In a normally healthy person, the flow in any one nostril is slightly restricted as compared to the flow in the other nostril. This unequal flow between nostrils is normal and alternates between the right and the left on its own every few hours. However, sometimes one nostril gets exceedingly restricted and the flow is blocked if there is any disturbance in our mind-body complex. At this time, even the alteration in flow to the other nostril is delayed. There are ways available to change the flow of breath between nostrils if you experience the need to do so. This is specially required to practice alternate nostril breathing successfully - a very useful Pranayama breathing technique with powerful benefits
The Tool The Yoga Danda or Yoga staff is an ancient device, which when supported under the armpits, provides the desired effect. The Yoga Danda is a T-shaped wooden staff of about 2 feet in height. The horizontal member is bent in the shape of a “U” with a smooth broad edge to provide a comfortable support to the armpit. By using it appropriately, the flow in the nostrils can be regulated.
How to Use Squat on the floor or be seated in any meditative posture such as Siddhasana or Padmasana with spine erect. Support your torso on the Yoga Danda by resting your armpit on the U-shaped horizontal member of the staff. The Danda is to be placed under the side that has the open nostril. For example, if the flow is free on the right nostril, support your right armpit on the Yoga danda. After a few minutes, you will feel the flow of breath easier through the left nostril. Once this flow through the left nostril is achieved, the stick may be removed.
Benefits The Yoga Danda offers a convenient way to alter breath flow between nostrils. This helps in freeing up the breath flow and is especially useful in gaining the maximum out of Pranayama techniques, especially those requiring alternate nostril breathing, such as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. In fact, there is a whole branch of Yoga, called Svara Yoga that employs regulation of flow between nostrils to achieve optimum energy flows in our body with great results. When pressed under the armpit, it aids in Detoxification. The area under the armpit is rich in lymph nodes where the absorption of toxins for excretion takes place. The lymph removes the toxins from the human body. Pressing the armpit stimulates the lymph flow which helps eliminate the toxins from our systems. In all, this is a handy tool to be had by a sincere yoga practitioner who wishes to harness the energy balancing power of yoga.
Using the Yoga Danda for Japa meditation Some practitioners of Japa Meditation on mala beads rest the hands on the knees while turning the beads, so that the mala is allowed to rest on the floor. Others, bend their arm so that their hand is placed towards the heart while bead turning but this can be tiresome. Often, many practitioners of japa meditation, prefer to support their forearm on the Yoga Danda, so that they can practice japa without discomfort. In this case, the danda is placed in front of the seated body and the hand supported on it. The mala is allowed to fall freely from this raised position that facilitates turning of the beads for japa.