Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana (Stage 2)

Continued from: Pranayama: Rules

Nadi shodhana pranayama stage 1 should be continued1, but now it can be supplemented by the second stage of nadi shodhana.

This practice is also commonly known as nikha poorvaka (simple preliminary practice) and bhal bhati (forehead bellows). In English this practice can be called the alternate nostril pranayama, for air is inhaled through one nostril and exhaled through the other.

The importance of equalizing the flow of air in the nostrils has already been fully discussed, and nadi shodhana stage 2 in particular helps to develop this desirable condition.

Scriptural references

This is an important practice and is mentioned in a large number of ancient yogic texts. The following from the Gherand Samhita is the most direct reference: “Inhale through the ida (left nostril) and exhale through the pingala (right nostril). Then inhale through the pingala and exhale through the chandra (left nostril). The pooraka (inhalation) and the rechaka (exhalation) should be done without the slightest hurry. This practice will help to eliminate the problems of cough and cold.” (57 & 58)

NADI SHODHANA – STAGE 2

Sit in a comfortable sitting position; sukhasana or vajrasana are most suitable for this purpose, together with other meditative asanas that we will introduce later. Be calm and relax your whole body. Hold your head and back upright but without straining. Place your hands on your knees or in your lap. Close your eyes. Be aware of your breath. Set yourself the aim of totally involving yourself in the forthcoming practice. After a minute or so begin the practice. Lift your right hand in front of your face (or your left hand if preferred).

Adjust the fingers to form nasagra mudra1. Close the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale through the left nostril. Breathe as deeply as possible utilizing the abdomen and chest to fill the lungs to the maximum. Don’t strain however; it must be a relaxed practice. At the end of inhalation close the left nostril. Open the right nostril and exhale. The exhalation should be slow and the lungs emptied as much as possible. At the end of exhalation keep the right nostril open and then slowly inhale. After completing the full inhalation close the right nostril. Open the left nostril and exhale. This is 1 round. Do a few more rounds in the same way maintaining awareness of the breath. After a few rounds start to mentally count the time of inhalation and exhalation. Each interval of counting should represent approximately 1 second: 1 (sec) – 2 (sec) -3 (sec) – etc. Try to keep the timing of the counting fixed; it is very easy to speed up the counting when one is short of breath. Then adjust the duration of inhalation and exhalation according to the instructions given under the next heading. Do not force the breath in any way. Continue the practice for as long as time permits. Be aware of the breath and the mental counting throughout the practice.

Continue to: Duration of Respiration

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