Preparation: With your right hand form vishnu mudra by folding down the index and middle fingers. Close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale completely through the left. You are now ready to begin:
1. Inhale completely through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed. This should be done to a count of '4' for beginners and increased only after regular practice.
2. Close the left nostril with the other two fingers so that both nostrils are now closed. Retain the breath for a count of '16' (4 times the count of the inhalation).
3. Keeping the left nostril closed, release the right nostril and exhale completely to a count of '8' (twice the count of the inhalation).
4. With the left nostril closed, inhale through the right to a count of '4'.
5. Close both nostrils and retain the breath to a count of '16'.
6. keeping the right nostril closed, release the fingers from the left nostril and exhale completely for a count of '8' to complete one round. Do at least five rounds at the beginning of each class (just after Kapalabhati). Ask students to practice with at least ten rounds per day at home. As students become more advanced, the 'count' of the exercise may be increased, but always in a ratio of 1:4:2. Never change the ratio.
• The wrong fingers are used.
• Student stretches index and middle finger and puts them on ajna chakra instead of bending them into the palm. Teacher should be sure to explain and demonstrate positions of the fingers clearly.
• Back is not straight; head drops forward. Shoulders are tense.
• The chest is dropped with exhalation.
• The breath is not smooth or students exhale too quickly or insufficiently. Many beginners find the exhalation particularly difficult. They exhale too quickly. Ask them to focus on making the breath smooth. They should utilize the full count for the exhalation, and by the end of the count they should have exhaled completely.
• Student inhales and exhales too rapidly. Make sure students can follow the count.
It is important that you encourage students in pranayama by explaining the benefits. Many beginners find it difficult to understand its benefit or purpose.
Four Stages of Teaching Anuloma Viloma
1. Single nostril breathing
2. Alternate nostril - no retention
3. Alternate nostril - half retention
4. Full alternate nostril breathing
• The lungs and entire respiratory system are cleansed and strengthened.
• As exhalation is twice the time of inhalation, more stale air and waste products are expelled from the lungs.
• During retention, the rate of gaseous exchange in the lungs is greatly increased as a result of the increase in pressure. This means that more oxygen from the lungs goes into the blood stream and more CO2 (and other waste products) from the blood are passed into the lungs for elimination during exhalation.
• The breath naturally alternates between the two nostrils, changing approximately every 2 hours. The breath in the right nostril is hot, symbolically referred to as the 'sun' or pingala. It is catabolic and acceleratory to the organs of the body. The flow from the left, which is cool and referred to as the 'moon' or ida, is anabolic and inhibitory to the body. This alternate breathing exercise helps to bring equilibrium between the two.
• Anuloma Viloma helps to balance the hemispheres of the brain.
"When the breath wanders, i.e. is irregular, the mind is also unsteady. But when the breath is still, so is the mind and the yogi lives long. So one should restrain the breath."
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter 2, vs. 2
• This exercise helps to calm the mind, making it lucid and steady, preparing it for meditation.
• Anuloma Viloma purifies the nadis. It should be mastered and practiced on a regular basis before going on to more advanced pranayama exercises.
• Prana, the vital energy is stored and controlled.
• The psychic system is balanced.
• It makes the body light and the eyes shiny.