Monday, March 7, 2011

Ida-Lunar-Left! Breath-Breath-Breath!

I didn't actually work out exactly WHEN I'd be blogging during this four day cleanse, but I feel as though I need to at least pop in and keep my word to blog about a pranayama technique. Oh, the cleanse? So far, so good. Way too much to try and fit into a hit and run blog post like this one, though.

Breath of the day: Left-nostril breathing
Gently close off the right nostril with the right thumb and begin taking long, deep breathes in and out through the left nostril. (The Kundalini tradition suggests keeping the right fingers pointing to the sky as little antennas for cosmic energy, but, umm, I don't do this. Forgive me.) Inhale completely into the belly, letting it pooch out, filling the rib-cage three-dimensionally, bringing the breath alllllll the way over the collar bones. Pause - just for a moment, a split-second, really - and then exhale through the left nostril completely - following the breath as it leaves from the upper chest, the rib cage (can you feel the sides and back of the rib cage and not only focus on the front body?) and finally the belly, squeezing and pushing every last bit of air out. Pause at the bottom of the exhale - what does it feel like to be completely empty? - and then begin inhaling again: slow and controlled: belly - rib cage - upper chest - pause.... and exhale: slow, slow, slow: upper chest, rib cage, belly pulls in - pause.... and continue.

The left side of the body is considered the lunar side of the body (which I didn't know in 2007, so my moon tattoo is on my right foot, but I'll fix that soon when I get a sun on the left foot and tell everyone it's a criss-cross of my solar/lunar energy - that TOTALLY works, right??) and breathing only through the left nostril is reflective, calming and cooling. To put a Western spin on it - the left side of the body is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system. So left nostril breathing is RELAXING (whereas right nostril breathing increases energy and wakes you up!) and a great way to calm yourself down when your mind is racing.

My cleanse actually prescribes beginning and ending each day with this breath. It's not something I've practiced often - I'm a big fan of Nadi Shodhana, which is alternate nostril breathing (crash course: close right nostril with thumb, inhale left, close left nostril with ring finger, exhale right, inhale right, close right with thumb, exhale left, inhale left, close left with ring finger, exhale right, inhale right, close, exhale left) and we were taught at Kripalu to always end a round of Nadi Shodhana exhaling through the left, which makes sense if you want to end on the calming, lunar note. =)

My experience this morning? Left-nostril breathing is, indeed, calming and relaxing. I was very aware of it releasing tension in my chest and abdomen as I progressed through my prescribed eight minutes, and it made me feel very introspective. Maybe try it right before you go to bed for five minutes and hit me back with your experience.

Love, oxygen and prana!!

ps - I have spent a grand total of 38 minutes on the computer today! As soon as I hit publish I'm closing it until around this time tomorrow... cleansing is good!


  1. I don't know why, but there's something surprising about the experience both of breathing through one particular nostril as well as alternating between them. Is there anything particular we should know about alternate nostril breathing with regards to the way that whichever nostril happens to be secondary to breathing at any given time wants to resist its turn to breathe?

  2. Hmm. I don't think I understand the question. In alternate nostril breathing the first part of the turn for the nostril (after the initial inhale) is an exhale.... do you have a hard time exhaling through the right after you inhale and close off the left?