यथा सिंहो गजो वयाघ्रो भवेद्वश्यः शनैः शनैः |
तथैव सेवितो वायुरन्यथा हन्ति साधकम || १५ ||
yathā siṃho ghajo vyāghro bhavedvaśyaḥ śanaiḥ śanaiḥ |
tathaiva sevito vāyuranyathā hanti sādhakam || 15 ||
Meanining : Just as lions, elephants and tigers are controlled by and by, so the breath is controlled by slow degrees,
otherwise – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Anuloma Pranayama (अनुलोम प्राणायाम) is one of several Pranayama or breath exercises used in the practice of Hatha yoga. Anu roughly translates as “with” and Loma means hair implying “with the grain” or “natural”. It is the opposite of Viloma Pranayama(विलोम प्राणायाम) which means against the grain.
How to do Anuloma Viloma Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing):
- Sit in a steady asana. Padmasana is most suited for the practice.Siddhasana and Vajrasana may also be used, else You may sit in Sukhasana(easy asnasa)
- Close the right nostril with your thumb and draw in air from the left nostril. Do this as slowly as you can, till your lungs are full.
- Now release the thumb and close the left nostril with your ring finger. Then breathe out slowly through the right nostril.
- Next take the air in from the right nostril and then release it through the left nostril (after closing the right nostril with the thumb).
- This is one round of Anulom Vilom Pranayama.
- Start with 5 rounds and increase it up to 20 rounds in one sitting.
- Also, the duration of inhalation can start from 2 seconds and go up to 20 seconds or even beyond.
- One can have one sitting in the morning and one in the evening. For advanced practitioners, the yogic texts recommends four sittings – one in the morning, one at noon, one in the evening and one at midnight. But for all practical purposes, two sittings (one in morning and one in evening) are enough.
- After one has reached a certain level of proficiency, one can addKumbhaka or retention of breath to the practice.
Ratio of Inhalation, Retention and Exhalation
Pranayama practitioners start with the ratio of 1:1 for inhalation and exhalation. For example if you inhale for 4 seconds through one nostril, then the exhalation from the other nostril is also 4 seconds. As you progress, the ratio can be changed to 1:2, which means if inhalation is 4 seconds, then exhalation is 8 seconds.
Once you add Kumbhaka (retention of breath), the ratio can start with 1:1:1. For example, 4 seconds of inhalation, 4 seconds of retention and 4 seconds of exhalation. With further progress, the ratio can be increased to 1:1:2, 1:2:2, 1:4:2, etc. The ratio of 1:4:2 is mentioned in most classic yoga texts. Those who practice advanced ratios of this pranayama, should eat only Satvic food (pure, nourishing and light).
Benefits of Anulom Vilom Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
- Anuloma Viloma Pranayama cleans the pranic channels and makes the prana flow freely in the entire body. The nadis or the pranic energy channels are purified. Hence this pranayama is also called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama.
- Purification of the energy channels ensures proper supply of pranic energy to all the organs enhancing the overall health of the body.
- Anulom Vilom Pranyama balances the two main energy channels –Ida and Pingala. It balances the two hemispheres of the brain, bringing about peace and tranquility.
- When the Ida and Pingala nadis are balanced, it awakens the central channel called Sushumna Nadi.
- It removes toxins from the body.
- Prolonged practice of Anuloma Viloma Pranayama leads to next stage of yoga, which is Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses. This enables the practitioner to progress towards higher practices ofDharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
- It can reduce weight in some practitioners depending on their body constitution and is a good practice for obesity.
** The duration of inhalation and expiration depends entirely on the capacity of the practitioner. Start with whatever you are comfortable with – say 4 seconds inhalation and 4 seconds exhalation. Later it can be increased up to 20 seconds or even more.