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Nadi Shodhana Pranayama - Psychic Network Purification, How to do Nadi Shodhana Pranayama - Psychic Network Purification, Benefits of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama - Psychic Network Purification, Precautions, & a note for yoga practitioners

Nadi Shodhan Pranayama

Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (psychic network purification) is one of the pranayamas mentioned in the book “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha” by Swami Satyanda Saraswati. It increases awareness of and sensitivity to the breath in the nostrils. Minor blockages are removed and the flow of breath in both nostrils

Hand position in Nadi Shodhan Pranayama – Psychic network purification 

Nasagra Mudra (nose tip position)

  • Hold the fingers of the right hand in front of the face.
  • Rest the index and middle fingers gently on the eyebrow centre. Both fingers should be relaxed.
  • The thumb is above the right nostril and the ring finger above the left. These two digits control the flow of breath in the nostrils by alternately pressing on one nostril, blocking the flow of breath, and then the other.
  • The little finger is comfortably folded. When practising for long periods, the elbow may be supported in the palm of the left hand, although care is needed to prevent chest restriction.

How to do Nadi Shodhan Pranayama

Technique I

Stage 1:

  • Sit in any comfortable meditation posture, preferably siddha/siddha yoni asana or padmasana.
  • Keep the head and spine upright.
  • Relax the whole body and close the eyes.
  • Practise yogic breathing for some time.
  • Adopt nasagra mudra with the right hand and place the left hand on the knee in chin and jnana mudra.
  • Close the right nostril with the thumb.
  • Inhale and exhale through the left nostril 5 times.
  • The rate of inhalation/exhalation should be normal.
  • Be aware of each breath.
  • After completing 5 breaths, release the pressure of the thumb on the right nostril and press the left nostril with the ring finger, blocking the flow of air.
  • Inhale and exhale through the right nostril S times, keeping the respiration rate normal.
  • Lower the hand and breathe 5 times through both nostrils together.
  • This is one round.
  • Practise 5 rounds or for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure that there is no sound as the air passes through the nostrils. Practise until this stage is mastered before commencing the next stage.

Stage 2

  • Begin to control the duration of each breath.
  • Count the length of the inhalation and exhalation through the left, right and both nostrils. Breathe deeply without strain.
  • While inhaling, count mentally, ” 1 , Om; 2, Om; 3, Om”, until the inhalation ends comfortably.
  • While exhaling, simultaneously count, ” 1 , Om; 2, Om; 3, Om”. Inhalation and exhalation should be equal. Practise 5 rounds or for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure that there is no sound as the air passes through the nostrils.

Extension

  • Notice that the length of the breath will spontaneously increase after some days of practice.
  • When the count reaches 10 without any strain, go on to technique 2.

Benefits of doing Technique I of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: Preparatory practice

  • Technique 1 increases awareness of and sensitivity to the breath in the nostrils. Minor blockages are removed and the flow of breath in both nostrils becomes more balanced. Breathing through the left nostril tends to activate the right brain hemisphere; breathing through the right nostril activates the left hemisphere. The long, slow, balanced breathing of stage 2 has profound effects, calming and balancing the energies.

Precautions while doing Technique I of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: Preparatory practice

  • Nadi shodhana is not to be practised while suffering from colds, flu or fever.
  • Both nostrils must be clear and flowing freely. Mucous blockages may be removed through the practice of neti (see the section Shatkarma). 
  • If the flow of breath in the nostrils is unequal, it may be balanced by practising padadhirasana as a breath balancing technique.Beginners should be familiar with abdominal breathing before taking up nadi shodhana.

Technique 2 of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: Alternate nostril breathing 

In this technique, the basic pattern of alternate nostril breathing is established.

Stage I

  • Begin with equal inhalation and exhalation, using the ratio 1:1.
  • Close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
  • At the same time count mentally, ” 1 , Om; 2, Om; 3, Om”, until the inhalation ends comfortably. This is the basic count. Breathe deeply without strain.
  • Close the left nostril with the ring finger and release the pressure of the thumb on the right nostril. While exhaling through the right nostril, simultaneously count, ” 1 , Om; 2, Om; 3, Om”. The time for inhalation and exhalation should be equal.
  • Next, inhale through the right nostril, keeping the same count in the same manner.
  • At the end of inhalation, close the right nostril and open the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril, counting as before.
  • This is one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

Extension

  • After one week, if there is no difficulty, increase the length of inhalation/exhalation by one count. Continue to increase the count in this way until the count of 10:10 is reached.
  • Do not force the breath in any way. Be careful not to speed up the counting during exhalation to compensate for shortage of breath. Reduce the count at the slightest sign of discomfort.

Stage 2

  • After perfecting the above 1 : 1 ratio, it may be changed to 1:2.
  • Initially halve the length of the inhalation. Inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 10.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • This is one round. Practise 5 to10 rounds.

Extension

  • During the ensuing months of practice, continue extending the breath by adding one count to the inhalation and two to the exhalation, up to the count of 10: 20. When this technique can be performed with complete ease, move on to technique 3.

Benefits of doing Technique 2 of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: Alternate nostril breathing 

  • Technique 2 gives more pronounced balancing of the breath and the brain hemispheres. It has calming effects and relieves anxiety, improves concentration and stimulates ajna chakra.
  • The ratio 1 : 1 in stage 1 establishes a calming rhythm for the brain and heart, assisting people with cardiovascular and nervous disorders specifically, and stress-related conditions generally.
  • As the count is extended, the breath slows down. The respiration becomes more efficient because the air flow is smoother and less turbulent. This ratio helps people with respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.
  • The ratio 1 : 2 in stage 2 gives profound relaxation. The heartbeat and pulse rate slow, and blood pressure drops, but the extension of count should be built up slowly.

Precautions while doing Technique 2 of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: Alternate nostril breathing 

  • Stage 2 of technique 2 begins the process of introversion, which is not recommended for a depressed or withdrawn person. The extension of stage 2, involving longer counts, is not recommended for people with heart problems.

Technique 3 of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

In this technique antar kumbhaka or internal breath retention is introduced. The inhalation and exhalation should be silent, smooth and controlled.

Stage I

  • Begin with equal inhalation, inner retention and exhalation, using the ratio 1 : 1 : 1 .
  • Close the right nostril and inhale slowly through the left nostril for a count of 5 .
  • At the end of inhalation, close both nostrils and retain the air in the lungs for a count of 5.
  • Open the right nostril and exhale for a count of 5 .
  • At the end of exhalation, inhale through the right nostril for a count of 5 , keeping the left nostril closed.
  • Again, retain the breath for a count of 5 with both nostrils closed.
  • Open the left nostril and exhale for a count of 5.
  • This is one round using the ratio 5:5:5. Maintain constant awareness of the count and of the.breath. Practise up to 10 rounds.

Extension

  • After becoming comfortable with the count of 5:5:5, the breath and kumbhaka can be lengthened. Gradually increase the count by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 1 unit to the retention and 1 unit to the exhalation. 
  • The count of one round will then be 6:6:6.
  • When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort, increase the count to 7:7:7.
  • Continue in this way until the count o f 10 : 10 : 10 i s reached.
  • Do not force the breath. At the slightest sign of strain reduce the count.

Stage 2

  • After perfecting the ratio of 1 : 1 : 1, increase the ratio to 1 : 1 : 2. Initially use a short count. Inhale for a count of 5, perform internal kumbhaka for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 10.

Extension

  • After mastering the count of 5: 5 : 10, gradually increase the count by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 1 unit to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will then be 6 : 6 : 12 . When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort, increase the count to 7 : 7 : 14 . Gradually increase the count over several months of practice until the count of 10 :10:20 is reached.

Stage 3

  • Change the ratio to 1 : 2 : 2. Inhale for a count of 5, do internal kumbhaka for a count of 10 and exhale for a count of 10. Practise until the ratio is comfortable and there is no tendency to speed up the count during retention or exhalation due to shortness of breath.

Extension

  • When this has been perfected, the count can be gradually increased by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 2 units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. 
  • The count of one round will then be 6:12:12. In this manner, gradually increase the count to 10 : 20 : 20.

Stage 4

  • The next ratio, 1:3:2, is intermediary. First reduce the count, inhale for a count of 5, do internal kumbhaka for a count of 15 and exhale for a count of 10.
  • Practise until the ratio is comfortable and there is no tendency to speed up the count during retention or exhalation due to shortness of breath.

Extension

  • When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort, the count can be gradually increased by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 3 units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will then be 6: 18: 12. 
  • In this manner, gradually increase the count to 10:30:20.

Stage 5

  • The final Ratio Is 1:4:2. Begin With 5 : 20 : 10. Once the ratio has been established, the count can gradually increase. Extension:
  • Add 1 unit to the inhalation, 4 units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will then be 6:24: 1 2. In this manner, gradually increase the count to 10:40:20.

Benefits of doing Technique 3 of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

  • The inner retention of breath, which characterizes technique3, activatesvariousbraincentresandharmonizes the pranas. The benefits increase with the progression of the ratios. The ratio 1 : 4 : 2 is most widely recommended in the yogic texts. 
  • It gives profound psychological and pranic effects and is used as a preparation for kundalini awakening.

Precautions while doing Technique 3 of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention):

  • Technique 3 is not suitable for women in the later half of pregnancy. It is not recommended for persons with heart problems, high blood pressure, emphysema or any major disorders.
  • Stage 2 is not recommended for asthmatics.

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

  • Before applying the bandhas in this practice, they should be perfected as individual practices. For details of these practices refer to the section Bandha.
  • When adding bandhas, reduce the ratio and count so that it is effortless. Extend the count gradually as previously instructed.
Jalandhara bandha
  • First practise jalandhara bandha with internal breath retention.
  • Inhale through the left nostril, hold the breath and practise jalandhara bandha with internal retention. 
  • Release Jalandhara and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril.
  • Practise jalandhara bandha with internal retention. Release Jalandhara and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round, practise 5 rounds.
Extension
  • Once the bandha can be held without strain, gradually build up the count.
  • Jalandhara and moola bandhas: Reduce the count and combine jalandhara bandha with moola bandha.
  • Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Close both nostrils and hold the breath inside.
  • Practise jalandhara bandha and then moola bandha. After the required count of retention, release moola bandha and then jalandhara.
  • Exhale through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril and hold the breath inside. Practise jalandhara bandha and moola bandha.
  • Release moolbandh and then jalandhar.
  • Exhale through the left nostril.
  • This is one round. Practise 5 rounds.
Extension
  • When the bandhas can be held without strain, gradually build up the count and then the ratio.
Precautions while doing Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)
  • Do not practise pranayama with bandhas without the guidance of a competent teacher or guru.
Benefits of Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)
  • The ratio 1 : 4 : 2 with bandhas purifies and balances the pranic forces.

Technique 4: Antar and Bahir Kumbhaka (internal and external retention)

  • In this technique bahir kumbhaka or outer breath retention is introduced. Do not try to hold your breath outside for long at first, even though it may seem easy.

Stage I

  • Begin with the ratio 1 : 1 : 1 : 1 and a count such as 5 : 5 : 5 : 5.
  • Inhale through the left nostril, counting to 5.
  • Retain the breath in antar kumbhaka, counting to 5. Exhale through the right nostril, counting to 5.
  • After exhalation, close both nostrils and hold the breath outside, counting to 5.
  • The glottis may be slightly contracted to hold the air outside. Exhale slightly through the right nostril immediately before inhaling. 
  • This will release the lock on the lungs and the glottis and bring the respiratory system smoothly back into operation.
  • Inhale slowly through the right nostril, counting to 5. Retain the breath, counting to 5.
  • Exhale through the left nostril, counting to 5.
  • Again, hold the breath outside, counting to 5 with both nostrils closed. Ifnecessary, exhale slightly through the right nostril before breathing in at the start of the next round. This is one round.
  • Practise 5 rounds.

Extension

  • When the ratio has been perfected at this count, gradually increase by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, internal retention, exhalation and external retention. The count should slowly be increased from 5 to 6, 6 to 7 and so on, until the count of 10: 10: 10: 10 is reached.
  • Do not increase the count for inhalation until the counts exhalation and breath retention are comfortable. 

Stage 2

  • The next ratio is 1:1:2:1. It should be commenced with a low count and extended gradually as previously instructed. Begin with 5 : 5 : 10 : 5

Extension

  • Once the ratio has been established, the count can be gradually increased. Add one unit to the inhalation, one unit to the internal retention, 2 units to the exhalation and one unit to the external retention. The count for one round would thus become 6:6: 1 2:6. Over time, the count can be slowly increased. Do not increase the count for inhalation until the relative counts for exhalation and breath retention are comfortable.

Stage 3

  • The next ratio is 1: 2 : 2 : 1. Begin with the count of 5: 10: 10:5. Do not increase the count for inhalation until the relative counts for exhalation and breath retention are comfortable.

Stage 4

  • The next ratio is 1 : 2 : 2 : 2. Begin with the count of 5 : 10 : 10 : 10. Build up the count gradually without strain.

Stage 5

  • The next ratio is 1 : 3 : 2 : 2. Begin with the count of 5 : 15 : 10 : 10. Each time the ratio is changed, use the same care to start with a low count, which is allowed to build up gradually without strain.

Stage 6

  • The final ratio is 1 : 4 : 2 : 2. Begin with the count of 5 : 20 : 10 : 10.

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

  • When technique 4 has been mastered, it may be practised in conjunction with jalandhara, moola and uddiyana bandhas.
  • First practise jalandhara bandha with internal breath retention only. When this has been perfected, combine jalandhara bandha with external breath retention also. When this has been mastered, combine jalandhara and moola bandha with internal and external retention. When This Has Been Perfected, mahabandha can be added during external retention. At the end of the exhalation, practise jalandhara, moola and uddiyana bandhas. Maintain the bandhas throughout the external retention.
  • Release Jalandhar, moola and uddiyana, in this order, at the end of external retention.
  • Finally, when this has been perfected, maha bandha can be added during both internal and external retention. Adjust the ratio of the breath to suit individual capacity.

Breathing pattern while doing Nadi Shodhan Pranayama – Psychic network purification 

  • Breathing should be silent in all techniques of nadi shodhana, ensuring that it is not forced or restricted In any way.
  • As the ratio and duration increases, the breath becomes very light and subtle. Increased ratios and breath duration should not be attained at the expense of relaxation, rhythm and awareness. The flow of breath must be smooth, with no jerks, throughout the practice.

Precautions while doing Nadi Shodhan Pranayama – Psychic network purification 

  • Under no circumstance should the breath be forced. Never breathe through the mouth. Proceed carefully and only under the guidance of a competent teacher. 
  • At the slightest sign of discomfort, reduce the duration of inhalation/exhalation/retention and, if necessary, discontinue the practice. Nadi shodhana should never be rushed or forced.

Sequence

  • If one of the nostrils is blocked, perform jala neti or breath balancing exercises before commencing.
  • Nadi shodhana should be practised after shatkarma and asanas, and before other pranayamas. 
  • The best time to practise is around sunrise; however, it may be performed at any time during the day, except after meals.

Duration 

  • 5 to 10 rounds or 10 to 15 minutes daily. Benefits: Nadi shodhana ensures that the whole body is nourished by an extra supply of oxygen. Carbon dioxide is efficiently expelled and the blood is purified of toxins. The brain centres are stimulated to work nearer to their optimum capacity. 
  • It also induces tranquillity, clarity of thought and concentration, and is recommended for those engaged in mental work. It increases vitality and lowers levels of stress and anxiety by harmonizing the pranas. 
  • It clears pranic blockages and balances ida and pingala nadis, causing sushumna nadi to flow, which leads to deep states of meditation and spiritual awakening.

Practice note

  • Development of nadi shodhana is intended to take place over a long period of time. Each technique should be practised until perfected. Developing the ratios and counts in each technique may take many years.
  • Each time the ratio is changed, start with a low count and build up gradually without strain. Practise a given ratio until perfected. The length of the breath should increase spontaneously without the use of force.
  • The point is not how long the breath can be held, but rather to give the mind, body and lifestyle time to adapt to psychic and physical repercussions.
  • Techniques 1 and 2 prepare the lungs and the nervous system for techniques 3 and 4, which introduce antar and bahir kumbhaka (internal and external breath retention). Mastery of the techniques should take time as the body and mind need to adjust to the effects of extended breath retention. The full benefits of this practice will be obtained by systematically perfecting each level, rather than by struggling prematurely with the advanced techniques.
  • It is important to experience each stage fully and become established in that new pattern of breath and its effects on the nervous system, energy levels, emotions, mental clarity and subtle aspects of the personality.
  • The word nadi means ‘channel’ or ‘flow’ of energy and shodhana means ‘purification’. Nadi shodhana, therefore, means that practice which purifies the nadis.
  • The number 24, used for timing the breath, derived from classical texts, which use the Gayatri mantra as a metre to measure the length of pranayamas. The Gayatri mantra is made up of 24  individual matras or sound syllables.

Preparatory practices

  1. Natural breathing
  2. Abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing
  3. Thoracic breathing
  4. Clavicular breathing
  5. Yogic breathing

Types of Pranayamas  

  1. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Psychic network purification)
  2. Sheetali Pranayama (Cooling breath)
  3. Sheetkari Pranayama (Hissing breath)
  4. Bhramari Pranayama (Humming bee breath)
  5. Ujjayi Pranayama (The psychic breath)
  6. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows breath)
  7. Kapalbhati Pranayama (Frontal brain cleansing breath)
  8. Moorchha Pranayama (Swooning or fainting breath)
  9. Surya Bhedi Pranayama (Vitality stimulating breath)

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