Saturday, September 26, 2009

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Sodhana Pranayama)

Nadi is a tubular organ of the body like an artery or a vein for the passage of prana or energy. A nadi has three layers like an insulated electric wire. The innermost layer is called sira, the middle layer damani and the entire organ as well as the outer layer is called nadi.

Sodhana meaning purifying or cleansing, so the object of Nadi Sodhana Pranayama is the purification of the nerves. A little obstruction in a water pipe can cut off the supply completely. A little obstruction in the nerves can cause great discomfort and paralyse a limb or organ.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is also known as Anuloma Viloma.

The principal benefit of practising Alternate Nostril Breathing is that it strengthens the respiratory system. If exhalation is twice as long as inhalation, stale air and waste products are drained and expelled from the lungs, and from the entire body. Alternate Nostril Breathing calms and balances the mind; you should try to perform at least 10 rounds daily. 

As you become more advanced, the "count" of the exercise may be done, but always in a ratio of 1-4-2.  This means that for every second that you inhale, you retain the breath 4 times as long, and exhale for twice as long.  Never change this ratio.  So you inhale to a count of "4", retain the breath to a count of "16" and exhale to a count of "8".  You may also increase the number of rounds of alternate nostril breathing which is practised.

During retention, there is the highest rate of gaseous exchange in the lungs.  Because of the increase in the pressure, more oxygen goes from the lungs into the blood and more CO2 (and other waste products) pass from the blood into the lungs for elimination during exhalation.

Vishnu Mudra

For this traditional hand positioin, bend the two middle fingers of the right hand into the palm. The thumb is used to close the right nostril. The two end fingers is used to close the left nostril.


Begin with the right hand in the Vishnu Mudra position and the thumb on the right nostril. When exhaling, try to empty the lungs completely.
  1. Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through the left nostril. Then inhale deeply through the same left nostril.
  2. Close the left nostril with your ring and little finger of the Vishnu Mudra, release the right nostril. Now exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril.
  3. Inhale deeply through the same (right) nostril. Then close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round of Alternate Nostril Breathing.

  • This practice helps to maintain balance between Nadis.
  • If you feel headache, heaviness of the head, giddiness, uneasiness etc, it means you are exerting much pressure on the lungs.
  • The first symptoms of correct practice is the feeling of freshness, energy and lightness of the body and mind.


The blood receives a larger supply of oxygen in Nadi Sodhana than in normal breathing, so that one feels refreshed and the nerves are calmed and purified. The mind becomes still and lucid.

Note. - In the beginning the body perspires and shakes, while the thigh and arm muscles become tense. Such tension should be avoided.

  1. Persons suffering from high blood pressure or heart trouble should never attempt to hold their breath (kumbhaka). They can practise Nadi Sodhana Pranayama without retention (kumbhaka) with beneficial effect.
  2. Persons suffering from low blood pressure can do this pranayama with retention after inhalation (antara kumbhaka) only, with beneficial effects.

Physical :
It promotes balance between the two nostrils apart from cleansing the nasal tract. It increases the vitality. Metabolic rate decreases as in case of all other Pranayama practices. It increases the digestive fire and appetite.

Therapeutic :
It lowers the levels of stress and anxiety by harmonising the pranas. It is beneficial in respiratory disorders such as Bronchial asthma, Nasal allergy, Bronchitis etc.

Spiritual :
It induces tranquility, clarity of thought and concentration. It clears pranic blockages and balances Ida and Pingala nadis, causing Shusumna nadi to flow which leads to deep states of meditation and spiritual awakening. It helps to maintain Brahmacharya which is a pre-requisite for spiritual progress.

Common Mistakes
  • Back is not straight, head droops.
  • The chest is dropped with exhalation.
  • The breath is not smooth.

Source from Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
                     Yoga Mind & Body by Sivananda Vedanta Centre
                     Integrated Approach of Yoga Therapy for Positive Health by
                     Dr R Nagarathna & Dr H R Nagendra
                    The Sivananda Yoga Training Manual

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beautiful Ha Long Bay in Hanoi, Vietnam

The end of the Vietnam war, and the advent of "Doi moi", Vietnam's policy of opening its economy to foreign trade, means that Westerners and South Vietnamese now have a chance to visit Ha long. Vinh Ha Long or Bay of the Descending Dragon is often touted by proud Vietnamese as the world's Eighth wonder. One of the main attractions of Ha long is the bay's calm water and the thousands of limestone mountains dotting the seascape. The Bay's water is clear during the spring and early summer. Some of the islands are quite large and there are small alcoves with sandy beaches where swimming is possible. Ha Long bay lies in the northeastern part of Vietnam and is 165 Km from Hanoi.

Ha Long literally means descending dragon(s) and according to local myth, the story goes as follows:

Long ago when their forefathers were fighting foreign invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets dotting the seascape and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders. The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam. The Dragon family fell so much in love with this area for its calm water and for the reverence of the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth. Mother dragon lies on what is now Ha Long and where her children lie is Bai Tu Long. The dragon tails formed the area of Bach Long Vi known for the miles of white sandy beaches of Tra Co peninsula.

This myth is in line with the Vietnamese myth of their origin Con Rong Chau Tien. This myth describes the union between a king (representing the dragon) and his bride (representing a goddess) giving birth to 100 children which are the ancestors of the Vietnamese people. The Ha Long myth illustrate the Vietnamese belief of their origin and the fact that throughout their history, they are aided by their ancestors, the dragon and the gods, in the defense of their land.

Rare glimpse of the disappearing fishing "junk" boat. They have been all converted to motorized boats to satisfy the growing demand of the tourist trade.

Please find below some photos of the "junk" boat and the beautiful Halong Bay.

Cave of Awe (Hang Sung Sot)

Sung Sot cave is on the same island with Trinh Nu cave. The path to Sung Sot is quite steep and is lined with shady trees. The cave has 2 chambers. The outer chamber is square and is often referred to as the waiting room. The cave's ceiling is approximately 30 m high. The walls are almost perfectly smooth as if it was built by man. The walls generate a variety of colors that blend with the setting of the area.

The path to the inner chamber is approximately 3m wide. The inner chamber is known as the serene castle. The formations in the chamber take the form of sentries conversing with one another, animals in varying poses etc. In the middle of the chamber stands a formation which resembles a general surveying his troops.

There is a side entrance which is approximately 6m in height. The light reflected from the moving water outside causes the formations inside the chamber to seemingly come alive. According to the locals, this was the reason the cave was named Sung Sot, from the awe-stricken reaction of the visitors to the cave.