Benefits of Anulom Vilom pranayam for skin are mainly because of its ability to deep cleanse your body from inside and to supply fresh oxygen to each and every body tissue to ensure smooth body metabolism. It also promotes a stress free, peaceful state of mind.
Anulom vilom pranayam, also known as the alternate nostril breathing is the yoga exercise where you would inhale from one nostril and exhale from the other and then vice versa.
When you inhale fresh air, positive energy and wellness enters your body. At the same time, negative energy and emotions would go out during exhalation.
Anulom = Moving with the flow = Inhalation
Vilom = Against the flow = Exhalation
It is also known as Nadi Shodhana pranayam– purifies the all the energy channels (nadis) of your body and supply fresh oxygen to every organ of your body. It is something like a complete overhauling of your body. Every body organs get benefited- Heart, lungs, eyes, ears, brain, skin and many more.
Yoga and Pranayam are being in practice from ancient times for optimum mental and physical health. Anulom vilom is one of the most important pranayam to improve the overall mental and physical well being. Swami Ramdev, a renowned Yoga guru in India, rates it as the most important one after the Kapalbhati pranayam.
Benefits of Anulom vilom pranayam are well acknowledged in the ancient yoga manuals including Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and Siva Samhita.
Before discussing further about the benefits of anulom vilom pranayam for skin, let us know a little more about Pranayam.
What is Pranayam
Pranayam (or pranayama) refers to controlled breathing.
Pranayama = Prana + Yama
Prana = Life Energy (Breath)
Breathing is an involuntary process which is controlled by the central nervous system. Even when you are sleeping, breathing goes on.
Just like any wild animal can be controlled with regular training, your breathing can also be controlled consciously with regular practice of pranayam. Breathing is quite closely related to mind. Hence, controlled breathing would help to tame your mind and you would live a far more peaceful and healthy life.
Pranayam can make you more disciplined, emotionally as well as physically.
How to do Anulom Vilom Pranayam
- Sit in the easy posture (sukhasana) on a mat/ blanket. Some people prefer to sit in Padmasana (cross legged with feet over the opposite thighs). But, for beginners, sitting in padmasana can be painful. So, no need to torture yourself. Just make yourself comfortable and sit in an easy posture.
- In case you are dealing with arthritis or any other disorder and not able to fold your knees, sit on a chair with a straight spine.
- Rest your hands on the knees and loosen up a little.
- Close your eyes, keep your spine straight and focus on the breathing .
- Close your right nostril with the right thumb. Slowly inhale through the left nostril. Ideally, inhalation should be silent.
- Inhale as much as you can without giving tension to your body. You would feel as if your lungs are filled with air.
- Now, remove the thumb from the right nostril and close the left nostril with middle and ring fingers of your right hand.
- Then exhale from the right nostril. After that, simply inhale from the right nostril while left nostril is closed.
- Finally, exhale through the left nostril while right nostril is closed with the thumb.
- It completes one cycle.
- Initially, practice 5 to 10 cycles at a time and then take a break. Then, again repeat the same procedure.
- Initially, practice this pranayam for 5 to 10 minutes. For chronic health problems, you can practice is up to 30 minutes at a time.
- Gradually, increase the time of practice as per your comfort.
Video tutorial link (in English)- Click here
Video tutorial link (in Hindi)- Click here
Important points to consider
- Duration of inhalation and exhalation depends on the individual’s lung capacity. There is no fixed standard. Generally, people would take 2 to 4 seconds to inhale.
- Initially the ratio of inhalation to exhalation would be 1:1, it means equal number of seconds for inhalation and exhalation. Gradually, the exhalation time would increase- up to twice than inhalation. For example, 2 seconds to breathe in and 4 seconds to breathe out.
- There are incidences when yoga teacher’s train their disciples to perform anulom vilom pranayam in Vajrasana posture. Vajrasana is a very popular yoga posture to treat digestive tract related issues such as indigestion, stomach pain, gas, bloating and constipation.
Read more: Vajrasana for Digestive Health
Do not force anything, just inhale and exhale slowly and everything would happen automatically. If you feel out of breath at any point during practicing, it means that you are put too much efforts it in.
Benefits of Anulom Vilom Pranayam for Skin
- Complete Body Detoxification (cleanse your body)
Your skin is a manifesto of your inner body health.
Most of the skin problems are due to malfunctioning of inner body metabolism. Everyday, when we eat food, the nutrients in the food- carbohydrates, proteins, fats- burn out to produce vital energy to our body for growth and development. The oxygen (that you breathe in) acts as a fuel for this burning process.
Here, we can see that the digestion process results in production of waste materials in our body. For a smooth body functioning, there toxins should be thrown out of our body on a regular basis.
These waste materials can be classified further in three categories:
For a healthy person, this elimination of toxins is a natural process. But, if you have the problem of constipation (or indigestion); if you live a sedentary life with very little physical workout; if you are eating an unhealthy diet with very little fiber, water and nutrients- you are obstructing the elimination of toxins from your body.
In today’s modern busy world, we all live a hectic life and develop one or more of below listed bad habits:
- Very little or almost no time for exercise, yoga or physical workout
- Drinking less water
- Consuming more of highly processed junk foods rich in salt, sugar, refined white flour and saturated fats
- Consuming less of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Irregular meal timings
- Lack of sleep
- Over eating and/or Obesity
- Excessive smoking and/or drinking alcohol
- Stress, tension and anxiety
All these unhealthy lifestyle habits would disturb the body metabolism and hinder the smooth elimination of toxins from your body. It would put extra burden on your liver, kidney and lungs. Gradually, these toxins would try to move out of your body in the form of acne, pimples and other minor skin disorders. It has been seen that even the most stubborn skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis do get some relief with the help of Panchkarma (an Ayurveda Body Detox method). Hence, elimination of body toxins do help in treating various skin disorders.
Here, it is important to note that body detox would not solve all the problems. For example, hormones imbalance do play a role in common skin issues like acne and pimples. There can be multiple reasons for these skin problems and hence, there can’t be one single remedy for all problems. But, whatever be the reason, boy detox would always help for sure.
During anulom vilom pranayam, we inhale fresh oxygen from the environment and exhale carbon dioxide. In this way, complete body detoxification happens. We get rid of accumulated inner toxins and fresh oxygen is supplied to various organs of your body. It purifies the blood as well.
- Balances the Tri-Doshas
If you have ever visited an Ayurveda doctor, you would be knowing that they always give their diagnosis on the basis of dosha imbalance. The whole system of Ayurveda works on the principle of these three doshas. Every individual is born with a unique proportion of these three doshas in his/her body. When one or more of these three doshas goes out of balance, we becomes ill.
According to Ayurveda, human body is made up of five elements:
- Space (ether)
These 5 elements when combined in different forms- produce doshas.
- Vata Dosha = Space + Air
Vata dosha governs all the internal body movements including blood circulation, breathing and heartbeat.
- Pitta Dosha = Fire + Water
Pitta dosha governs body’s metabolic processes including digestion, absorption of nutrition (from the food we eat), elimination (of waste materials through urine and bowel movements).
- Kapha Dosha = Water + Earth
One of the primary function of Kapha dosha is to maintain fluid balance in the body. By supplying water to body parts, it helps in optimum moisturizing of your skin, lubrication of the joints and optimum digestion (by strengthening the mucous membrane).
In simple terms, these three doshas are bioelements which makes up the constitution of human body.
Each and every pranayam including anulom vilom aims at re-establishing the balance among these three doshas in your body so that you enjoys a disease free, healthy life. Regular practice of Anulom vilom pranayam can really help in that.
- Anulom Vilom Pranayam is a Stress Buster
Chronic stress is a culprit for almost all the health disorders of modern world including skin problems. One of the most complex and stubborn skin conditions such as Psoriasis and Eczema becomes worse during stressful days.
Anulom vilom pranayam can prove a game changer here.
Human brain is divided into two equal hemispheres:
- The right hemisphere controls the left side of your body. It is the creative and artistic side of your brain.
- The left hemisphere controls the right side of your body. It is the logical and academic side of your brain
Human body contains three fundamental energy channels (nadis)-
- Ida – It is situated at the left side of spine, terminates at the left nostril and affects the right hemisphere of your brain.
- Pingala– It is at the right side of spine, terminates at the right nostril and affects the left hemisphere of your brain.
- Sushumna– It is the central one, running along the central cord.
When you breathe in from the left nostril, Ida nadi as well as the right part of your brain gets stimulated. Similarly, when you breathe from the right nostril, the Pingala nadi as well as the left part of your brain gets stimulated. In this way, Anulom vilom pranayam balances both the hemispheres of your brain to bring in a balanced state of mind and hence, promotes calmness and relaxation.
When to do Anulom Vilom Pranayam
Ideally, any yoga or pranayam exercise should be performed in the early morning. Pranayam should be done on an empty stomach after having bowel movements. Peaceful surroundings filled with fresh air makes the perfect environment to draw maximum benefits from the pranayam. Go for bathing and breakfast around 15 to 20 minutes after doing pranayam. If you are not able to do in the morning, do it in the evening. Make sure to maintain a gap of 4 to 5 hours between meals and pranayam.
For chronic disorders, it is advisable to do anulom vilom pranayam twice a day- in the morning as well as in the evening.
Advanced Anulom Vilom Pranayam
As we have already discussed, we have to inhale from one nostril and exhale from the other and then vice versa. This is the primary version of anulom vilom pranayam. When you become an expert in this practice, then you may wish to advance to the next version- where you would be retaining the breath for a specific period of time in between inhalation and exhalation.
But, this retention of breath would generate heat in your body and it should only be performed under the guidance of a yoga expert.
Here, the ratio of inhalation, retention and exhalation is important. Initially, you start with the ratio of 1:1:1. Gradually, the time for retention and exhalation would increase.
The optimum ratio is 1:4:2.
For example- if you take 2 seconds to breathe in, then you would hold it for 8 seconds and then exhale in 4 seconds.
I would again emphasize that advanced version of pranayam should be practiced after becoming pretty comfortable in primary one and yoga teacher’s advice is highly recommended here.
Safety Precautions and Side effects
In general, Anulom Vilom pranayam is safe for people of all ages.
But, people dealing with one or more of below health conditions should do anulom vilom pranayam very gently. Prior consultation with an yoga expert is also suggested.
- People dealing with Heart disorders and high blood pressure
- Pregnant women
- Women during menstrual periods
- After any recent surgery or accident
Anulom vilom is not an intense pranayam as kapalbhati. Hence, gentle practice of anulom vilom would pose no harm to anyone including pregnant women and elderly people with heart condition.
Along with regular practice of pranayam, you should consume a healthy diet and follow a positive lifestyle to get quick results.
Anulom Vilom and Kapalbhati Pranayam Together
For optimum results, most of the yoga teachers advice to perform Anulom vilom pranayam along with other pranayams (or yoga postures) including Kapalbhati.
Swami Ramdev always insist on doing Anulom Vilom Pranayam along with Kapalbhati to treat even the most complex health problems.