Yoga,  Yoga Breathing Techniques (Pranayama)

Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique – Nadi Shodhana Benefits

Nadi is a tubular organ of the body like an artery or a vein for the passage of prana or energy. A nadi has three layers like an insulated electric wire. The innermost layer is called sira, the middle layer damani and the entire organ as well as the outer layer is called nadi.

Shodhana meaning purifying or cleansing, so the object of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is the purification of the nerves. A little obstruction in a water pipe can cut off the supply completely. A little obstruction in the nerves can cause great discomfort and paralyze a limb or organ.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is also known as Anuloma Viloma Pranayama.

The principal benefit of practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing is that it strengthens the respiratory system. If exhalation is twice as long as inhalation, stale air and waste products are drained and expelled from the lungs, and from the entire body. Alternate Nostril Breathing calms and balances the mind. You should try to perform at least 10 rounds daily.

As you become more advanced, the “count” of the exercise may be done, but always in a ratio of 1-4-2. This means that for every second that you inhale, you retain the breath 4 times as long, and exhale for twice as long. Never change this ratio. So you inhale to a count of “4”, retain the breath to a count of “16” and exhale to a count of “8”. You may also increase the number of rounds of alternate nostril breathing which is practiced.

During retention, there is the highest rate of gaseous exchange in the lungs. Because of the increase in the pressure, more oxygen goes from the lungs into the blood and more CO2 (and other waste products) pass from the blood into the lungs for elimination during exhalation.


Vishnu Mudra Benefits

For this traditional hand position (use for Alternate Nostril Breathing), bend the two middle fingers of the right hand into the palm.  The thumb is used to close the right nostril. The two end fingers is used to close the left nostril.

Mudras have been used in the Eastern world for thousands of years. Their purpose is to channel and redirect energy within the body to achieve optimal health and vitality. The word mudra translates as “seal”, it is used to describe a physical gesture made with the body or hands.

In yoga philosophy it is said that we have 72,000 subtle energy pathways (nadis) moving through our bodies. Many of these end in our hands and fingertips which is why hand mudras are so amazing.

When we hold our hands into a specific position with awareness we are creating a seal of energy between 2 or more of the nadis. We begin to develop a new circuit of energy in our subtle energy bodies. Each finger and thumb is said to hold a certain element quality and we can encourage energy to flow to or from certain areas of our being simply by changing the position of our hands.Ana Forrest Yoga Workshop

Ancient holy people dedicated their lives to exploring mudras and now we are able to pick and choose a particular one to suit our needs. Some focus on the physical world, helping to ground and nourish our bodies. Some encourage us to open our minds to subtle and spiritual experiences.

Vishnu Mudra, also known as “Universal Balance Gesture”. In Indian mythology Vishnu is the protector of the world. He is a Hindu deity whose role is to protect humans and to keep the Universe in balance.

This mudra activates the energies of the first three chakras – The Muladhara (root – for grounding and stability.) Svadisthana (Sacral- for enjoyment and relationships.) and Manipura (Solar Plexus- for personal power and inner fire.)

To practice Vishnu mudra come into a comfortable seated position. Raise the right hand with the elbow bent. Always practice with your right hand, even if you are left handed. now curl the forefinger and middle finger in towards the palm of the hand. Allow your thumb, ring and little finger to extend.

Your thumb symbolises the element of fire and is linked to Manipura Chakra. Your ring finger’s element is earth, linked to Muladhara and your little finger is water, linked to Svadisthana. By extending these digits you are encouraging the flow of energy to the corresponding elements within you. The other fingers bow down to allow space for these to expand and flourish.


Nadi Shodhana Benefits

Vishnu Mudra is normally used during pranayama (breathing practice) specifically, Nadi Shodana (Alternate Nostril Breathing.) This breathing technique can transform the way you feel within minutes. It is helpful with dizziness, anxiety and an overactive mind. Nadi Shodana is considered by some to be one of the most beneficial Yoga breathing practices you can do!

The benefits include:

– Detoxifying the body
– Reducing stress and anxiety
– Calming the nervous system
– Balancing hormones
– Supporting respiratory channels
– Encouraging mental clarity and focus
– Infusing the body with oxygen
– Bringing balance to right and left hemispheres of the brain


Nadi Shodhana Breathing Technique

Close your eyes. Begin with the right hand in the Vishnu Mudra position and the thumb on the right nostril. When exhaling, try to empty the lungs completely.

  1. Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through the left nostril. Then inhale deeply through the same left nostril.
  2. Close the left nostril with your ring and little finger of the Vishnu Mudra, release the right nostril. Now exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril.
  3. Inhale deeply through the same (right) nostril. Then close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round of Alternate Nostril Breathing.


  • This practice helps to maintain balance between Nadis.
  • If you feel headache, heaviness of the head, giddiness, uneasiness etc, it means you are exerting much pressure on the lungs.
  • The first symptoms of correct practice is the feeling of freshness, energy and lightness of the body and mind.



The blood receives a larger supply of oxygen in Alternate Nostril Breathing than in normal breathing, so that one feels refreshed and the nerves are calmed and purified. The mind becomes still and lucid.

Note. – In the beginning the body perspires and shakes, while the thigh and arm muscles become tense. Such tension should be avoided.



  1. Persons suffering from high blood pressure or heart trouble should never attempt to hold their breath (kumbhaka). They can practice Nadi Sodhana Pranayama without retention (kumbhaka) with beneficial effect.
  2. Persons suffering from low blood pressure can do this pranayama with retention after inhalation (antara kumbhaka) only, with beneficial effects.



Physical :
It promotes balance between the two nostrils apart from cleansing the nasal tract. It increases the vitality. Metabolic rate decreases as in case of all other Pranayama practices. It increases the digestive fire and appetite.

Therapeutic :
It lowers the levels of stress and anxiety by harmonizing the pranas. It is beneficial in respiratory disorders such as Bronchial asthma, Nasal allergy, Bronchitis etc.

Spiritual :
It induces tranquility, clarity of thought and concentration. It clears pranic blockages and balances Ida and Pingala nadis, causing Shusumna nadi to flow which leads to deep states of meditation and spiritual awakening. It helps to maintain Brahmacharya which is a prerequisite for spiritual progress.


Common Mistakes

  • Back is not straight, head droops.
  • The chest is dropped with exhalation.
  • The breath is not smooth.

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When To Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

You can do alternate nostril breathing at any time and place that feels most comfortable to you. You may find that you enjoy doing it in the morning or evening. It can also be done during the day when you need to focus or relax.

Alternate nostril breathing is best done on an empty stomach. Don’t practice alternate nostril breathing if you are sick or congested.

Alternate nostril breathing can be done before or after your yoga practice. Find the way that suits you best as people have different results and experiences. Or you can do it at the start of your meditation practice. This may help you to deepen your meditation.


Do you have any thought or experience you would like to share?  Please do leave them in my comment box and I am more than happy to hear from you!  Make sure to click on the social share buttons on this article and share it with others so that people learn too. Give a Like to my article too!  Thank you.



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I’m a qualified Yoga Teacher. I have been practicing yoga since year 2002 and start teaching since year 2004. I have created Janet Yoga Spirit to help everyone who is in the yoga journey and provide products and services to help everyone in whatever they are looking for in related to yoga including nice and comfortable yoga clothings for your yoga practice, yoga accessories that help you in your practice, retreats to help you to unplug yourself, yoga teacher training, yoga and meditation classes, yoga and wellness programs, tools to help you with the union of the body, mind and soul, and much more! Learn more about me under "About" and enjoy looking around and have a good time here! Namaste.


  • Jeff

    I do use this alternate nostril breathing technique to ease my anxiety from my stress, and I do recommend this technique to people with autoimmune diseases to try.

    I have found this has helped me not only to relax and lower my anxiety from stress, but it also has been one of my best strategies to improve my ability to fall asleep much quicker than before I started using this regularly.

    I recommend everyone give this a try,


    • Janet

      Hi Jeff. Thank your for sharing your experience. I really appreciate it. Yes, this breathing technique really help to release stress. In the past, I always like to do this breathing when I feel stressful from my busy office work. No matter how busy we are, just drop whatever you are doing for 5 min only to do this breathing. It does make alot of different to the body and mind.

      I know there will be people out there say that they are too busy during work even to come out that 5 min times. I urge people please don’t give yourself anymore excuse. You just need to weight yourself, your health or your work more important. You have a choice!

  • Johan

    I’ve tried the Alternate Nostril Breathing a few times during some yoga classes I have attended. It was something new to me back then, and the whole yoga experience left me feeling calmer afterwards.

    Though I would say that I can occasionally struggle with this type of breathing technique when one side of my nose is blocked up.

    • Janet

      Hi Johan. Glad to hear that the whole yoga experience make you feel good.

      Regarding the breathing technique, you can try just doing one nostril breathing with the nostril that is not blocked. Left nostril breathing or right nostril breathing is another type of yoga breathing technique in fact. So it is nothing wrong to do just one nostril breathing.

      To help with your nostril block, maybe you would like to try yoga nasal cleansing. It helps to cleanse the nostrils.

      • Johan

        I might give nasal cleansing a try, though I have noticed that if I limit my sugar intake, my nose doesn’t block up so much. LOL who would have thought sugar was bad for you!

        Thanks for the tip Janet.

        • Janet

          Hi Johan. You are most welcome. Glad to hear that you have managed to find the way to solve your nose block problem. Our body actually is very interesting. We just need to pay more attention and be mindful and observe, we can have very interesting realisation. And sometimes individual will have different result and reaction.

          Just continue with your mindfulness and you will have more amazing realisation. Take care!

  • Simon

    I’ve never heard of this technique before until today from your article, but it does sound interesting and I genuinely mean that Janet. I will come back to your website to have more time to read more articles again.

    • Janet

      Hi Simon. Thank you and you are always welcome back! Yoga basically cover alot of things not just about the body which alot of people only know about the yoga poses.

      You may visit my another article HERE which is about Yoga to have a better and deeper understanding.

      Basically Yoga is the union of the Body, Mind and Soul. There are many yoga techniques to help with this purpose. Even yoga breathing techniques there are many too. Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique is one of the well-known classic breathing technique.

  • Tom


    I love your article. Since this pandemic has begin I have taken up doing a bit of yoga with my girlfriend (we live together). So, any help we can get is all the better. I will be letting her know about the alternate nostril breathing technique.

    When we start doing it I will let you know what we think and if it will benefit us in any way.

    Thank you for sharing this article, and keep up the amazing work on your website.

    All the best,


    • Janet

      Hi Tom. Thank you. And you are welcome to share with me what’s you and your girlfriend experience after try out the Alternate Nostril breathing technique. I’m looking forward to hear from you.

      Yoga is more than just yoga poses. If you can put yoga poses, yoga breathing technique and meditation together in one session, you might have a different experience too compare with doing individual in different session.

  • Jim-Kelly


    I liked the Nadi Shodhana Breathing Technique. While reading about it, I tried it out. It is easy to do and I saw results right away.

    I also tried the vishna Mudra hand position. It really takes practice to do properly I believe. Anyway, thank you for this nice article.


    • Janet

      Hi Jim-kelly. Yes it’s true, you can feel the effect right away after doing a few round of Nadi Shodhana Breathing.

      It’s alright you have problem using the vishna mudra to do the breathing technique. You can just use any fingers which you feel comfortable and easy with as long as you are able to close the nostril with the finger.

      For the vishna mudra, you can slowly get familiar and easy through practice but it is not necessary must use vishna mudra to do the Alternate Nostril Breathing.

      Keep up the breathing practice!

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