There are times when the simplest and most “low tech” approaches to a problem yield the most profound results. That is often true when it comes to yoga practices. Things as simple as the way we position our bodies and how we breathe can dramatically affect our thoughts and feelings.

In our fast paced modern society many of us suffer from over stimulated minds and a roller coaster of emotions. It may seem outside of your control to affect what you are thinking and how you are feeling. Despite your perception of being unable to control your thoughts and feelings, your own breath is the key to gaining mastery over your mind and emotions.
I’d like to share with you a simple alternate nostril breathing technique that can quickly and effectively change your mental and emotional state.

Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga and a form of breath control. It is used in yoga as a way to help maximize the benefits of the postures and to focus the mind and help clear and cleanse the body. Nadi Shodhana, also called “happy breath” and “sweet breath“, is a type of Pranayama that is appropriate for all levels of students. Nadi means channel and refers to the energy channels through which prana (life force) flows. Shodhana means cleansing. This breathing technique helps to create whole brain function by balancing the right and left hemispheres of your brain. Practicing it is a quick and effective way to clear your mind and calm your emotions.

Sit comfortably in a straight backed chair with your feet on the floor. Stay relaxed in your body but keep your torso lengthened to make room for your breath. Avoid tight clothing around your waist. Begin with 5-10 rounds and add more as you feel ready. Keep your breathing slow, easy and full.

1. Using your right hand, place your thumb over your right nostril to block the flow of air. (You’ll be using the thumb and ring finger of your right hand to block your left and right nostrils).
2. Exhale slowly and completely through your left nostril.
3. At the bottom of your breath, slowly inhale through your left nostril.
4. At the top of your breath, place your right ring finger over your left nostril to block air flow and exhale slowly through your right nostril.
5. At the bottom of your breath, inhale slowly through your right nostril
6. Continue this pattern for several rounds. Breathe “out” then “in” on each side.

Here are some tips for how to get the most from this breathing technique and avoid strain during practice.
• Exhale fully before you inhale. Your exhale should be equal to or greater than your inhale.
• Keep your breath relaxed and slow. There should be no sense of strain.
• Focus all of your mental attention on your breathing.
• Close your eyes to help draw your attention inward.
• If you begin to feel strain, shorten the length of your breath.
• Stay tuned into your body and you will know when it is time for you to stop.

Nadi Shodhana can be practiced just about anywhere so it’s a great technique to help you stay calm and relaxed throughout your day. You can also use it before or during meditation. Try a few rounds of Nadi Shodhana right now and notice the positive effects!

Author's Bio: 

Bette Phelan is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Medical Hypnotherapist. She is also a Certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher with 30 years experience practicing, studying and teaching yoga.

Bette currently lives on the island of Hawaii where she teaches yoga classes and private yoga sessions at Hualalai Four Seasons Resort and in Waikoloa Village.

Bette's website Learn Yoga Online offers a free yoga course, yoga tapes, guided relaxation CDs, mini workshops and more.