The Art Of Solar And Lunar Breathing
Did you know that when you breathe though-out the day one of your nostrils (either the right or left) is more open or dominant?
This means that air is flowing freely through one nostril while the other nostril is more constricted (receiving less air).
This also means that your are not in complete balance or harmony; this is quite a natural and normal process for most people.
In yoga and Ayurveda, it is said that when both nostrils are open and flowing evenly one is in a state of complete balance. Your mind is still, quiet and pure awareness arises.
One way to get into this blissful, aware state is through solar and lunar breathing; otherwise known as alternate nostril breathing or “Nadi Shodhana”.
Alternate Nostril breathing is a method whereby you balance your energy – the right-left brain hemispheres and come into a state of equanimity.
You balance your sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system.
And, you balance your solar (sun) and lunar (moon) energies.
Breathing through the right nostril stimulates the solar energy. Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the lunar energy.
To practice this breathing technique you need to be seated with a straight spine – your head, neck and trunk aligned.
Use your thumb and ring finger of your right hand to block off your right and left nostril respectively, so as to allow the other nostril to flow.
Note: The thumb of the right hand blocks the right nostril and the ring finger of the right hand blocks the left nostril.
Those fingers are moved back and forth, so as to block one nostril and allowing the other nostril to flow.
This cycle will be repeated several times as follows:
- Exhale and inhale from one nostril five times while blocking the other nostril with your fingers as mentioned above. Then, do the same thing five times with the other nostril.
That is one “round.” Doing three rounds is a considered a complete practice.
This is one specific method of alternate nostril breathing that is easy to understand.
If you want to energize yourself, such as first thing in the morning – start with left nostril breathing and end with right nostril breathing. This will activate the solar energy.
If you want to calm and relax yourself, such as in the evening or before bed – start with right nostril breathing and end with left nostril breathing. This will activate the lunar energy.
The inhales and exhales should be equal - a 1:1 ratio but as you progress your exhales can be twice the inhales – a 1:2 ratio.
You can also gradually increase the length of your breath.
The effects of alternate nostril breathing can bring you into a state of peace, calm and bliss. It is one of the most balancing breathing practices.
It’s best to always be in a seated posture, not lying down, and find a quiet, comfortable place. This practice can be done any time of day and is excellent before meditation.
Once you have practiced this method for several months you may want to add breath retention where you actually hold your breath during various stages or intervals of the practice.
It is recommended that you seek a qualified yoga or breathing instructor who can guide you with breath retention.