Within the subtle body or sukshma, there are 72,000 invisible channels or nadis, through which prana flows, energizing and sustaining all parts of the physical and energetic body. Of the 72,000 nadis, there are 14 major nadis, two of which are accessed during the breathing exercise or pranayama known as Nadi Shodhana. Ida/”The Inspirer” and Pingala/“The Red” move up the spine along the sides of the central nadi called the Sushumna, weaving around the chakras, to the area of the third eye and end at the left and right nostrils, respectively. Ida is feminine, lunar, cooling, and relaxing. Pingala is masculine, solar, warming and stimulating. Typically prana will be more actively flowing through one or the other nadi, and this can be determined by noticing what nostril is allowing more breath flow through it. Ideally, the nadis are in balance with an equal amount of prana moving through both. Using Alternate Nostril Breathing can assist in finding this balance.
There are many ways to practice Nadi Shodhana. Find a comfortable seat with a straight spine. Begin by taking several deep inhalations through the nose with exhalations through the mouth. Then look at your right palm and bend the first two fingers down (the index and middle fingers). The ring finger will press against the left nostril and the thumb against the right nostril. To stimulate the body and mind use solar breathing by closing the left nostril and inhaling fully through the right nostril. Upon complete inhalation, exhale through the left nostril and repeat. To invite a relaxed state use lunar breath. Start by inhaling through the left nostril and then exhale through the right nostril, and repeat. Another form of Alternate Nostril Breathing is to inhale through the right, exhale through the left, inhale through the left, exhale through the right, and repeat, or vice versa.
A beginner should practice this pranayama with a one to one ratio of inhalation and exhalation, and with ease, let the breath grow longer. To add in the elements of retention after the inhale or a pause after the exhale, it is advisable to work with a teacher.
Every moment is a new opportunity to take a deep breath!