By Narendra Maheshri
Pranayama is the practice of breath control through a variety of Yogic breathing exercises. The root of the word pranayama is “prana,” which means life force energy in Sanskrit. This life force energy is manifest as the flow of oxygen throughout the entire body, including the brain. Practicing pranayama exercises can be a great tool for trauma survivors who are struggling with dissociative coping mechanisms, hyper-arousal, overwhelming anxiety and insomnia. Pranayama exercises can support a trauma survivor in his or her ability to tolerate distressful feelings and memories. The judicious practice of appropriate pranayama techniques also allows a trauma survivor to immediately shift his or her emotional state of being.
Some pranayama exercises are stimulating and other breathing techniques are balancing and calming. Nadi Shodhana pranayama is known as alternate nostril breathing. This breathing practice is appropriate for Yoga students of all levels. It clears the mind and balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Nadi Shodhana pranayama also calms the entire nervous system down thereby alleviating symptoms of hyper-arousal. As tension, anxiety and internal states of panic subside, your mind will clear and your overall energy levels will increase. Additionally, your ability to focus and concentrate on the task-at-hand will also improve. Nadi Shodhana pranayama is also very grounding and helps to slow down and ameliorate the sense of being frantic all the time that so many trauma survivors struggle with regularly.
To practice Nadi Shodhana pranayama come to a comfortable seated position on a chair with your feet flat on the floor or on your Yoga mat in an easy-seated position. Begin by curling your index finger and ring finger of your right hand in towards your palm. Raise your right hand up to the bridge of your nose and gently close your left nostril with the fourth and fifth finger of your right hand. Take on long inhale through your right nostril to a count of 5 then close your right nostril with your thumb. Hold your inhale for 5 counts. Release your left nostril and exhale for a count of 5. Repeat the same procedure on the left side. Take your time. If you are feeling anxious or breathing to a count of 5 is too difficult, back off and practice Nadi Shodhana at your own pace. If it feels appropriate today, practice ten complete rounds of Nadi Shodhana. After you have finished this pranayama practice, pause and feel the gentle calmness pervading your body and mind.
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