Pranayama Clinic: Nadi Shodhana
Nadi Shodhana means "alternate nostril breathing" and is a wonderful breath balancing technique. I find it extremely useful right before meditation or before bed. What I like most is that it evens out both the left and right side hemispheres of the brain, and if you pay attention you can feel the energy moving around inside of you and settling down. A lot of that probably has to do with balancing out the sinuses too, but it's still a nice feeling! Other benefits include an improved ability to focus within the mind, relief of stress, support of respiratory functions, removal of harmful toxins, and an alleviation of allergy symptoms.
Begin in a comfortable seated position with the eyes closed. (Here's a refresher on the basics of pranayama.) Find vishnu mudra (mudra means "mark or gesture") with either your right or left hand. It looks a little something like this...
Lightly place your thumb on one nostril and your ring finger on the other nostril. Take a nice deep breath in, plug the right nostril and exhale out the left for 6 counts. Then inhale from the left for 6 counts. Close the left nostril and exhale from the right for 6 counts. Now inhale from the right for 6 counts. Close the right and exhale from the left for 6 counts.
That is one round of Nadi Shodhana, and each round will always begin and end with an exhale from the left hand side. Feel free to change the breath count lengths (maybe increase to 8 or 10 counts) and breathe this way for as long as you like!
When you're finished, be sure to sit for a few rounds of normal breath with your eyes closed and observe the new sensations in your body. This is when you can really feel a shift in energy. It feels to me somewhat like a slight pressure change, but it's nice because I always feel more balanced afterward.
Go ahead and give it a whirl! Feel free to post your experience in the comments.