“A healthy mind in a healthy body” is probably on everyone’s wish list. Yet putting this simple wisdom into practice proves to be quite elusive.
Improving one’s breathing is a great place to start. There are many type of breathing exercises but one of my favourites is the simple exercise of alternate nostril breathing. the Sanskrit name for the exercise is Nadi Shodana and powerful breathing practice with wide reaching benefits. It is quite simple and you don’t have to be a yogi to practice it. It is a great way to start the day with but it can be practiced almost anytime (preferably not after eating) and it is particularly helpful if you feel a little overwhelmed or stressed. Some people also practice this exercise just before going to bed to help them fall asleep and improve the quality of their sleep.
There are many variations of the exercise, but here is a simple instruction that I was taught and which I have been practicing every day for the last three weeks:
- Take a comfortable sitting position, making sure your spine is straight.
- Relax your left palm into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face.
- Bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest below the thumb of your right hands as shown below. The fingers you will be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
- Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
- Inhale through the right side slowly.
- Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
- Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
Repeat 5 cycles allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales. A slow regular breath is recommended.
Alternate nostril breathing is both calming and spirit lifting and a perfect way to develop and maintain balance. When practiced daily, it provides the foundation on which to build a heathy mind in a healthy body.