Of the some 82,000 energetic channels (nadis) that create the energetic sheath of the body (pranamayakosha), there are three that are most important for the practice of pranayama. The central channel (sushumna nadi) runs from the third eye to the perineum. The right channel (pingala nadi) is the solar, masculine, activating aspect of our energy and the left channel (ida nadi) is the lunar, feminine, receptive aspect. The graphic here shows how pingala and ida nadi begin on their respective sides at the third eye, but they alternate sides between the chakra points, blending this active and receptive energy throughout the body. In this weeks practice we will explore these two channels in the breath and the two sides of the body.
Check Nostril Dominance
Close one nostril and breath through the other, then switch. Can you sense which nostril is more open? Nostril dominance changes about every 90 minutes and when either the sun or moon channel is open, we are more attuned to that energy in the body. When the left channel is open, it is easier to fall asleep, be creative and be romantically receptive. When the right channel is open, food is digested more easily and thinking is more analytical.
Use this mudra on the hand where the nostril is less open by touching the tip of the thumb to the tip of the ring ringer and placing the back of the hand on the knee. Hold for a few minutes focusing on breath moving through the same side nostril. Then release and check nostril dominance again, the closed nostril should now be more open.
Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
Lie on the back with the knees bent.
Variation I: Draw your right knee into your chest and lengthen the left leg onto the floor. Wrap a strap around the ball of your foot and extend the leg into the air. Reach the hands up the strap until the elbows are straight but the shoulders are still grounded.
Variation II: Hold the strap in the right hand and place a block on the outside of the right hip. As you exhale, lower the leg directly out to the side so that the outer thigh rests on the block. Extend the foot into the strap and reach the left arm out to the side. To release, use the inner thigh to draw the leg up to center.
Reclining Crescent Moon Pose
Lie on the back with the legs extended. Walk feet over to the right side of the mat and bring right knee into chest. Step right sole of the foot on the floor to the outside of the left knee. Raise arms overhead and pull left wrist with the right hand so that the body comes into a crescent moon shape. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then release and change sides.
Half Circle Pose
Begin kneeling. Straighten right leg out to side and bring left hand to floor in front of the left knee. Inhale right arm up as you twist the torso to the right, hold for 5 breaths.
Repeat to the left side.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Begin on all fours with hands slightly forward of shoulders. Turn toes under and lift knees off floor. Keep shoulders wide and palms flat, press thighs and sit bones back, scooping belly in. Hold 1-3 minutes, release into Child's Pose.
Parighasana (Gate Latch Pose)
Begin kneeling. Straighten left leg and press toes towards floor to prevent hyperextension of knee. Exhale and side bend over left leg bringing left hand to block behind knee or to floor. Reach right arm overhead and keep tail bone long.
Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
Stand with feet wide apart. Turn left out to 90 degrees and right foot in 30 degrees. Inhale arms out from shoulders. Exhale and cock hips to the left. Reach left arm parallel to floor to lengthen the left waist and bring left hand on block, foot or floor. Rotate the chest towards the right and reach right arm towards ceiling.
Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
Stand with feet wide apart. Bend forward from hips placing hands between feet. Release spine forward with crown of head facing floor.
Hold up to 1 minute, then return to standing by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Nadi Shodhana with Prithvi Mudra
From comfortable seated position, place both hands in Prithvi Mudra. When you are breathing in or out through the left nostril, keep left palm up and right palm down above left hand with joined thumb and ring fingers stacked atop one another. When you are breathing in or out through the right nostril, reverse the hands. Imagine inhaling through the left nostril, reverse the hands, exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril, reverse the hands, exhale through the left nostril. Continue for 10 cycles of Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Lie on back with legs straight and feet relaxed to sides. Move arms away from sides slightly and turn palms to face ceiling. You may use support under the knees for low back pain; and a folded blanket under the head if needed. Rest 5-15 minutes.