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There are five types of Prana (breath or life force energy) as per the Ayurvedic system. They are: Prana (breath and heart beat), Apana (elimination of wastes), Udana (producing vocal patterns in and for the body), Samana (metabolism and digestion) and Vyana (voluntary muscle systems).
Each one of us has a breathing pattern, which evolves as we grow. Quite often it is significantly different from the natural rhythm we are born with. Our breathing patterns change as per our perceptions and interpretations of our experiences and take the form suitable to our most dominant perception or reaction. Thus a nervous person generally has a shallow breathing pattern; a depressed person has a slow rhythm, etc. Since these patterns are away from the equilibrium we start out with, we develop disease conditions over the years. Pranayama chiefly addresses bringing the balance back through the practice of controlled breathing. The most important of these techniques is the Nadi-Shodhan Pranayama – A Pranayama very similar to the popular Anulom-Vilom Pranyama.
In particular, the Nadi-Shodhan Pranayama seeks to detoxify the energy channels. It is the base on which the remaining other eleven-odd Pranayamas are practiced. The Nadi-Shodhan Pranyama should be executed before the performance of any other Pranayama to get desirable results of the Pranayamas that follow it. Beginning with other Pranayamas could not only bring sub-optimal results but may also result in undesirable outcomes. The Nadi-Shodhan Pranayama is performed as follows:
1. Sit on a mat on an even floor.
2. Assume a comfortable posture – Sukhasna (simple sitting position) or Padamasna (lotus pose).
3. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
4. Inhale through your left nostril till you lungs fell full and you cannot breathe in anymore. Take 4 seconds to complete the breathing in procedure.
5. Use your pointer finger to close off your left nostril. Hold the inhaled breath for 4 seconds.
6. Now open your right nostril (keeping the left nostril still closed) and exhale slowly and completely to a count of 6 seconds.