In yoga, we practise pranayama for two reasons:
- To regulate the flow of prana(Ex. Oxigen we Intake)
- To balance the two energies within us
Anulom vilom practice fulfils the second cause of a pranayama work out i.e. balancing the two energies within us. A physical representation of these two energies is left & right hemisphere of the brain.
The practice of yoga (& so the pranayama) is aimed to maintain a balance between these two energies (also called as solar & lunar energies in Hatha yoga).
What Is Anulom Vilom?
Anulom vilom is a breathing technique in which breathing is done alternatively in such a manner that breath entering through each nostril calms the overstimulated portion of the brain. In this way, Anulom vilom is also stress-relieving breathing.
If we see the terms Anulom & Vilom literally, these have an opposite meaning from each other.
- The literal meaning of Anulom is “in a natural direction“
- While Vilom means “produced in reverse order“
Understand Anulom Vilom in this way:
- Suppose you’re inhaling your first breath (down to up movement) through the left nostril (while closing right), it would be called Anuloma – in a natural direction.
- In the very next step, the same would be followed with opposite nostril i.e. exhaling through right nostril (up to down movement) while closing left nostril. It’s called Viloma – produced in reverse order.
So, in Anulom vilom pranayama we breathe in completely from one nostril & fill the lungs at its fullest capacity. Then at the next step, breath out the stored air from opposite nostril.
Sometimes people call this breathing technique alternate nostril breathing but in deep means, Anulom Vilom is different from alternate nostril breathing (Explained below).
Anatomy of Anulom Vilom Pranayama – How It Works?
Anulom Vilom actually affects the mind & body by the mechanism of nadis system (energy channels) lies within us.
1. Ida Nadi or the Left Nostril
Ida Nadi lies to the left side of the spine (or central energy channel – Sushumna). It corresponds to the left-hand side of the body and the right-hand side of the brain.
When we take breathe in through left nostril in Anulom Vilom pranayama, it opens the Ida Nadi which further activates the left side of the body (& right hemisphere of the brain).
Open Ida Nadi Features by Anulom Vilom:
- The feeling of lightness (cool energy) in the body
- The digestive system works at its best
- Get rid of cold & flu symptoms
2. Pingala Nadi or the Right Nostril
Pingala Nadi lies to the right side of the spine. It corresponds to the right-hand side of the body and the left-hand side of the brain.
While performing Anulom Vilom pranayama, when breathing takes place from right nostril it opens the Pingala Nadi which further activates the right side of the body (& left hemisphere of the brain).
Open Pingala Nadi Features by Anulom Vilom:
- You won’t be a quick temper anymore
- Physically, dry skin related problems will be cured
- Your flickering mind would be stable enough to concentrate
3. Sushumna Nadi – The Central Energy Channel
Sushumna nadi runs along the spine and lies in the centre. It connects the base Chakra (Mooldhara) to the Crown Chakra(Sahasrara). This Nadi is active during the time of meditation. Blockage in this Nadi gives bad results while doing meditation.
Open Sushumna Nadi Features by Anulom Vilom:
- After our breath got a balance in Ida & Pingala Nadis, Anulom Vilom pranayama aims to let prana flow through Sushumna Nadi. When prana starts flowing through the central channel, you’ll feel spiritually awakened.
How to Do Anulom Vilom Pranayama?
The procedure of Anulom Vilom pranayama is very simple to follow, like any other breathing techniques of yoga. You firstly need to prepare your body for a simple sitting posture.
Simply follow below instructions to do Anulom Vilom pranayama:
Preparing for Anulom Vilom Pranayama:
- Sit in a comfortable position with a relaxed body and a calm mind. A sitting position you can choose is Padmasana, Vajrasana, and Siddhasana or more simply, any cross-legged pose.
- Lengthen your spine, roll your shoulders back (that will open your chest) and place your left hand over kneecap in Gyan mudra.
- Now with the right hand, make Vishnu mudra & bring it near your nose tip. (To make Vishnu mudra, bend your middle & index finger towards the palm while keeping ring & little finger straight.)
Begin Anulom Vilom Breathing:
- While the right hand is in Vishnu mudra near nose tip, begin Anulom Vilom breathing by the closing tip of the right nostril with thumb & take a deep breath in from your left nostril. Feel the air flowing through the left nostril to the lungs.
- Now after complete inhalation from left nostril, remove your thumb from the right nostril and close your left nostril by ring & little finger (that is in Vishnu mudra). The air you inhale is now to exhale slowly through the right nostril.
- After complete exhalation through the right nostril, next, inhale deep from right nostril (while left nostril is closed).
- Next release left nostril & exhale out the air you inhale from right nostril in the very previous step.
Here you have complete one round of Anulom Vilom pranayama: Step 1 (inhale through left) + Step 2 (Exhale through right) + Step 3 (Inhale through right) + Step 4 (Exhale through left).
Beginner’s Tips to Anulom Vilom Pranayama
- Start Anulom Vilom Pranayama by doing 12 rounds (4 to 5 minutes in the beginning) and increase it up to 20 minutes.
- For optimum results, practice this pranayama twice a day (morning/evening).
- The duration of inhalation can start from 2 seconds and it can be increased up to 20 seconds.
- When you will reach a certain level of proficiency, you can add breath retention into the practice.
- While doing this pranayama do not count your rounds. When you make counts on how many rounds you had completed then your mind will not be calm. During Pranayama your mind should be focused on to your breath only. Instead of counts, you can set time alarms.
Good Breathing Ratio for Anulom Vilom
Breathing ratio in pranayama simply means the ratio of inhalation vs. exhalation.
In Anulom Vilom pranayama, begin with a ration of 1:1. It means, if you are inhaling for 4 seconds through one nostril, then the exhalation from the opposite nostril is also 4 seconds. As you progress, the ratio can be increased up to 1:2 & 1:4.
Once you add Kumbhaka (retention of breath), then you can start with the ratio 1:1:1. For example, you are doing 4 seconds of inhalation, 4 seconds of retention and 4 seconds of exhalation. Furthermore the ratio can be increased to 1:1:2, 1:2:2, 1:4:2, etc.
The ratio of 1:4:2 is considered best in the ancient texts of yoga.
A Few Things to Remember
If you practice Anulom Vilom pranayama from three to six months it can clean all your 72000 Nadis, but for that, you must be a regular & consistent practitioner.
Here are some physical & mental changes you can expect after practising this pranayama:
- The main aim of practising this pranayama is to remove all kinds of blockages from all the Nadis. When there is no blockage then it provides a smooth path to the air to circulate inside the body properly.
- If you are breathing with your left nostril then it will affect your Right hemisphere of the brain. If you are breathing with your Left nostril it will affect your Right hemisphere of the brain. Breathing with alternate nostrils (as in Anulom Vilom) will balance both the hemispheres.
Try this out:
- While you breathing right now, take a deep & slow breath in from your left nostril. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale the air slowly from your body. At the time of inhaling and exhaling, your breath will not give any sound or your breath should be soundproof. Just take sensations of your breath.
- If your breath is creating sound, then it means your body & mind is not healthy. When there is no sound then there are some sensations in your mind while breathing.
The practice of Anulom Vilom can help you out with this problem in your breathing. After consistent practice, you will found your natural breath becomes calm & soundproof.
Benefits of Anulom Vilom
- Anulom Vilom Pranayama cleans all the energy channels and makes the prana flow freely in the entire body. The Nadis or Pranic energy channels are purified.
- Anulom Vilom helps to cure problems related to Vata Dosha like rheumatism, gout, cold & reproductive organs problems. So Anulom Vilom is good for those who are having Vata Dosha as a dominant Dosha.
- The purification of the energy channels ensures the proper supply of oxygen to all the organs. Thus, it enhances the overall health of the body.
- A review study has shown 2, practising Anulom Vilom Pranayama daily would be effective in improving a person’s blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels.
- When the Ida and Pingala Nadis are balanced, it activates the central channel called Sushumna Nadi 3.
- Anulom Vilom also helps in the detoxification of the body. It reverts the effect of Asthma, Blood pressure, and Stress 4.
- The prolonged practise of Anulom Vilom Pranayama leads to the next stage of yoga, which is Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses.
- This helps the practitioner to progress towards higher practices of Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
- It can reduce weight depending on the practitioner’s body type.
- If you are very weak or suffering from anaemia then you should this pranayama in a very slow manner. Only for 2 minutes.
- People having recent stomach, heart, or brain surgery should avoid this pranayama.
- Pregnant women should do this Pranayama under a qualified yoga practitioner and should do very slow.
- Those suffering from heart ailments should not attempt retention of breath.
- Also, avoid retention of breath if you have high blood pressure.
Nadishodhana vs Anulom Vilom
Although the English meaning of Nadi shodhana and Anulom Vilom is the same, i.e. alternate nostril breathing, they are slightly different from each other.
The Differences are:
Difference Based on Hand Mudra
- In Anulom Vilom with Right hand, we make Nasika Mudra or vishnu mudra. In this mudra (mudras – hand gesture) your thumb will work at your right nostril and index and middle finger should bend towards the palm and your ring and small finger will work on the left nostril.
- While in Nadi Shodhana the right hand is in Nasarga mudra. The thumb of your right-hand will work on your right nostril. Your index and middle finger should be straight. Tip of your middle finger should be placed between your both eyebrows. Your ring and small finger will work at right nostril.
Difference Based on Procedure
- Nadishodhna or alternate nostril breathing Involves three steps Inhalation, Retention, and Exhalation. Retention of breath has a very important role in the purification of Nadis (Nadi Shuddhi), hence it’s the part of this practice.
Its ratio is 1:2:2 for beginners means Inhale for 4 seconds, retain for 8 seconds, and exhale for 8sec.
- Anulom Vilom Involves two steps inhale and exhale. It makes Anulom Vilom a balancing breathing technique rather than a purification technique.
The minimum ratio is 1:1, 4 seconds of inhalation and 4 seconds of exhalation.
Anulom Vilom FAQs
- How long should I perform Anulom Vilom?
You should perform Anulom Vilom for 5-10 minutes. With some breaks, you can stretch this time to 20-30 minutes.
- Do I need to hold the breath after inhalation or exhalation in Anulom vilom?
If you are a beginner, you don’t need to hold your breath. Just inhale and exhale deeply. For intermediate or advanced practitioner, you can hold it just after inhalation. The ratio will be 1:1:1 [inhalation:hold:exhalation].
- What should I do first, kapalbhati or anulom vilom?
Anulom vilom is calming & balancing breath while kapalbhati is vigorous breathing. Thus you should do anulom vilom after completing kapalbhati session.
- Can I perform Anulom Vilom during menstruation?
Of course, you can perform it during menstruation cycles.
As it is a breathing practice, there is no harm doing it during menstruation cycles.
- The two sides of man http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1979/haug79/2sides.shtml
- Anulom Vilom pranayama – yoga for diabetes and heart disease https://www.thehealthsite.com/
- How to Activate Sushumna Nadi for Meditation? https://www.mindorbs.com/article/how-activate-sushumna-nadi-meditation
- Impact of short term training of Anulom Vilom Pranayam on blood pressure and pulse rate in healthy volunteers https://www.researchgate.net