Tag Archive for: Nadi Shodana

To start my day in a peaceful and grounding manner, I begin by reflecting on my intention for the day and consider what I would like to accomplish, what I have accomplished so far and what still needs to be accomplished. This helps to order my thoughts and to provide a plan of action for the day. I express gratitude for the people I care for, all of the wonderful things in my life and say a prayer for those individuals who are experiencing difficult situations and send wishes of good will and good energy their way.

Having a great deal of training in dance, belly breathing does not come naturally to me as dancers are taught to hold their core in and up. Allowing my belly stick out seemed very odd and rather difficult at the beginning. I practiced this breathing technique by lying on my back with a foam block placed on my abdomen over my navel. This allowed me to watch the rise and fall of the block as I breathe, to become accustom to the feeling of letting my abdomen pooch out when inhaling and to fall back when exhaling, and to allow this type of breathing to become natural and flow effortlessly.    Another exercise I use when sitting upright, is to place my palms over my abdomen with my index fingers barley touching. When I inhale, the fingers should pull apart and when exhaling, they should come back together.  This practice is helpful when at work or at other times when I cannot lie down.   When belly breathing, I focus on my breath, trying to extend my exhale to a count of six and then a count of eight, ten and so on. I have been able to comfortably extend my exhale to a count of twelve and am attempting to extend it further.

Before going to sleep, I practice another round of belly breathing and take some time to settle in and reflect back on my day, how it met with my original intention, what good things happened and what I would do differently. This practice has proved grounding and relaxing and I feel a sense of serenity when falling asleep.

Recently, a very stressful situation presented itself where I had the opportunity to test whether belly breathing would help to calm me in an extremely stressful situation. I work for an international company and our team is spread out throughout the United States and abroad, with many of us working remotely.  Most of our meetings are conducted via teleconference, but occasional we travel to other office locations to meet live with specific internal and external resources. On a recent occasion, I was asked with very little notice to travel to a regional office to give a presentation to the senior leadership team regarding a large project which I have been leading. This would be an understandably stressful situation carrying out the presentation via teleconference, but the need to travel to the meeting and conduct the presentation live in front of such a prestigious audience was rather unnerving.  Having just started my belly breathing practice, I decided to use the belly breathing to keep myself calm and focused during the time leading up to the meeting, the travel and the presentation. The day before leaving to attend the meeting, I followed my new morning routine of reflection and belly breathing and took some additional time to include alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhan Pranayama. I performed one set of ten rounds of alternate nostril breathing to start. Afterwards, I felt additionally calm and relaxed having taken the extra time to focus on breathing and to ground myself. I decided to include the alternate nostril breathing in my regular morning and nighttime routines going forward.

The gripping feeling of anxiety and the accompanying nervous stomach ache came over me several times in the time leading up to the trip, while traveling and especially right before my presentation, but I used belly breathing to calm my nerves and to keep myself balanced. The breathing exercises seemed to dissolve the feelings of stress and worry into softened thoughts of peace and calm.   When it was time for my presentation, I felt rather calm and collected and I believe the presentation went well and was much easier to conduct as I felt grounded and focused, without the distractions of excessive nervousness.  Anxiety sometimes makes me forget what I want to say or stumble a bit when presenting information.   Happily, I was able to make it through the presentation without any hesitations or issues.

Since beginning a regular practice of belly breathing, I feel less anxious and much calmer. In a stressful situation, when I start to feel the gripping feelings of anxiety, I find that stopping and taking a few minutes for belly breathing allows me to temporarily remove myself from a troubling situation and clear my mind as I focus on the inhale and exhale, the rise and fall of the abdomen. It alleviates many of the feelings of fear and relaxes my mind so that I can view the situation from a better perspective and allow myself to make more balanced decisions from a calmer and more even place.
Belly breathing has allowed me to feel more relaxed and less physically tense throughout the day. My muscles have generally not ached or felt heavy as often. I have experienced less nervous stomach aches and feel as though I have more energy, which could be due to the better blood flow and increased oxygen that diaphragmatic breathing exercises are known to produce. The energized feelings could also be attributed to feeling generally calmer as anxiety and stress seem to use much more energy than calm and tranquility. I have noticed that my breathing patterns during my Asana and Sadhana practices have improved and I am able to concentrate on my breath more easily than before. As an added benefit, I believe my abdominal muscles feel stronger.
This experiment has shown me that, belly breathing is always available when needed and it provides immediate and long-term positive outcomes with ongoing benefits to my health and wellbeing, as opposed to the negativity and unhealthiness that distress and anxiety can bring. At times when I feel worried and unsettled, I am learning that if I can stop and even take one or two deep breaths, I can readjust my thinking and be in a much better place. This experiment has made me reflect on a quote from the Dutch writer Corrie ten Boom, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
Adding regular belly breathing and alternate nostril breathing practices to my morning routine has proved a wonderfully calming start to my day. As the day wears on, belly breathing helps me to feel much more relaxed and better able to cope with the odd stressful situations that seem to develop throughout the day. By adding belly breathing and alternate nostril breathing to my nighttime routine, I have less trouble falling asleep and my sleep has been much better with fewer interruptions. Overall, I feel calmer and experience longer periods of peacefulness and serenity than prior to the start of the Ayurveda experiment.