Life in General · yoga

Of Busy-ness and Breath: Balancing the holidays with Nadi Shodhana

Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

You know the expression, running around like a chicken with its head cut off? I feel like it describes me and my life the last few weeks. It’s been over a month since I posted here. While I was able to stay present and intentional through most of it, October still seemed to fly by! I have this habit, which I’m sure I share with most other freelancers, or anyone without a steady income: When things are slow, I say yes to EVERYTHING that comes along.

Which is how I end up in the “feast or famine” scenario. Right now is definitely a feast: teaching two yoga classes a week, barista-ing at a cafe every Tuesday, studying two subjects online, maintaining the Etsy Shop as we move into the holiday season, plus working on a sewing commission of an 18th century British red coat uniform for a friend (more on that later!). Not to mention the daily adventures of being a wife and mother to a nearly 17 month old!

So it may be obvious why it was easy to let this blog slip to the sidelines! Now this is not actually an excuse for why I haven’t written in a month (though it is the reason). Rather, this is a lead up for the purpose of today’s post. Today I share with you a pranayama, or breathing technique, that is considered THE anti-stress pranayama: Nadi Shodhana.

According to Rick Hanson, author of The Buddhas Brain (a fantastic read for anyone who loves finding those places where the spiritual and the scientific intersect), the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS, is the body’s stress response, responsible for the “fight or flight” signal in the brain. In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system, or PSNS, can be called the “rest and digest” response. Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, uses controlled breathing to stimulate the PSNS, calming the brain and therefore the body.

The Practice

Begin by finding a comfortable place to sit. If you’re on a chair, make sure that both feet are flat on the ground. Rest your left hand, palm facing down, on your left knee. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. There’s no need to change or alter it in any way; for now, just trace the path of the air through your nose, into your lungs, and out again. 

As you follow your breath in and out, check in with the rest of your body. How are you feeling today? Are you feeling stressed or nervous? Is this feeling affecting your body in anyway, bringing tension or even pain to a body part? Try to meet yourself without judgement, simply observe. 

Bring the first two fingers of the right hand to the point between the eyebrows, where the metaphysical “third eye” would be. This allows the thumb to reach and block the right nostril, and the ring finger and pinkie to close the left nostril.

Exhale completely and close the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale through the left side for a count of four. Close both nostrils and hold the breath for a count of four. Now open the right nostril and exhale through this for a count of four.

Keep the right nostril open and inhale for four. At the top of the breath close both nostrils and hold for four. Open the left and exhale for the count of four.

Inhale left…2…3…4…Close both and hold…2…3…4…Exhale right…2…3…4…Inhale right…2…3…4…Close both and hold…2…3…4…Exhale left…2…3…4…

Repeat the pattern, changing nostrils at the top of the breath between inhalation and exhalation, for as long as you can, or until you start to feel your heart rate slow and any stress start to dissipate.

When you are content, close your eyes again, if they are not already closed. Allow your breath to continue on its own and check back in with your body. Again, without any judgement, observe any changes in mood, or if any stress has been released. Thank yourself for showing up today to nourish your mind and slowly blink your eyes open.

The light within me sees and honors the light within you.

Namasté.

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