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What is Nadi Shuddhi or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing?

Nadi Shuddhi or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is the basic breath control technique. In English, we call it Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Nadi Shuddhi or Nadi Shodhana is the preliminary breath control practice before a Yogi takes the practice of Pranayama. After getting Asana Siddhi, the Yogi should approach a competent Guru to start learning Pranayama. He should eat moderate and salutary food in the course of practice. The Guru will first teach Nadi Shuddhi.

The Nadis of a normal person are always full of impurities. Owing to these impurities, Prana could not pass through Sushumna, the middle channel. Without Prana passing through the middle channel, success in yoga could not be attained. Hence, the Yogi should remove the impurities of the Nadis before starting the practice of Pranayama.

Nadi Shuddhi Meaning

The Process of removing the impurities of Nadis is Nadi Shuddhi. The Sanskrit term Nadi means the subtle nerve channels that transport Prana. The term Shuddhi means cleaning. Hence, Nadi Shuddhi refers to the technique that cleans the subtle nerve channels. As such, it is unblocking the subtle channels by removing the impurities to make the Prana go through the middle channel.

Nadi Shodhana Meaning

Both Nadi Shodhana and Nadi Shuddhi are synonyms that refer to the same yoga technique called Alternate Nostril Breathing. The Sanskrit term शोधन (Shodhana) refers to purification, detoxification, or cleaning. Therefore, both terms refer to the purification of subtle nerve channels.

How to Do Nadi Shuddhi or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama?

The procedure of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama includes steps, number of rounds, duration of practice, diet, and signs of success.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Steps

The following are the steps involved in Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama.

  • Sit in Lotus Posture. Keep the left hand on the lap with palms facing upward. Then Press and close the right nostril with your right thumb. Keep your index and middle fingers folded.
  • Ensuring the right nostril is completely closed, inhale slowly and steadily through the left nostril.
  • After inhalation, press and close the left nostril.
  • Then, release the thumb and exhale slowly and steadily through the right nostril.
  • After exhalation through the right nostril, inhale through the same nostril.
  • Now, at the end of inhalation, close the right nostril and release the left nostril. Exhale slowly through the left nostril. This constitutes one round.

How Many Rounds of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Daily?

According to Shiva Samhita, one should practice 20 rounds of Nadi Shadhana each at Sunrise, mid-day, sunset, and midnight. He should practice this daily for three months.

Regular practice for three months will purify the Nadis. Once the Yogi attains the purification, he enters Arambha Avastha, the first stage of Pranayama Practice. The other stages are Ghata Avastha (Pot Stage), Parchiya Avastha (Acquaintance Stage), and Nishpatti Avastha (Consummation Stage).

Signs of Purification

The following are the signs of the purification of Nadis.

  • The body becomes harmoniously developed.
  • It looks beautiful. Moreover, it emits a pleasant smell.
  • The first stage destroys pain and sorrow.
  • It will give a good appetite, good digestion, strength, courage, and enthusiasm.

Diet and Other Important Points

  • He should avoid practice immediately after taking food.
  • Also, he should avoid practicing while hungry. He may take some milk and butter before practice.
  • At the beginning of practice, the yogi should take only milk butter, and sweet food. Once established, there are no restrictions on diet.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Benefits

I describe the benefits of Nadi Shuddhi or Alternate Nostril Breathing under two headings: The benefits as per Yoga Texts and The benefits as per Scientific Research.

Benefits of Nadi Shuddhi as per Yoga Texts

According to Yoga texts, the following are the benefits of Nadi Shodhana.

  • All subtle nerve channels in the body are purified. As a result, Prana can easily pass through the middle channel. Hence, Alternate Nostril Breathing helps the Yogi to enter the next stage of Yoga practice.
  • The body becomes lovely. A pleasant smell emanates from the body. Moreover, it gives a good appetite and digestive power. It destroys pain and sorrow. Also, it makes the Yogi courageous and energetic.
  • The Yogi becomes eligible to practice the advanced Pranayama techniques.

Benefits of Nadi Shodhana as per Scientific Research

Many scientific studies were conducted to ascertain the physiological benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB). Let us examine some important studies to know the effect of Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama.

A study by K Upadhyay Dhungel et al on the effect of Alternate Nostril Breathing exercises on cardio-respiratory functions concludes that the regular practice of ANB causes parasympathetic predominance. The study found that there was a fall in Diastolic Blood Pressure and a significant rise in the Peak Expiratory Flow Rate. Hence the study suggests that ANB exercise may be prescribed to hypertensive patients as adjunctive therapy.

A systemic review of studies by Dr. Shreya Ghiya also confirms that regular practice of ANB decreases Diastolic Blood Pressure and heart rate. Also, improvements in pulmonary function tests and cognitive health were noted.

Research in pregnant survivors of Intimate Partner Violence found that Alternate Nostril Breathing is effective in reducing stress.

A study on The effects of ANB on quitting smoking by Raghwendra Kumar Jha and Prof. Dr. Hui-Ping Li found that ANB is effective in cigarette craving and withdrawal syndrome.

Similarly, several studies have shown that Nadi Shuddhi is effective in conditions like depression, anxiety, restlessness, poor sleep, irritation, and poor concentration. Also, there are shreds of evidence that Nadi Shodhana Pranayama enhances feeling healthy, memory recall, mental stress relief, and physical relaxation.

Nadi Shodhan Pranayama Vs Anulom Vilom Pranayama

What is the difference between Nadi Shodhana Pranayama and Anuloma Viloma Pranayama?

Both are similar types of breathing exercises with little difference. Hence people confuse and use them interchangeably. However, there exists a clear difference between them.

In Nadi Shodan Pranayama, there is no breath retention. But in Anulom Vilom Pranayama, there is breath retention. However, both are Alternate Nostril Breathing exercises. Anulom Vilom is little advanced practice; whereas Nadi Shodhan Pranayam is beginner-friendly.

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