Today, for our yoga of the day, we are exploring the benefits of a breath balancing technique which activates your whole brain. Before we get started, let’s have a brief introduction to yoga, for all those of you unfamiliar or uncertain about exactly what yoga is. Yoga is a much broader term than most people in the western world give it credit for. Someone says ‘yoga’ and most people automatically think ‘impossible stretches’. Yoga is so much more. The word ‘yoga’ actually means “to yoke” or “to unite”. What is being brought together, exactly? The unification being referred to is the harmonizing of ‘all parts of self’ – the physical, mental, emotional & spiritual natures.
The term ‘hatha yoga’ refers to two halves of the self; “ha-” means “sun” and “-tha” means “moon”. The sun refers to the solar aspect of self, or the masculine nature – the dynamic, rational, logical mind, the part of us that ‘acts’ in the world, that which we would call ‘the doer’. The moon, on the other hand, speaks of the lunar nature, the feminine, passive, more internal aspects of self, intuition, creativity, inspiration and allowing- ‘the receiver’. When we practice ‘hatha yoga’ we are unifying these two parts of self, the two hemispheres of the brain and both sides of the body, to work in peace and harmony together. There are simple practices that can be done either on their own, or in a series with other techniques, that will allow you to notice the balancing benefits of yoga right away.
One simple hatha yoga technique is a breathing practice known as ‘nadi shodhana’ – meaning ‘purification of the psychic channels’, or more simply put – ‘breath balancing.’ The word ‘nadi’ refers to the 72,000 rivers or currents of energy in the body – which allow the prana (or life force) to flow. The Chinese call this energy ‘chi’. The word ‘shodhana’ means ‘to purify’ or ‘to cleanse’. This practice is meant to purify and open all the subtle channels so that one might tap into a richer source of energy, life and power in oneself. By practicing this one simple yoga technique today, you will experience an activating of your whole brain. It feels amazing!
The practice is simple. You begin by bringing your right hand up to your nose. Then you use your thumb and pinky finger to alternately open and close the left and right nostrils as you breathe. Placing your thumb over your right nostril, begin to inhale through the left. At the top of the breath, close your left nostril with your pinky finger, lift off the thumb and exhale through the right side. Now, keeping the fingers where they are, inhale again, this time through the right; close now the right as you did before and exhale left. Inhale through the left. Continue this alternate nostril breathing for 5-10 minutes. To make the practice simple to remember, imagine breathing up and down the sides of a triangle, with the apex at your forehead; breathing up to the top on the one side, down the other side, returning up that same side and ending where you began, and repeat.
This practice stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, bringing them into accord and opens the psychic channels for deeper inner connection. Besides balancing brain hemispheres, this practice balances the breath – by bringing equal attention into both nostrils. You may not have noticed, but we generally breathe from one nostril only, correlating to the hemisphere of the brain that we are actively using. By balancing the breath, we begin to breathe through both nostrils simultaneously and therefore, are using both parts of the brain at once.
At the end of the allotted time for this practice, you should feel refreshed, renewed and in balance, able to tackle anything. With both brain hemispheres working in friendship, you have access to both the logical and the intuitive mind for all your endeavors. This way, you are drawing from the wholeness of who you are, and not acting ‘half-minded’.
That’s it for our simple yoga today, activating your whole brain. Go forth in inner union and have a balanced day!
Written by: Stasia Bliss