The original name for alternate nostril breathing. It sounds simple enough. You have to breathe in an out of each nostril alternating. The way to do this is to inhale from one of the nostrils while closing the other. Then exhale through the other while closing the first. To complete the cycle, inhale through the second nostril, still keeping the first closed and then exhale through the first closing the second. This completes one cycle. You should practice this for about 2-3 minutes or longer.
The idea behind alternate nostril breathing (ANB for short) is that in the physical body energy flows through channels or ‘nadis’. There are many nadis but three main ones. The left channel is called the ida, the right nadi is called the pingala and the center channel, which is aligned right in the core of the spine is called the Sushumna. When energy or prana flows in one of the side channels, there is an imbalance. The flowing of energy primarily through the ida influences certain qualities – the female, the reasoning, the calmness, etc. The flowing of the prana primarily through the pingala influences qualities such as the male, the fire/dynamism, the impulsiveness, etc. When the energy flows on one side excessively, the imbalance is accentuated. Excessive flow on the left can make one dull and on the right make one too hyper and lacking reason for example.
To bring balance into the system, ANB should be practised. One word of caution – never force the breath through a closed nostril. You will have to wait when both nostril are relatively open. Also practice breathing calmly and deeply. You don’t have to strain yourself to suck in more air. Practice utilizing all of the chest cavity including the bottom, middle and the top (lifting the collar bones). Always sit in a relaxed manner and sit straight.
It takes practice or sadhana to realize the benefits of pranayama or even meditation. When I sit, within almost a minute, I feel this nice sensation in the center of the forehead that I feel addicted to. If only I didn’t have to do the myriad things I don’t have to do or need not do, I would sit like the Buddha and enjoy meditation.