Have you ever wondered why you have two nostrils instead of one big one?
Our body is a finely tuned machine operating on positive and negative electrical currents. In the ancient science of Kundalini Yoga we are taught that there are two energies called Ida and Pingala that intertwine up the sides of the spine and that unite to form the Sushmana, the central channel.
The Ida energy, on the left, is the moon energy: reflective, calming, cooling, female. The right is Pingala and has the energy of the sun: bright, fiery, awakening and male.
We compare these systems in our Western terminology as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system, Pingala, is the fight or flight system and charges you up in times of danger. The parasympathetic system, Ida, slows you down and helps your body automatically run its day to day jobs of digestion, elimination, sleep cycles and more.
When you need to calm down, when your mind is racing faster than a hurricane, or when you can’t go to sleep, try left nostril (Ida) breathing. Simply take your right hand and, with your fingers outstretched, block off your right nostril by putting gentle pressure on it with your right thumb. Be sure to keep the rest of your fingers straight and pointing up towards the sky; the fingers act like antennas for the “cosmic” energy that surrounds us all. (Alternately, if sticking your fingers up in front of all your friends might not be the most appropriate thing to do, use any finger to block off the side of the nose)
With a long, slow, deep breath, gently inhale through your left nostril. Then, just as gently, exhale long, slowly and completely, again through the left nostril. Relax your body as you feel the relaxing, cooling breath bringing new life into your body. Relax even deeper with each exhale as you breathe out all tension, all stress and all disease.
Here’s an alternative rhythm you can use for left nostril breathing. (The key to life is rhythm. It is said that God has a hard time hearing your prayers if they aren’t rhythmic) Try breathing in through the left nostril as described using different “counts”. Inhale for 4 beats, hold the breath for 4 beats, and exhale for 4 beats. To help you count, use a mantra.
For instance, inhale using the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma (all have the “ah” sound) as a way to count to four. Hold the breath mentally chanting Sa Ta Na Ma again, at the same speed. And finally, exhale mentally vibrating Sa Ta Na Ma.
The mantra (a mantra is the projection (tra) of the mind (man)) Sa Ta Na Ma means I am that Infinite One. Each sound represents a particular aspect of Infinity: SA is infinity, TA is birth, NA is death, and MA is rebirth.
You can, with practice, increase the length of breathing and holding by increasing the repetitions of the mantra. If you want to try an 8 cycle (breathing in 8, hold 8, exhale 8) repeat the Sa Ta Na Ma mantra twice on the inhale, twice on the hold and twice on the exhale.
The benefits of left nostril breathing are numerous including sharper, clearer focus of the mind, and a deep, full relaxation or sleep. It is said in the Yogic tradition, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, that if a person breathes through the left nostril for 31 minutes a day for 90 days (the time it takes to plant a new habit into the subconscious) they will naturally change their metabolism in favor of relaxation and weight loss.
Be sure to compare this with right nostril breathing and alternate nostril breathing.
As with any meditation I will teach here, feel free to start with a shorter practice time and slowly, as your tolerance and confidence increase, you can build up the amount of time you practice. With Kundalini Yoga meditations a good starting time is 3 minutes