During the winter,  the days begin to grow shorter and colder, heightening our instincts to settle down and find the warmth within. In ancient India, sages studied nature’s rhythms and created sādhanās (practices) that complimented both prakt (nature) and the individual human constitution. Thousands of years later, we continue to use these tools for self-improvement.

Instances of congestion in the chest, throat and sinuses generally increase as physical activity and deep breathing generally decreases during the winter.  It is useful, therefore, to practice techniques that prevent or reduce congestion of the respiratory system.

Two yogic practices that promote respiratory health are prāāyāma (breathing techniques) and Jāl Netī (water nasal purification).

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Nadī Shōdhanā (alternate nostril breathing)

The prāṇāyāma technique nadī shōdhanā (alternate nostril breathing) is considered the first stage of all breathing practices. It helps to alleviate those “winter blues” by calming and balancing the central nervous system and cultivating prāṇa (vital energy) flow within the body.

Nadī shōdhanā is practiced by closing the right nostril with your right thumb and inhaling through the left nostril for a 4 second count. Immediately after, close the left nostril with your right ring finger and little finger, and at the same time remove your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through this nostril. Do this to the count of eight seconds. This completes a half round.

Second half: Inhale through the right nostril to the count of four seconds. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight seconds. This completes one full round.

Alternate nostril breathing should not be practiced if you have a cold or if your nasal passages are blocked in any way. Forced breathing through the nose may lead to complications.

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Jāl Netī

The practice of prāṇāyāma is also a wonderful way to prepare for, and compliment, Jāl Netī.

Jāl Netī is a Shat Karma, or purification technique, that uses tepid saline water to cleanse and soothe the nasal cavity. A variation of this technique has become popular in the West through the use of a “netī pot”.

The narrow spout of the pot, gently placed, allows water to flow from one nostril, over the septum, and out of the other nostril and then is repeated on the other side.

This Shat Karma can be an excellent daily practice to soothe the nasal passages after the effects of dry, indoor heating or to cleanse the nose of soot from those roaring hearth fires.

Additionally, many yogīns have found Jāl Netī to be a useful preventative tool for common respiratory congestion and is increasingly gaining recognition within Western medicine.

As with any haṭha yoga technique, if you are unfamiliar with any of the practices, join me in my Wednesday morning, 9:30, yoga class for guidance.

Namaste.

Yoga was first introduced to Cynthia through her practice of performance dance and musical theater over 25 years ago.  Her experience eventually led her to branch out along two distinctive areas of study: the physical and the philosophical.

The physical path led her first to Traditional Tae Kwon and to explore the arts of Ta’i Chi Chuan and Qi Gong.  She then went on to be certified as an Eclectic Hatha Yoga Teacher and a 200 hour/500 hour graduate of the Yoga Teacher Training Institute in New York, under the tutelage of Swami Ma Mokshapriya Shakti Saraswati, Ph.D. and Marianne Mitsinikos, E-RYT500.   

The philosophical path has taken her deep into the study of history, mythology and comparative religions as well as Yogic and Eastern philosophy.  Cynthia enjoys weaving the beauty of all her varied practices into a playful, mindful and comprehensive experience for her student