadis, Parasympathetic and Sympathetic nervous systems and Yin and Yang. As nostril dominance is also linked with metabolism, immune response and body temperature, these three physiological functions will also be benefited from the practice.
- Sit in a comfortable position with the back erect and the chin tipped slightly downward.
- Using the right hand, curl the index and middle fingers towards the palm.
- Use the thumb to block the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Use the ring finger to block the left nostril, release the thumb and exhale through the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril, block the right nostril, release the ring finger and exhale through the left nostril.
This is 1 round. Do at least 15 rounds, ensuring inhalation and exhalation is equal.