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Getting in the flow: Understanding Anulom Vilom

Anulom Vilom or Nadi Shodhana is a Pranayama practice wherein we breathe through alternate nostrils. This article aims to simplify and lay out the benefits of this practice, to help you understand and optimize this technique.

Breathing greatly influences our mind, nervous system, and bodily systems and functions. The way we control our breath produces different effects. Slow, calm breathing can soothe and balance the entire nervous system. It helps calm the endocrine system and brings down blood pressure as it slows down the heart rate. This slow and gentle breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in this "rest-and-digest" state, our body can heal, recover and recharge again.

This also results in a more balanced, calm, and clear mind. Through controlled and mindful breathing, we give the mind a chance to focus and become more aware of how we let air and energies flow in and out of our system, which helps bring us into deeper states of relaxation and meditation.

As you might already know, our brain has two hemispheres. The right side of the brain – which controls the left side of the body – is in charge of feelings, visualization, imagination, intuition, rhythm, holistic thinking, and the arts. It also controls visual awareness, emotions, spatial abilities, face recognition, music awareness, and interpretation of social cues. The left side of the brain – which controls the right side of the body – is concerned with language, number skills, scientific skills, spoken language, logic, sequencing, linear thinking, and facts. Now, in Yoga as well as Astrology, these two binaries are identified as one’s Sun and Moon side; or one’s Feminine and Masculine side.

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And so, in practicing this breathing technique, we are activating these two energy hemispheres, these two aspects within us – breathing from one channel to the other. This creates and enhances balance in the brain and our entire energy system. It is therefore more than just breathing with the physical body, it’s a holistic way to get our energies flowing and in the zone.

In addition to this, Anulom Vilom or Nadhi Shodhana also aids in mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety as it brings about a great balance in a holistic manner from the physical plane to an inner, deeper spiritual sense.

Through this controlled breathing, many have also seen benefits in treating respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma; as we train the brain and the body to focus; therefore improving breathing as a whole.

Finally, as one experiences a deep calm, focus and balance with this technique, it most certainly is beneficial as preparation for one’s meditation practice.

The connection between breath, body, mind, and spirit is indeed undeniable. And I do hope that this technique helps you in your journey towards inner balance and physical health. May it bring you a wealth of wonder and manifold benefits.

I wish you all peace, health, and harmony, 

Michaēl Bijker

13 September 2022

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