How Nadi Shodhana Taught Me to Listen
Don’t you hate it when people talk about something that seems like a metaphor but you’re not sure if it is? Like listening to your body? Or trusting your gut?
I sure do.
When I was starting my yoga practice in the late ’90s, I had no idea that the instruction to “listen to your body” was an actual thing. I thought it was a lovely metaphor, something that yoga teacher types liked to say because it sounded good.
So I carried on, trying to wedge myself into poses that my belly was never going to allow—at least not in the way I’d seen on the cover of magazines. And I went ahead and forced myself into Plow, even though I was never sure if I’d make it out alive considering how much my boobs were suffocating me.
Oh, So That’s What You Mean
Over time, though, I began to slowly realize that “listen to your body” was an actual instruction, not just the impressionist painting of yoga classes.
But that didn’t mean I had ANY idea how to do it.
So I set about trying to figure it out.
Peeling Back the Layers
As I did, I realized I needed to drill down, down, down. There was no way I could start with anything subtle. And by subtle I mean things like “What does your foot feel like in this pose?” (Which I’ve come to realize isn’t that subtle at all, but when you’re THAT out of touch with your body, your left foot might as well be another galaxy.)
Things didn’t really begin to click for me until I connected with my breath—in one nostril and out another.
I really hated the idea of this particular yogic breathing technique, or pranayama, called Nadi Shodhana (or Alternate Nostril Breathing). It just seemed weird. And it was new to me, and sometimes I’m very resistant to trying new things.
But eventually, because I was in a class that did it all the time, I couldn’t avoid it. So I gave it a try. And after my judging mind quieted down a bit about how ridiculous the whole thing was, something surprising happened.
I dropped in.
Mind you, I don’t think that had ever happened to me—I was just in the moment, breathing. Because my hands had something to do, I was just busy enough to not overly focus on the countdown until we were done.
As I dropped into the breath practice, I felt my breath in my nostrils. I felt my lungs expanding/deflating. I felt my arm growing a bit tired. I felt my hand in contact with my nose. If things became uncomfortable, I shifted. But otherwise, I just soaked it all in.
In other words, I listened to my body.
And there were no fluffy puppies or shooting stars in sight.
Give it a Whirl
I’ve since learned that Nadi Shodhana is awesome on many levels. The reason it can facilitate that sense of dropping in, of listening to the body, is because it creates equilibrium in the body. This is great for things like calming the mind and body, balancing hormones and more because of its effect on the nervous system.
If you want to give this a try, here’s how it goes:
—First, check and see if your nose is stuffy. If it is, you won’t want to try this until it’s not, so try blowing your nose or using a neti pot before you begin.
—When you’re de-stuffed, find somewhere comfortable to sit and set a timer. I think starting with 3 minutes to give it a try is a great idea. You could work up to 10-15 over time if you’d like, but honestly 3 minutes each day might be enough.
—Choose a hand (we’ll use the right for the purposes of this explanation).
—Bring your R thumb outside your R nostril. Gently press your R thumb into your R nostril, closing it.
—Inhale through your L nostril.
—When you’re ready to exhale, bring your R index or pointer finger to your left nostril, closing it. Exhale through your R nostril.
—After your exhale, inhale through your R nostril.
—Close the R nostril and exhale through the L nostril.
—Continue like this for the remainder of your time.
Happy breathing—and listening!