Balance through yoga breath work.

Pranayama or yoga breath work can help to balance us out as we move towards our midlife transformation.

Breathing is simple, gracious, soothing and always there for you.

Karenina Ana Murillo.

There are many different types of pranayama we can immerse in, but the process I have selected for balance is nadi shodhana pranayama – or alternate nostril breathing.

This form of pranayama is said to help balance the nadis – tube, channel or flow, almost like meridian channels.

In yoga, there are 72, 000 nadis, but the three primary nadis are Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.

  • Ida nadi – or the left channel or flow. The Ida nadi begins in the muladhara (root) chakra, flowing to the left and weaving in and out of the central nadi (Sushumna nadi) and ending in the left nostril.
  • Pingala nadi – or the right channel or flow. The pingala nadi also begins in the muladhara and flows to the right, weaving through the Sushumna nadi, ending in the right nostril.
  • Sushumna nadi – or the central channel or flow. The Sushumna nadi flows up and down the main chakras, from the muladhara right up to the sahasrara (crown) chakra.

According to Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, this form of pranayama “cleanses the nadis”, and also helps to clear out / coordinate the right and left hemisphere of the brain (B.K.S. Iyengar “Light on Pranayama” Harper Collins).

The practice of nadi shodhana pranayama.

This breathing practice helps to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system (and therefore relax you), and also improves your breathing and lowers your blood pressure. Alternate nostril breathing also helps to settle the mind and emotions, and may ease racing thoughts.

  • Sit comfortably, with your spine tall. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed, but maintain an open heart space.
  • Begin by taking a few deep breaths through your nostrils, or you can choose to segue into alternate nostril breathing from slow breathing above.
  • Place your left hand on to your lap and have your right hand in front of your face.
  • You will actively use your thumb and ring finger of the right hand to close and open your right and left nostrils respectively. You can either place your index and middle fingers between your brows as an anchor, or you may close them downwards into your palm.
  • With your right thumb, close your right nostril and exhale completely through your left nostril. Then inhale through the left nostril at a steady pace.
  • Close off your left nostril with your ring finger, and open up the right nostril (so release your thumb from the right nostril), and exhale at the same steady pace through the right side, then take your exhale through the right, close off the right and exhale through the left etc.

Practice this for five to ten cycles, with your mind focused on the breath. Try to match the length of your inhales and exhales to begin with. So you may choose to count out the breath and match the inhale to the exhale to the same count. You may choose to increase your breath count as you practice more.

Caution: If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, vomiting or dizziness, stop your breathing practice and check with your doctor.

Breathing Meditation Practice for Renewal.

Although not nadi shodhana pranayama, this breath practice on the Insight Timer app will help calm you, and perhaps give you a sense of renewal.

Using the breath, we can ground in the moment, simply by counting the breath. We can use the breath to help let go of negative capacities. Finally, we can use the breath to help us expand and receive what serves us. This guided breath meditation takes you through the steps, and helps you to utilise the breath anytime as a way for you to renew yourself.

Now you know how you how to practise nadi shodhana pranayama (alternate nostril breathing), practise it at least once a week and let me know how it helps with your midlife transformation.

As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life