How to Do Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Sodhana

Alternate Nostril Breathing - Nadi Shodhana
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Alternate nostril breathing may sound foreign to some but once you know how accessible it can be to incorporate this breathing technique into your routine you will reap the benefits of its calming effects. So how can you breathe out of one nostril at a time and why would you want to? By using your fingers to block off one nostril at a time as you breathe through the other, alternating your breath between nostrils in a regular pattern is balancing, relaxing, and calming, making nadi sodhana a very popular pranayama exercise.

This method is traditionally thought to balance the two sides of your brain and to clear the nadis, which are energy channels that run along the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Western research is catching up with Eastern science and has confirmed this belief by showing that this breath can reduce blood pressure.

If you are a little congested, expect this pranayama to move the mucus out so have some tissues handy. However, if you are too stuffed up to breathe out of either nostril you won't be able to get the intended benefits, so wait until the air passageways are clear to do this exercise.


1. You can practice this breath in any seated position. Make yourself comfortable in sukasana, half lotus, virasana, vajrasana, or even sitting in a chair. You will be sitting for several minutes, so use props as necessary so you can maintain your posture.

2. Position your right hand in Vishnu mudra by folding your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky sticking up.

3. Bring your thumb to the right side of your nose and your ring finger to the left side.

4. Close your eyes or take a soft gaze downward. Inhale and exhale once to prepare.

5. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.

6. Inhale through your left nostril.

7. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.

8. Open and exhale through your right nostril.

9. Inhale through your right nostril.

10. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.

11. Open and exhale through your left nostril.

12. Inhale through your left nostril.

13. At first, you might only make it through a few rounds of this breath. Try to work up to doing at least 10 rounds. You can also take a break and then resume the exercise.

14. If your mind begins to wander, focus on counting the length of your inhales and exhales or on the sensation of your breath on the skin under your nose. It may feel cool as you inhale and warm as you exhale. 

15. If you ever begin to feel light-headed, release both nostrils and breathe normally. Or, imagine breathing through the above steps but without using your fingers to block off the nasal passageways.  

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By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.