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Having practised yoga from traditional sources for 40 years, five years ago I invented a new yoga practice that I have been practising so much, that it has become an integral part of my lifestyle. It involves an important additional way of doing some pranayama (vital energy/breath control) breathing practices, by blocking off alternate nostrils without a finger.

As I walked along the dirt road separating my neighbour’s land and mine on that lucky occasion, I observed the behaviour of a bull. It went from one cow to another, one by one, checking the smell of each to find out which one was on heat. What attracted my attention was that the bull did not just sniff through both nostrils, but rather it twisted both nostrils fully to one side and he only seemed to be smelling through one nostril: the one in the direction of which he twisted both nostrils. Promptly, I began to imitate the twist of the nostrils to each side and made a discovery, that turned out to be a game changer for me.

It was that twisting both nostrils as fully to one side as one can, the airflow, in the opposite nostril gets almost completely blocked off, while the airflow in the nostril in whose direction the twist is made, is enhanced.

I immediately realised that I accidentally discovered a yoga practice hitherto perhaps unknown: A pranayama or breath-control method that allowed the performance of all known alternate nasal breathing yoga practices, such as Nadi Shodhana (alternate nasal breathing) and Bhastrika (bellows breath) without needing to use fingers to block off the alternate nostril. The great significance of this is that since these practices can now be done without the use of fingers, even amputees could do them and the practice can be done well, even if one’s hands are busy with something else, such as gardening or cleaning.

Traditional yoga has hitherto only offered alternate nasal breathing, by either physically blocking off a nostril with a finger or doing the practice psychically. But the psychic practice is only mental and does not physically stop the airflow in the alternate nostril. The physical one cannot be done much in a public situation outside of a yoga class because it could seem odd.

Alternate nasal breathing practices are extremely important in stimulating and energising each brain hemisphere and then balancing them by ensuring that the air flows equally and fully through both nostrils. Such balance results both in relaxation and in a focused mind so that both intuition and clear reasoning will function at an optimal level and in tandem. The more often one can bring about such balance the more Yogic (i.e. spiritually centred) one’s life style can become. By twisting both nostrils in each direction, one can at any time check the level of airflow in each nostril and remedy the imbalance by instant alternate nasal breathing without fingers.That can be done, sitting, walking or lying any time, subtly and without anyone noticing it.

For me the immediate benefit has been that I could do my pranayama practices while riding my bicycle and therefore saving time by doing my exercise and yogic pranayama simultaneously. An extra benefit of doing my breathing practices this way is that trying to do pranayama in a passive sitting position as it is usually done, tends to be most inefficient for me as I find my mind constantly wondering off after I have begun to do pranayama. By contrast, when I do my pranayama practices during bicycle riding, the stimulation of the exercise tends to focus my mind on my breathing practices.

In fact, I find that cycling and doing pranayama simultaneously this way, mutually enhance more energetic riding and more vital energy generation through controlled breathing.

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Andris Heks

Andris is a former journalist, working on 'This Day Tonight' and 'Four Corners' -- ABC television's top rating current affairs programs. He has been a social worker, psychodramatist and yoga therapist, and enjoys singing and playing music, especially Hungarian Gypsy Music. He also enjoys swimming, cycling and writing. Andris is currently working on his memoirs. He welcomes feedback and comments on the opinion pieces published at Starts at 60.

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