Anuloma Viloma or Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of the 2 Pranayama exercises that should be practiced on a daily basis in the Sivananda Yoga tradition. After the Kapalabathi breathing exercise follows the Anuloma Viloma.
The benefits of this exercise are to balance the flow of Prana (vital energy) in the body. It is very helpful to fight depression. The alternate nostril breathing harmonizes the nervous system and balances the activity of both hemispheres of the brain. Every two hours the activity of the brain shifts from one hemisphere to the other. The yogis discovered through self-observation that this natural occurrence is reflected in the flow of the breath through the nostrils: at times when we can breathe more freely through the right nostril, the left hemisphere of our brain is more active; conversely, when the left nostril is more open, the right hemisphere is more active. Alternate nostril breathing supports this regular alternation of breath and thus of brain activity. This is imperative for a healthy body and mind.
The exercise consists of inhaling through the left nostril, retaining the breath, and exhaling through the right nostril in a ratio of 1:4:2 seconds, then inhaling through the right nostril, retaining, and exhaling through the left nostril in the same ratio. This is one set. Daily, 8 full sets should be practiced to get most benefits.
Try practicing at home with this video, 8 round of Pranayama:
Start by sitting up straight in a comfortable cross-legged position. Inhale deeply, then exhale completely.
Your left hand in is chin mudra (index and thumb are connected, the palm is open to the sky), the right hand is placed in vishnu mudra (index and middle finger of the right hand are folded to the palm of the hand).
Place your right thumb on the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril for 4 seconds;
Close both nostrils with your thumb and ring finger of the right hand and hold the breath comfortably for 16 seconds;
Exhale slowly through the right nostril for 8 seconds; Inhale through right for 4 seconds;
REPEAT 7 more times.
During the entire exercise keep your back and neck straight, try not to feel any tension in the lungs, keep your eyes closed & keep your right elbow close to your chest to relax your shoulders. Keep focusing your mind on your breathing and you can mentally repeat your mantra or the universal mantra Om.
After the last exhalation of the 8th series, slowly lower your right hand to your right thigh, keep your eyes gently closed and breathe on your own rhythm, try to feel the effects of the Pranayama and observe the sensations.
Then slowly stretch out your legs, come lying on your back in Savasana to relax.