Practicing alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana pranayama) for a few minutes each day, you can help correct imbalances in your brain – improve sleep – calm your emotional state – boost your thinking – calm your nervous system. How fabulous is that!
Your nose is exceptionally clever. Your nose is directly linked to your brain and nervous system. For thousands of years the Indian yogis believed that many diseases are connected to disturbed nasal breathing.
An interesting fact about your nostrils, is that you don’t breathe through them equally all the time. Right now, you will be favoring either your left nostril or your right nostril.
Left Nostril For Calming – Right Nostril For Energy
Breathing in through your left nostril will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain.
Consciously alternating your breath between nostrils will allow you to activate and access your whole brain.
Alternate nostril breathing is the perfect relaxation tool.
Alternate nostril breathing is one of the simplest and most user friendly relaxation techniques. It helps calm a busy mind and cool an over stimulated nervous system.
I use it at night when I can’t sleep. I also do 5-10 minutes before each coaching session to connect me to my inner guidance to bring the most healing into the session.
If you are feeling tired mid afternoon instead of having a cup of coffee, do 5 minutes of alternate nostril breathing. You will be amazed to see your energy return.
Position for fingers
- Sit up comfortably with a straight spine
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril to the slow count of 8. Pause for a second
- Close the left nostril with your right ring finger, while you remove your thumb from your right nostril and exhale through the right nostril to the count of eight.
- Inhale through the right nostril to the count of eight. Pause. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight.
- This is one round. Start by doing 4 or 5 rounds. You can build up to doing this for 5 or 10 minutes each day.
Note: Don’t do alternate nostril breathing if you have a cold or if your nasal passages are blocked–don’t force.
12 Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing*
1. Revitalizes you:
A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.
2. Improves brain function:
When your mind is dull – concentration and clarity is poor. Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function. Five minutes of alternate nostril breathing before an exam or interview is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance.
3. Cleanses your lungs:
A daily five minute practice ,morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is a great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.
Did you know 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated via our lungs?
4. Calms an agitated mind:
I’m prone to worrying. A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful in calming my “over thinking” mind. The yogis believed that if you can regulate your breath, you can control your mind.
5. Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain:
Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.
The flip side is, single nostril breathing can be used to activate, just the left ”thinking” or just right “feeling” side of your brain for specific situations.
Try it out next time you are tired when driving your car. Cover your left nostril with your thumb and breathe only through your right nostril for one minute. This should keep you more alert when driving.
6. Encourage a calmer emotional state:
In times of emotional distress, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states. The longer you practice, the more stable your thinking, and the calmer your emotions will become.
7. Improves sleep:
If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.
8. Great preparation for meditation:
Alternate nostril breathing is a simple little trick that can be practiced for a few minutes before you begin your meditation practice. It’s a very easy way to help you move into meditation.
9. Soothes your nervous system:
By slowing and deepening your breath, your brain will calm down and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response. Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on.
10. Regulates the cooling and warming cycles of the body:
Left nostril is feminine, nurturing, calm and cooling. Right nostril is masculine, competitive and heating. Favoring one nostril more than the other can affect the heat or coolness of your body.
11. Clears and boosts your energy channels:
Slightly forced alternate nostril breathing improves and directs the flow of energy throughout your body – preventing sluggishness. It oxygenates your blood and allows the energy (prana) in your body to be strong and flowing.
12. Enhances rest and relaxation:
A restless mind cannot relax. Alternate nostril breathing melts away any imbalances between the right and left hemisphere of your brain and calms your thinking. This is perfect for helping you access rest and relaxation far more efficiently
*Adapted from Carole Bourne