Perhaps many of you have been taking the time, over these almost two months of altered reality, to engage in more self-care, as a way to soothe and ground yourself and weather the uncertainty. My days now begin with Perhaps many of you have been taking the time, over these almost two months of altered reality, to engage in more self-care, as a way to soothe and ground yourself and weather the uncertainty. My days now begin with morning meditation and end with a nightly bath routine – where I immerse myself in a womb of warm water, infused with epsom and Himalayan salts. I place a few sea shells and stones in the water, trusting that the energy of Mamma Ocean will permeate the water and add to it’s healing properties. My usual foot massage before I surrender to the horizontal plane, is bookended by the bath and a session of alternate nostril breathing to rebalance the two hemispheres of my brain and the energy of the Ida Nadi and the Pingala Nadi.
Nadi, in Sanskrit means ‘channel’. The regulation of the Ida and Pingala brings harmony, balance, health and well-being to the life system. The Ida Nadi, is connected with the left nostril and right hemisphere of the brain. It is recognized as the Yin, introverted, receptive, lunar, intuitive, female, Shakti energy, and it cools, refreshes and quietens. The Pingala Nadi, associated with the right nostril and the left hemisphere of the brain, aligns with the Yang, extroverted, male, Solar, vital, Shiva energy, and it warms, activates and enlivens. These past weeks have presented us all with an opportunity to reflect upon our lives, and the areas that have been out of balance. Where have we been pulled into the Yang energy and neglected to balance it with the light of the moon? Where have we sensed that we needed to try less, force less, push less and embrace a sensitivity, trust and receptivity? Where could we benefit from lighting a gentle fire of inspiration to begin to manifest our dreams in the world?
The balancing of the Ida and Pingala is a personal practice in which we begin to tune into the duality within ourselves and in the world around us. The Ida and Pingala dance around the main, central channel of the energy body, called the Shushumna, in the same way that up and down, left and right, hot and cold, play on either side of no-thing. The Shushumna Nadi is like attribute-less empty space, the primordial field of infinite potential which existed before creation, and out of which every aspect of reality and life manifest. It runs up the center of the body, from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head, passing through each of the seven chakras. The energies of Ida and Pingala are reactive whereas that of Shushumna is balanced, peaceful and creative. When we are grounded in duality, every fluctuation in our external reality is judged and felt by us, and affects us on many levels. When we align our energy with that of our central channel, we are able to sit in the space of the neutral observer and perceive the happenings of our body, mind and external world without being affected by them.
Alternate nostril breathing is taught in a few different ways. Though the mudra of folded index and middle finger of the right hand, and use of thumb to close right nostril and fourth finger to close left nostril stays the same, sometimes the practice involves alternately breathing in and out of the same nostril; inhaling and exhaling through alternate nostrils for equal lengths of time; or inhaling through one nostril for a given number of counts, holding the breath by closing both nostrils, then exhaling through the ‘other’ nostril for double the given number of counts. For example: inhale right for three counts, hold three counts, exhale left for six counts. I enjoy this latter practice, as I feel that I am able to give my attention to all three channels of energy. The inhale and exhale cycles take me from Ida to Pingala in a prana pingpong match of duality, and in between I can ‘be’ in the creative stillness of Shushumna. This awareness of the four cycles of breath can be layered onto your normal breathing cycle at any moment of the day when you want to center yourself in the present moment and dive into a sense of balance and peace. Inhale. Space. Exhale. Space. Inhale. Space. Exhale. Space. The longer you can sit in the space, or the more conscious you can become of it, the greater the sense of well-being that will envelope you. You will feel the winds of duality brush gently past you or howl and whip and lash about in a threatening, hurricane-like manner, and you will become aware of your inner stillness and choice as to whether to bend, sway, take flight, or just to remain as you are.
The alternate nostril breathing practice, known in Sanskrit as Nadi Sodhana, or purification of the channels, is certainly a valuable tool on our journey to regaining balance in a time when we feel numerous realities crumbling around us, and a heightened sense of uncertainty and accelerated change. I invite you to add it to your self-care routine. Start with a few minutes of practice every night before you go to sleep and watch a new way of being unfold in your life. Namaste.