March 2, 2022

A Pranayama Practice for F*cked Up Times.


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*Warning: salty language ahead.


There’s no doubt that times right now are fucked up.

And they’ve been fucked up for a while. That’s just the truth. It feels wrong to admit that I feel overwhelmed and stressed and sad about it all because I’m privileged and white and perfectly safe in my little Boulder, Colorado bubble.

But I feel this way and that’s okay. I’m letting it be (as we should always do). But, sometimes, just letting it be is rough. Like, really rough—and sometimes, debilitating.

Last week, I was feeling overwhelmingly overwhelmed and could not work. I think I took three baths in the middle of my workdays to just fucking relax. And usually, submerging myself in water does the trick. (I’m definitely a water baby.) But, honestly, it only made getting back to work harder because, well, I’d rather be in the bath.

But, laying in the bath all day wasn’t an option and I needed to do something that would genuinely help me to feel grounded, centered, energized, calm, and focused all at the same damn time. And I did.

First, I returned to my self by checking in. What did I really need?

Of course, the answer was simple:

To breathe.

The answer is always to breathe.

So, I did the thing—I breathed. I closed my eyes. I breathed some more. And it helped. Then, I decided to kick it up a notch and return to one of my favorite pranayama practices ever:

Nadi Shodhana (aka alternate nostril breathing).

I said it already, but I’ll say it again: this is one of my favorite breathing exercises literally ever. And if you haven’t tried it yet, it will probably be one of your favorites, too (especially if you struggle with anxiety—but, doesn’t everyone struggle with anxiety these days?).

Here’s how to practice Nadi Shodhana:

>> Find a comfortable seat. I like to sit on the floor and prop myself up on a cushion to elevate and open the hips. Take a second to ground yourself, lengthen the spine, pull the heads of the arm bones back to open the chest, and make sure you’re comfortable.

>> Put your right hand into Vishnu mudra. To do this, fold your pointer finger and your middle finger just to touch the base of your thumb while leaving your thumb straight and your ring finger and pinky finger glued together.

(Another option here, that I often prefer, is to put your right hand in the traditional “I love you” hand gesture—ring finger and middle finger folded into your palm while the others are straight—and place your pointer finger on your third eye).

>> Close down the eyes. Or don’t. Remember, this practice is for you and you have the choice to do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable and safe—you are a sovereign being.

>> Place your thumb over your right nostril.

>> Breathe in through your left nostril.

>> Hold the breath while you cover your left nostril with your ring finger and pinky finger.

>> Lift your thumb from your right nostril and breathe out of your right nostril.

>> Repeat the process by now breathing in from the right and out the left.

>> Continue this practice for at least 5-10 breaths or for as long as feels right to you. Listen to what you need. Really listen.

Here’s why we practice Nadi Shodhana:

>> To clear and purify the channels of the subtle body and the physical body. “Nadi” directly translates to “channel” and “Shodhana” translates to “purification.”

>> It balances masculine and feminine energy.

>> It increases our ability to focus.

>> It calms the nervous system.

>> It helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

>> It can help balance our hormones.

>> It balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

>> It increases blood supply to the brain.

I swear, every time I practice this breath, I feel a little better, a little more balanced, and a little more at ease.

I know that taking the time out of our incredibly busy days to sit down and “just breathe” can feel like a waste of time, but I promise you, it’s not. Also, this practice can be done anywhere, pretty much at any time, and it doesn’t have to take any longer than a few minutes.

The path to feeling better may feel daunting, but as long as we return to ourselves and check in with what we really need (and more often than not, it’s the basics—like breathing), I’m certain we will get there.

It’s okay to feel sad and overwhelmed and stressed and heartbroken. Just remember to breathe (and eat and sleep and love).

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