Teaching Yogic Breathing Practices: Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

yoga instructorBy: Virginia Iversen

Breathing practices or pranayama techniques are often skipped over in many Yoga classes. Often times, a Yoga instructor may find him or herself teaching a class to beginning students and may feel that including the practice of pranayama into an hour-long class may take too long and be too complicated for the students to absorb. It may also be the case that the Yoga teacher may not be that well versed in how to teach pranayama techniques.

However, when pranayama techniques are incorporated into a Yoga practice, the physical and emotional benefits of the practice increase dramatically. There are a variety of traditional pranayama techniques that can be easily taught within an hour class period. Many of these traditional pranayama exercises help to calm the mind and balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems by equalizing the length of the inhale and exhale. A few examples of pranayama techniques that balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are Nadi Shodhana Pranayama and Ujjayi Pranayama.


* Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

To teach Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, have your students sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on their Yoga mats. If a few of your students have tight hips, have them sit on a folded blanket for more comfort and support. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is a wonderfully calming breathing exercise to practice just prior to a few minutes of meditation and/or Shavasana. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama balances the energy currents in the body and is also very soothing to the mind.

To begin, instruct your Yoga students to gently place the index and middle finger of the right hand between their eyebrows. Ask them to exhale smoothly and slowly, and then close their left nostril with the fourth and fifth finger of the right hand. Instruct your students to inhale through their right nostril for a count of five. Have your students hold the inhale for a count of five as they gently close their right nostril with the right thumb, then ask them to release the hold on their left nostril.

Now, ask your students to exhale smoothly and completely for five counts through the left nostril. After they have completed the exhale, ask them to inhale through the left nostril for a count of five, and then gently close the left nostril with the fourth and fifth finger of the right hand. Continue in this way for five minutes or so. When they have finished practicing Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, ask your students to rest for a few minutes in the inner stillness that this breathing exercise generates, either in a simple meditative posture or Shavasana.


© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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