Anuloma Viloma-Pranayma – Alternating breathing

Alternating breathing, Anuloma Viloma, is one of the classic breathing exercises and you have probably encountered it in one or the other yoga class. It is often used at the end of the lesson and is great for stress and nervousness. But what is the difference between Anuloma Viloma and Nadi Shodana?

alternate breathing

Anuloma Viloma – alternating breathing without breathing pauses

Alternating breathing is a great pranayama that brings you back to your center at any time. It increases your lung capacity, has a balancing effect and can be practiced at any time of the day. Basically, you breathe alternately through the left and right nostrils. Anuloma means "follow the path", Viloma expresses that we change direction.

  • To begin, get into a comfortable seated position. Then you bring your right index and middle finger to the ball of your thumb and you can thus form a pincer with your thumb, ring finger and little finger, this is also known as Vishnu Mudra.
  • Let the breath flow calmly and freely at first and then gently close the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale evenly and fully through the left nostril for a count of five.
  • Then switch sides and gently close your left nostril with your ring finger and little finger while exhaling to the right and counting to 10 evenly.
  • Inhale on the right again, counting to five.
  • Close your right nostril and exhale to the left for a count of 10.

This is one round of breathing, you can do about 10-20 (or a little more) of it. As a general rule, your exhalation should be longer than your inhalation, but again, it's important to stay relaxed. Even with pranayama exercises, do not do anything that is not good for your body and find your own rhythm.

Nadi Shodana - alternating breathing with breathing pauses

Nadi Shodana uses the same principle as Anuloma Viloma, only with additional breathing pauses. Once you have practiced Anuloma Viloma regularly, you can move on and become familiar with Nadi Shodana. The basic ratios are 4:16:8, so count to 4 on the inhale, count to 16 on the breath hold, count to 8 on the exhale.

The same applies here: You should never get short of breath or tense up. Approach slowly, allow your body to become familiar with these techniques without forcing it to do anything. (Pregnant women and children are not recommended to practice this variation with breathing pauses.)

In both exercises, the breath is delicate and barely audible. In the Hindu tradition, both variants have a cleansing effect on our subtle energy channels, the nadis. Only when these channels are free of blockages can we experience joy and balance. After each breathing exercise, take a few moments to feel the effects in silence and stay with yourself for a short time.

Try it out and let us know how you do with the exercises!

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