Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
(A moment of calm, captured circa 2016. Photo: David Azoulay)
I hope you've had a wonderful holiday, regardless of what you celebrate. And if you don't celebrate anything, I hope you've had a nice calm, relaxing, love-filled past few weeks.
Though the holiday season is meant to be a time of joy and togetherness, it can also cause mega stress. What sort of gift should I get so-and-so? What dish should I bring to the office holiday party? The kids are out of school for HOW LONG?!
As I wrote about in the last blog, I've recently been diagnosed with post-partum thyroiditis, which means that my bodily systems are in overdrive. Basically, I feel like I've just run a marathon every single day. Though some days are better than others, overall I just don't feel great. I don't have a whole lot of energy to "tackle the world", let alone my day-to-day tasks, like being mommy, and training clients. And this energetic lull stresses me out, because I am comfortable go-go-going. And also because I like to feel good, dammit!
But, in times of slowdown (or, when I NEED to slow down), and when I am stressed, I always eventually remember that I. Need. To. Meditate. (!) I've found it extremely helpful to lean into meditation even more-so as of late, and I wanted to share with you one of my absolute favorite pranayamas. (That's the beautiful and pleasing-to-say Sanskrit word for "breath work.")
Nadi Shodhan pranayama ("Alternate Nostril Breathing") is exactly what it sounds like.
Here, I'll teach you how to do it in 5 seconds:
1) Exhale all of the air out of your lungs, then press the ring finger and pinky of your right hand against your left nostril.
2) Slowly inhale as deeply and fully as you can through your right nostril.
3) Press your right thumb down your right nostril, release your ring finger and pinky, and exhale through your left.
4) Repeat cycle, starting with inhaling through your left nostril.
(Diagram not drawn to scale. Obvs.)
That's it! I promise that if you perform alternate nostril breathing for at least 5 minutes, you will feel much more balanced, and calm. Yogis and ayurvedics have been practicing this pranayama for thousands of years. And I was delighted when I read that Hillary Clinton uses this technique before public speaking engagements. There was even a study published in The Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research in 2013 that showed that ANB increases parasympathetic tone, which is a fancy way of saying that it slows your heart rate, improves digestion, and brings a sense of overwhelming calm. (Note: I find this technique incredibly helpful when sitting in traffic. Or, the subway. And yes, I've gotten some sideways glances for doing so, but, I'm in my mid-30s and I just don't give a damn what people think of my breathing exercises!)
I challenge you to try 5 minutes of ANB this week when you feel anxious, or angry, or when you just need to refocus. Drop me a note and let me know how it went!