The Benefits of Anuloma Viloma
Anuloma Viloma, also known as Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing, is an essential practice in classical Hatha Yoga. Before delving into the technique, steps and many benefits of Anuloma Viloma, let’s first grasp the concept of the breath and how it affects the body.
Prana, Pranayama and the Astral Body
Beyond the physical body, we all have an astral body. Essentially this is our aura; and it is comprised of intellect, emotions, intuition and mental activities. Like arteries and nerves in the physical body, the astral body consists of a complex plethora of nerve channels called nadis.
Prana, the subtle form of vital energy that exists in all things, flows through these nadis as breath. If they are blocked from stress or negativity, prana cannot flow easily, causing illness, weakness and poor health.
To ensure that the flow of vital energy is clear and unobstructed, yoga assimilates the regular practice of Pranayama. Translated from Sanskrit as ‘the extension of the prana,’ this yogic discipline is, in fact, the science of breath control.
Anuloma Viloma is one of its techniques.
How to Practice Anuloma Viloma
Yogic breathing consists of 3 parts: proper inhalation, retention and proper exhalation. That being said, begin in a comfortable seated position with the spine straight and the shoulders relaxed.
With the fingers of the right hand spread open, bend the index and middle fingers toward the palm to form Vishnu Mudra. Your thumb is used to close and release your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers together are used to close and release your left nostril.
Take a couple of deep yogic breaths. At the end of the last full exhale, bring your right hand in Vishnu Mudra in front of your face.
- Close your right nostril and inhale through your left to a count of 4.
- Close both nostrils and hold the breath to a count of 16.
- Release your right nostril and exhale fully through it to a count of 8.
- Keeping this position with your left nostril closed, inhale through your right to a count of 4.
- Now close both nostrils and hold the breath to a count of 16.
- Release your left nostril and exhale fully through it to a count of 8.
These six steps of inhaling through one nostril, retaining the breath, then exhaling through the other nostril in a ratio of 2:8:4 complete one round of Anuloma Viloma. At least 10 rounds are performed in each yoga session.
With regular practice, a healthy practitioner of yoga can actually breathe comfortably through one nostril for over an hour before switching to the other.
The Benefits of Anuloma Viloma
One of the main benefits of Anuloma Viloma is that it purifies the nadis and promotes the flow of prana. The increased intake of fresh oxygen saturates the body with an abundance of life-force, resulting in greater vitality, endurance, stamina and strength. Moreover, the conscious control of the breath in slow and steady intervals promotes a sense of serenity, increases the creative powers of the mind and equalizes the flow of energy. As a result, the nadis of the astral body stay pure, unimpeded and clear.
Another main benefit is balance and natural rhythm. Alternating between the right and left nostrils restores equilibrium between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It also harmonizes yin and yang energies and balances the Ayurvedic doshas.
Finally, practicing Anuloma Viloma immediately creates a sense of calm and serenity. It’s a wonderful way to start the day on a good note or calm the nerves before an important event.
Here are more of its exceptional benefits:
- Alleviates bronchitis, asthma and other breathing-related ailments
- Reduces snoring
- Optimizes the functioning of the lungs
- Improves the quality of sleep and helps with insomnia
- Relieves stress, anxiety and depression
- Sharpens the senses
- Improves the powers of concentration and focus
- Helps in the treatment of diabetes, arthritis and migraines
- Assists in weight management
Avoid practicing Anuloma Viloma if you have the following conditions:
- A flu or cold
- Blocked sinuses
- If you have high blood pressure, a heart condition or are pregnant, you can still practice Anuloma Viloma, but avoid holding the breath.
“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.”
—Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Together with Kapalabhati, Anuloma Viloma is an essential part of Hatha Yoga and forms the backbone of Pranayama. Remember that the state of mind is directly reflected in the breathing. And so it follows that by controlling your breath, you can control your state of mind.