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Anulom Vilom Pranayam: Breathing Technique to Handle Stress


What is Anulom Vilom?

Anulom Vilom Pranayam, also called as Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana Pranayam, is an ancient yogic technique that involves controlling the vital force or Prana and balance their flow through specific channels called Ida and Pingala Nadis. The Nadis are metaphorical expressions of the body’s energy channels that make us conscious and whole. When there is a free flow of energy through these Nadis, we are vital and healthy, and when there is an obstruction in the path, we will experience poor mental and physical health. With the regular practice of Anulom Vilom Pranayam, we can strengthen the flow of Prana through every cell of our body and stay on the path to spiritual growth.

Potential Anulom Vilom Benefits

Anulom Vilom Pranayam promotes a balanced mind and heals the body from within by eliminating free radicals and toxins. In addition to being practised as a form of meditation to attain mental peace, control and tranquillity, researches have shown that it is beneficial in the management of diseases arising from lifestyle choices and stress.

Here are some of the Anulom Vilom benefits that regular practice can bring:
  • Balances your mind: The practice of Anulom Vilom benefits your brain and nervous system. It maintains the optimal functioning of the two hemispheres of the brain and improves your cognitive skills.
  • Weight-loss and obesity-control: The Anulom Vilom Pranayam benefits you in your weight loss journey by reducing the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with weight gain and obesity, in the body. As the Pranayam relaxes your mind and keeps it steady, it reduces the cravings for high-fat comfort foods which can contribute to weight gain.
  • Curbs stress, anxiety and depression: With its positive effects on mental health, Anulom Vilom can reduce your stress levels and help combat anxiety and depression.
  • Benefits of Anulom Vilom for eye health: It facilitates the circulation of blood through the brain and the optic nerve thereby improving their functioning and overall health.
  • Improves the quality of skin: Studies have shown that Anulom Vilom exercise can reduce stress-induced skin problems like premature ageing, acne flares, atopic dermatitis, slow wound healing, etc.
  • Balancing the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas: This is one of the major advantages of Anulom Vilom Pranayam. The three doshas govern the metabolic activities of the body, and their imbalance or vitiation can lead to several health problems. With regular Anulom Vilom practices and healthy lifestyle choices, dosha imbalance and their associated health issues can be avoided.
  • Improves the digestive system: Activities where intense breathing is involved help to avoid stomach infections, constipation, and illnesses. Thus, Anulom Vilom ensures a healthy and good digestive system.
  • Helps to treat arthritis problems: According to ancient texts on Yoga and Ayurveda, the main cause for pain in the body is due to blockages or clots in the parts of the body. Anulom Vilom helps to eliminate these blockages and reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Reduces chronic sinus problems and snoring: It improves the flow and the reach of oxygen into the lungs. With proper ventilation, any blockages within the sinuses or hollow cavities in the skull can be eliminated leading to adequate oxygen supply to the head. This can reduce sinus problems and prevent snoring as well.
  • Treats breathing difficulties: Anulom Vilom Pranayam works wonders to maintain the respiratory health of individuals. It can be beneficial in the effective management of coughing, wheezing, dyspnoea and asthma.

How to practice Anulom Vilom Pranayam?

The word ‘Anulom’ means with the grain, while ‘Vilom’ means against the grain. The Pranayam is done by taking deep breaths from one nostril while blocking the other and alternating the process between the left and right nostril.

A step by step guide to perform Anulom Vilom Pranayam is mentioned below.

  • After placing the asana on the floor, sit on it with your back straight. You can choose to sit in the Padmasana, Siddhasana or Vajrasana pose.
  • Make yourself comfortable and close your right nostril with your thumb. Now, slowly inhale a deep breath of air until your lungs are full and hold it in.
  • After some time, close your left nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  • You can initially start with five rounds and gradually increase it to ten or twenty rounds in one sitting.
  • The duration of inhalation, holding it and exhalation each can last from 2 to 20 seconds depending on your comfortability. However, it is recommended to start with just 2 seconds and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with it.
  • The best time to practice Anulom Vilom is early during the morning or in the evening. With practice, you can stretch it up to four sittings in a day.
  • After reaching an advanced level, you can also incorporate Kumbhaka or breath retention to the practice.

Things to keep in mind while performing Anulom Vilom Pranayam

  • Yoga mats are essential. You shouldn’t be sitting directly on the ground to perform the Pranayam.
  • Focus on keeping the head, neck and chest straight so that your back stays straight during the activity.
  • Ensure that your breathing is gentle and natural. There shouldn’t be any sound during inhalation or exhalation.
  • While blocking your nostrils, place your fingers lightly on the nose and the forehead. There is no need to apply pressure.
  • Anulom Vilom shouldn’t be performed within an hour of eating, bathing or any other activity.
  • To maximise the benefits of the Pranayam, it is recommended to meditate for some time with your eyes closed after the procedure.

The Bottom Line

Anulom Vilom Pranayam is an ancient practice which is known for its ability to promote a wide range of physical and mental health benefits. What happens when we do Anulom Vilom is we develop better patience, focus, self-control, respiratory and cardiovascular health and overall sense of well-being.

Anulom Vilom is entirely safe to practice for most people, but it is recommended to consult a doctor if you have chronic respiratory or cardiovascular problems. Although the Pranayam brings several health benefits to the mind and body, it is not a substitute for medical treatment.

At Govardhan EcoVillage, we help our patrons to learn and practice Yoga and Pranayam techniques under the supervision of experienced and qualified Yoga Gurus along with Ayurvedic treatment procedures to help them achieve holistic health. Find a certified Yoga course at Govardhan EcoVillage to develop a calm state of mind and take control of your life and inner well-being.