Alternate Nostril Breathing

on Mar 21 in Blog by

Hi there, friends! Hope everyone is having a great week! Since the bulk of this post is notes from my yoga/meditation log on The Ultimate Yogi program, I’ll be brief with the intro info on Nadis Shodhana Pranayama, otherwise known as alternate nostril breathing. The last paragraph of this post has an overall recap of the effects I’m noticing after one week on the program, so if you feel like skipping through the detailed log go straight to that last paragraph!

Nadis Shodhana Pranayama

Nadi = channel
Shodhana = cleaning, purifying

Given the Sanskrit translation above, Nadis Shodhana Pranayama (nah-dee show-DAH-nah) is a breathing technique that cleanses the nadis of the body, primarily the nadis that trace the spinal column. Nadis are energy channels. The energy that travels through these channels is called prana in yoga philosophy. Some more translations will help here.

Prana = life force, Qi, Chi

Ayama = control of

So, pranayama refers to the control of life force. Pretty sweet, uh? These channels are the same energy channels that acupuncture works with to balance life force in the body. For a quick step-by-step on how to do alternate nostril breathing, visit this page from Yoga Journal or this page from Lululemon.

When we practice Nadis Shodhana we cleanse, clear, revitilize and eventually control life force energy along the nadis in the spinal column and throughout the rest of the body. There are 14 total nadis in the body, with the three along the spinal column being the major channels and the primary focus of Nadis Shodhana. Of the three nadis in the spinal column, there is one central column called Sushumna, and two smaller columns on each side of Sushumna called Ida (left) and Pingala (right). Alternate nostril breathing balances the energy flowing through the Ida and Pingala columns, and in the process cleanses and balances the central Sushumna nadi.

Benefits of Nadis Shodhana Pranayama

  • Effectively lowers heart rate
  • Synchronizes the two hemispheres of the brain
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Promotes a relaxed state during and after practice
  • Cleanses the subtle energy channels (nadis), helping prana flow easier


That’s some heavy yoga philosophy! Now on to the log!

Day 5

Woke up on Friday at 6 a.m. to do the Detox yoga class. Detox yoga sounds kind of intimidating, so I was expecting a class that worked up a sweat (maybe through vinyasas like the Cardio class?) and threw in some twists. Well, both were included, but the focus was on twisting more than cycling through tons of vinyasas and Sun Salutations. I definitely worked up a serious sweat, and that was primarily from the immense amount of twisting that is incorporated into the class. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a class with that many twists in a sequence of poses and I LOVED it! Yes, it was hard and challenging, but woah was the effort worth the payout. I happen to love twists because they are challenging. It’s not as easy to find that “sweet spot” in a twisting posture as it is in a standing pose like Warrior II. Twists also wring out all the toxins stored in the digestive system and all the emotional junk stored in the spine and nadis. I felt refreshed after the class, which is quite a nice way to enter a Friday after a productive week.

After work I did the third HardCORE session for the week (three each week) and I was able to do more reps than the second session. Maybe my muscles had healed enough, or maybe they were a little stronger; either way, I was happy about that! I was still super challenged by the Boat crunches since my tailbone is out of ideal alignment. I’m still hoping my visits with my holistic chiropractor will move that tailbone back into place in the coming month or two.

Day 6

Woke up around 7:30 a.m. to complete the Vitality yoga class. Normally I would sleep in till at least 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but I had plans that started at 10 a.m., so I needed a head start on the day. I was really impressed by the sequence of asana in this class! I can totally understand why its called “vitality,” this class unites vinyasas with poses that focus on deep stretching and dynamic movement. The goal is to move the body in many different directions, stimulate a number of muscle groups in the body, and unite a mix of faster and slower yogic flows. My body and mind felt revitalized and energized throughout and after the class. Meditation felt great after the Vitality sequence.

Day 7

Slept in after some St. Patty’s Day fun with friends and felt ready to do some gentle yoga around 10 a.m. The Mountain Pose Series was on the docket and it was the perfect pace for a Sunday after St. Patty’s! The movements and poses presented in the class are repeated about three times each with a mindful approach. The class is much like a moving meditation. The name of the class indicated what I expected: All the movements and poses are accessed through Mountain pose, so no vinyasas in this class.

Pranayama and meditation are done on the seventh day of each week, and since I love me some pranayama, I was looking forward to it! I did one of my favorite pranayamas, Nadis Shodhana Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing.

Day 8

Despite the initial shock that it was already Monday, I woke up relatively easily around 6 a.m. to do the CrossTrain class. Since this was only my second time taking the class, the sequence felt entirely new to me. I wonder how long it will take for me to get so used to the classes that I know what’s coming next? I personally love doing hundreds of different poses, and the CrossTrain class purposely integrates unique expressions of standard poses to produce a workout that spans disciplines such as cardiovascular stimulation, stamina, strength, balance and flexibility.

Meditation after CrossTrain is a little more mentally cluttered than after Yin yoga. That pretty much goes for all the Power-esque classes in this program: they help the mind focus while in the class, but the classes move at such a quick pace that the mind doesn’t really slow down once the focus is taken off the poses and back into reality. Doing meditation after more aggressive styles of yoga is better than not meditating of course, but it is more challenging to quiet the mind than after a gentler class. The reward is the same, because meditation ROCKS!

After work I did the HardCORE abdominal class and holy cow, I can totally do the Boat crunches without my tailbone feeling like it is in the way! That means the muscles around my tailbone are finally responding consistently with my weekly Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) breathwork I’m learning from my holistic chiropractic office!!!  With regular chiropractic care it takes months to achieve structural shifts in vertebra that last longer than a few days, so I only hope for results that take that long with my holistic care. The difference with this holistic chiropractic care is the SRI. In a nutshell, the SRI technique teaches you to connect breath with points of pain and tension in muscles and soft tissue. Bringing breath to these points brings loads of blood flow and healing chemicals, promotes development of nerves, and softens patterns of tension. Yep, SRI teaches you to heal yourself so your vertebra can naturally fall back into the place they belong as your muscles and tissue stop pulling them out of whack. I’m SO happy to achieve such healing within weeks instead of months!

Day 9

I must be getting used to waking up around 6 a.m. because I was up before my alarm! I enjoy waking up naturally, so that was nice! Today’s class was Cardio, and I apparently forgot how intense this class is! I forgot to bring a towel and had to break from my mat to get a towel to wipe the sweat from my brow! Let’s just say that after you’re sweating full force, 10 vinyasas with full Crescent Lunges on each side are thrown your way. And that isn’t the last flow sequence of the class! Yikes!

On a side note, I can already observe a difference in my body after only one week on The Ultimate Yogi program! I am stronger, I have more stamina, I’m going deeper in poses and in the 10-minute meditations, and I honestly feel an increase in general happiness. I’m also pursuing healing modalities outside of the program, such as holistic chiropractic care with Dr. D’Anna and shamanic healing with Amber Melendy – so the union of healing, yoga and mediation are certainly having a tremendous impact on my day-to-day life, consciousness and mental/emotional state of being. Kind of feels like I stepped up to the proverbial home plate labeled “Taking Responsibility for Your Happiness” swinging a big bat at full force with a full-hearted smile on my face. ;-)

Have you experimented with any forms of pranayama?

(Sources 1, 2)

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  • Faith @ For the Health of It

    Alternate nostril breathing has totally changed my life. I know that sounds drastic and a little nutso, but when you’re really type A like I am, it helps having a simple, natural way to calm your brain down when things aren’t going according to plan. When I turn to alternate nostril breathing, I can literally feel the stress melt away…it helps me feel back in control when life stressors are freaking me the crap out, and it’s such a simple, subtle technique. Love it!

    • Michelle @ YogaHealthForLife

      Ditto, ditto, ditto!!! I totally do this breathing technique at work even!