Alternate Nostril Hand Technique
We often get questions about how to hold the hand and fingers when doing Alternate Nostril breathing. As far as your nostrils are concerned, it doesn't matter how you hold the hand or what fingers you use. The only important part is breathing through one nostril at a time.
We start to need technique when we do the practice often and for long periods of time. For example, at Ghosh Yoga we practice Alternate Nostril breathing every morning for 30-60 minutes. When you hold your arm and hand in position for that long, it can get tired and sore if you're not careful.
The most common way to hold the hand is with the pointer and middle fingers curled into the palm, as pictured above. The thumb then closes one of the nostrils and the pinky and ring fingers close the other. This formation of the hand allows the wrist to be straight as you manipulate the nostrils, meaning greater comfort and wrist health over time.
If you use your pointer finger to close the nostril, you will find that it forces the wrist to cock at a strange angle. This may be fine for short practices, or if you don't do it often. But over time you will find that the wrist becomes sore and achy.
RIGHT OR LEFT
People also ask about using the right or left hand. Either is fine. Traditionally the practices are taught with the right hand because the left hand was used to clean the body after using the bathroom. So eating, touching the face or another person with the left hand was culturally unacceptable. This is why the right hand is generally used. Since bathroom practices have changed, as have hand washing practices, it is acceptable to use the left hand for this practice.
It is also acceptable to change arms and hands if one gets tired. This is almost inevitable if you do the practice for more than 5 or 10 minutes.
12/18/2018 02:54:47 am
I would like to add what i recently learned about hand and finger position while doing Anuloma-Viloma (Nadi shodhan).
3/30/2020 12:43:26 pm
Can you explain why you start with the left inhale vs. the right. I have recently learned it right inhale first which I had not seen before. Thank you.
Scott (Ghosh Yoga)
4/2/2020 06:48:05 am
This is a great question that I don't know the answer to. I think every older text I've seen instructs to begin with the left nostril, but I don't recall any of them explaining why explicitly. It seems to me that since we are alternating, it doesn't much matter which nostril we begin our end with. Of course there are symbolic reasons, like stimulating the left 'channel' first, but those seem somewhat unconvincing since the goal of the practice is to balance the sides.
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Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
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