Songs of Forgiveness
Yoga Poetry Radio
breath practice for better sleep

breath practice for better sleep

Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit

Welcome to Yoga Poetry Radio. Today’s episode is a breathing practice for better sleep. Nadi Shodhana is a common yoga breath that is intended to balance and cleanse. It calms with the slight breath hold after the inhale. The simple process gives you a concrete activity to focus on and let your mind rest. This easy breath is typically done a seated posture with a mudra, or energy seal of the right hand, to guide the nostril switching. But if it serves your rest, try this breath without the mudra, just lying down and following your awareness between nostrils as you draw the breath in one nostril and out the other. Lying down, with visualization and awareness is an effective way to practice this breath for calming the mind and the onset of sleep. Try it in different locales and locations in order to support your needs. This breath with beneficially impact sleep no matter what time of day you practice it.

You may want tissues nearby.

Lets begin wherever you are by grounding. Notice where your body makes contact with the surface beneath you. Make note of how solid and supportive that surface is right now. Explore that pressure between you and the surface with your awareness. Let your body be heavy. Relax and spread out as you breathe into that contact. Start deepening your awareness of the breath. Stay with the movement, expansion and lift on the inhale, sink on the exhale. Let’s take one breath together, exhale all the air from your lungs, inhale through your nose, open mouth exhale. Seal your lips and let your breath be natural.

If your nose is plugged, or you find this difficult in anyway, use your awareness to explore each nostril. Remember how you are relating to the experience is important, so if you are experiencing any difficulty, back away from the specifics and take a global view of the breathing and the amazing organ of your nose.

Your nose is made up of erectile tissue that engorges and shrinks in biological rhythm. One nostril swells and limits the air coming in, to let the other be dominant. With special attention on your nose, can you tell which nostril is dominant right now? The right nostril is connected to the sympathetic nervous system, thinking intellect, reason, heat and is considered to be the sun nostril. And the left is associated with para-sympathetic nervous system, or rest and digest part of your nervous system, also coolness, intuition, feeling, and the moon. Our nostrils naturally switch dominance frequently during the day depending depending on time of day, state of mind, activity level, and temperature.

If you are seated and want to continue with the mudra, let your left hand rest comfortably in your lap. With your right hand open fold your pointer finger and second finger down towards your palm. This leaves your thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger raised. To begin, exhale fully. Bring your thumb to press your right nostril closed. Inhale through your left nostril. Hold on the inhale and switch to ring finger closing left nostril. Gently press the air all the way out. Inhale same side, when you get to the top, hold and carefully switch nostrils, thumb closing right. Gently and slowly exhale. Inhale and when you get to the top, hold and switch nostrils. We will continue this way for 3 minutes.

Exhale, inhale, switch. Exhale, inhale, switch.

Do this awhile.

When we a minute left.

Continue on your own. If this feels natural and comfortable to you, explore matching the length of your inhale to your exhale and the slight breath retention at the hold. If this has felt awkward or uncomfortable, be gentle with it. Your experience will change with repeated practice. The tissue of your nose is worthy of your care. It produces nasal nitrous oxide that is essential for your heart. The cilia in your nose warms and humidifies the air that comes into your body. The tissues at your nose and throat are the same as your genitals, to me that means they should not be taken for granted. Take out your neti pot, fill it with a saline tears-like solution, it will clear out allergens and viruses and bacteria, bring in moisture and help you during this change in season.

Finsh the breath with the exhale on the right nostril. If you are in seated posture with the mudra, let your hand come down to rest in your lap.

We will close with the sound of OM. Listen along or join me. As Shakespeare is want to say, And palm to palm is holy palmer’s kiss, bring your hands together at your heart. May all the benefits we just created in this practice be vibrationally sent out with this sound and shared with all other beings, known or unknown, nearby or far away.

Exhale. Inhale through the nose. Om.

The practice is always followed with time for your silent om. Can you feel the way the sound begins in your chest and moves up your throat across the back of your scull to forehead, and ends in your nose. It’s its own kind of cleansing vibration.

Thank you for listening and if you find this information and practice helpful please share it with anyone else you think may benefit. Like and subscribe so others can find it. Follow the show notes back to my newsletter to see what else I share. At the page there are resources for further study where I link to other writings and videos that have more information.

Resources for further study:

Breath by James Nestor. This book was my first in depth encounter to the importance of the nose. This read is highly recommended if you have any interest.

This article is about how Hillary Clinton used Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing to recover after the loss of the 2016 election. It was fun to find this and sharing it here because mom would have truly loved it:

Follow the link to where Hillary Clinton shows Anderson Cooper how to do Alternate Nostril Breathing:

This article from Kripalu has some great Ayurvedic tips for dealing with insomnia, including the recommendation of Nadi Shodhana.

This article discusses in further detail right and left nostril dominance

Songs of Forgiveness
Yoga Poetry Radio
Yoga with more heart than eyeball. These short mindful yoga sessions are listening only. Practices vary from walking meditation, to breathing practices, to seated and standing movement options, to the more esoteric and released in fits and starts. Feel-your-way in your own space at your own pace. This podcast is a companion to my newsletter on loss and liberation called Songs of Forgiveness. I invite you to click through to my newsletter at and read more of what I do. I post my letters with the phases of the moon and I invite you to subscribe and travel time with me.
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Tina Laurel Lee