What is Anulom Vilom?
According to ancient yogic science, the foundation of all life forms is ‘prana’. Prana is the subtle energy that flows through our bodies and governs every movement that we make. Often referred to as the ‘life force energy’ or ‘vital energy’, prana is the energy that regulates our physical functions and consciousness. It comes into the body through food, water, air, and the energies that we absorb from the universe.
Our breath is considered to be the subtlest form of prana in the body that helps us heal, regulates our blood flow, helps our organs function optimally, and aids cellular growth. This prana distributes energy through the energy channels, also known as chakras.
That’s why breath control or pranayama is given utmost importance in yoga. Pranyama is the art of understanding, creating, and channelling this vital life force in our bodies. There are several types of pranayama, with each having its significance for our health. These include:
- Shitali pranayama
- Ujjayi Pranayama
- Kapalbhati pranayama
- Bhastrika pranayama
- Bhramari pranayama
- Sheetkari pranayama
- Surya Bhedan Pranayama
There is another very important classification of pranayama known as anulom vilom. In yoga anulom vilom has special significance. Also known as alternate nostril breathing, it involves closing one nostril while inhaling and then alternating with the other nostril while exhaling. In Sanskrit, the terms ‘Anu’ with ‘Loma’ translate to ‘with the grain while ‘viloma’ means ‘against the grain’.
In yoga anulom vilom is the first stage of Nadi Shodhana pranayama.
How is anulom vilom practised?
Wondering how to include this practice in your daily life? Here is a detailed explanation of anulom vilom steps:
- Sit on the floor in a comfortable position to start the anulom yoga. You can assume either the Sukhasana or the Padmasana pose. If you cannot sit on the floor, you can even sit on a chair.
- Keep your spine upright and neck straight.
- Use your right thumb to block the right nostril.
- Slowly and deeply inhale through the left nostril. Feel your lungs full of air and focus on your breathing.
- Release your thumb from the right nostril.
- Now block your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
- Keep alternating between the two nostrils.
- If you are a beginner, try anulom yoga for a minute. You take your anulom vilom yoga practice up to 20-25 minutes a day.
There is an anulom vilom step where you are required to close both the nostrils and hold your breath for 4-5 seconds.
What are the benefits of anulom vilom?
There are some amazing anulom vilom pranayama benefits for your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Here is a list of some of the most important anulom vilom benefits:
- In the frenzied world that we live in, we are almost always running behind time and losing our focus on things that matter. One of the best anulom vilom benefits is that it helps in grounding you. When coupled with meditation, it enhances mindfulness that makes your mental chatter disappear and allows you to look within yourself.
- By helping your clear your mind, anulom vilom clears your perspective towards things and people. This reduces unhealthy emotions such as negativity, anger, and frustration and improves your response to their triggers.
- People who are under chronic stress and anxiety have shown high levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Anulom vilom yoga helps in reducing cortisol levels and enhancing the production of endorphins or happy hormones. This alleviates your stress and anxiety levels and even helps reduce mild depression.
- One of the important benefits of anulom vilom is that it improves your blood circulation. This enhances your memory, concentration, focus and creativity. Enhanced circulation of blood to the brains also prevents the risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- This better circulation benefit of anulom vilom keeps your organs functioning optimally and improves your immunity to fight off diseases.
- An important anulom vilom yoga benefit is that improving the supply of oxygen to your cardiovascular system helps in keeping your heart healthy. When practised regularly, it prevents blockages and regulates your blood pressure reducing the risk of heart diseases.
- One of the best anulom vilom yoga benefits is that it keeps digestive disorders at bay. It reduces stomach infections, acidity, constipation, bloat, and flatulence.
- Benefits of anulom vilom yoga extend to your respiratory system also. It improves the functioning of your lungs and prevents chest infections, asthma, COPD, etc.
- Other benefits of anulom vilom yoga include curing of ear infections and reducing the discomforting symptoms of sinus.
- Anulom vilom is an easy breathing exercise that can be done by almost everyone. It doesn’t require investment in any equipment or yoga studio space. You can do this exercise anywhere and easily incorporate it into your home workouts.
How to practise anulom vilom correctly and safely?
Though anulom vilom pranayama is a simple breathing exercise, still there are some things that you need to keep in mind to practise it safely.
Here are some tips for practising anulom vilom:
- Never start practising anulom vilom pranayam on your own. Learn the proper technique from an experienced yoga practitioner or you can join online yoga classes.
- To gain anulom vilom pranayama benefits, practice it early morning when your mind is relaxed and your stomach is empty.
- If you are pregnant or suffer from conditions such as COPD, heart diseases, or high blood pressure, never start practising anulom vilom without consulting your doctor.
- If you are a beginner, start your practice slow. Do it for 3-4 minutes and gradually increase the duration.
- Never hold your breath forcefully.
- Avoid doing anulom vilom when you have a fever or a congested nose.
Anulom vilom is an amazing breath control exercise that has a transformative impact on your mind and body. The key to gaining all its benefits lies in doing this exercise when you are comfortable and enjoy this practice. You can couple it with your yoga routine and meditation to relax and clear your mind.