Breathing in the Sun- July 2020

We’ve used so much breathwork (pranayama) over the COVID period. During self-isolation to keep us calm, build courage and resilience in the body and now, during the post COVID period, to help us find balance. And one of the breaths we use in yoga is a classic Tantra breath called Nadi Shodhana. An easy breath, made famous several years ago by Hillary Clinton who cited that, although she lost the election to Obama she was very calm and balanced in the process using this breath (the irony!). We use this breath to bring cooling, lunar energy into the body through the left nostril (yin energy) and warming, solar energy into the body (yang energy) through the right nostril.

Yogis believe that each nostril is connected to a Nadi. Nadis are similar to the meridians the acupuncturists use in their practice. Nadi is a Sanskrit word which translates to river or channel.  These channels are not nerves as we may imagine them but far more subtle conduits of pranic energy that intersect at the chakras (7 energy centres or nerve plexuses) which lie along the length of the spine. Each nostril corresponds to a dominant activity that takes place in the opposite hemisphere of the brain.

Breathing through your left nostril (Ida Nadi) activates nerve channels down the left side of the body and activates the right side of your brain, your creative and feminine principle. Breathing through your right nostril (Pingala Nadi) activates nerve channels down the right side of the body and activates the left side of your brain, your masculine and analytical principle.  

In yogic terminology, the right nostril referred to the ‘gateway of Sun Energy’ and left nostril is the ‘gateway of Moon Energy’. Sun energy is the representation of hot or masculine vitality in the body while Moon energy represents cooling or feminine vitality. When the breath is flowing out of the surya (the solar or right) nostril, we are in a yang, energized state. When the breath is flowing out of the chandra (the moon or left) nostril, we are in a yin, passive state.

If you could imagine an autoimmune issue where the metabolism is sluggish (like underactive thyroid issues) the sun breath would bring lots of warmth and energy to the body. When the right nostril (Surya) is active, then vital energy is more active for physical work, digesting food, etc. The mind is outward-focused and the body generates more heat. The sun breath is good to use for increasing the oxygen supply in the blood, improving symptoms of depression and for reducing anxiety and stress.

In yoga, breathwork is a calming, healing tool which we use to regulate the Prana flow within the body and connect to the rest of humanity. Because we all share the same breath.

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