Kundalini Yoga teaches us that we have two energies called Ida and Pingala, which intertwine up the sides of the spine and unite to form the Sushmuna, the central channel. Ida energy (on the left) is our moon energy: feminine, reflective, cooling and calming. Pingala energy (on the right) is our sun energy: masculine, fiery and energising.
In Western terminology we can compare this to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system (Pingala) is the fight or flight system which kicks in when we sense danger (or oftentimes when we experience general stress). The parasympathetic system (Ida) is dominant when the body is relaxed and running its processes of digestion, elimination and sleep etc. Through practising yoga we aim to make the parasymathetic system our default system, rather than letting the sympathetic nervous system take over, which can happen with stress and result in problems with digestion, elimination and sleep amongst other issues.
A good way to boost our parasympathetic nervous system is by practising this simple breathing technique…
Left nostril breathing:
Close your eyes, focusing at the centre of the forehead. Use your right thumb to gently block off your right nostril, with the rest of the fingers on your right hand pointing up. Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril. Now exhale slowly and completely through your left nostril. This is a cooling, calming breath which helps to relax your whole body and mind. Feel yourself relaxing deeper with each exhale, breathing out all tensions. Continue for 3 to 7 minutes. You may wish to gradually build up to 31 minutes. This is a great meditation to include in your daily Sadhana, and very good to practise before bed for a more restful sleep.