I thought I'd make this week's entry about one of my very favorite yogic practices - pranayama! A much beloved teacher made a point to emphasize this practice at the beginning of class on Saturday night, and it made me realize how often I forget about it in my own practice. There are so many ways to explore this branch of yoga and a million different techniques to practice.
The easiest, simplest way to explain pranayama is to describe it as breathing techniques. More specifically, "prana" is translated to "life force energy." Prana isn't limited to our breath, although that's probably our most significant form of life force - it could apply to food as well.
I wrote about another form of pranayama, known as Kapalabhati Breath, a couple of years ago, and this week I'd like to write about Nadi Shodhana (some yogis refer to it also as Nadi Suddhi).
This technique is quite simple. Using a particular hand position, or a mudra (an example is pictured right - some people prefer to tuck the middle and index finger in to the palm rather than touching the third eye point), plug your left nostril while inhaling through your right. Then plug your right nostril and exhale out of your left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, then plugging the left nostril, exhale out of the right. Lather, rinse, repeat as often as you like.
The fun thing with this practice is that you can gradually start to introduce breath retention - holding the breath for a few seconds on the inhalation or exhalation. It's a wonderful way to cultivate stillness, peace, and focus.
I always feel like my brain got a mini spring cleaning after I practice this breath for a few minutes. It's hard to describe the feeling you get after focusing on breathing through one nostril at a time. This breath is not only great for creating calm and focus but some people also find it helpful if they're struggling with motion sickness. Give it a try and notice what it does for you!