Alternate nostril breathing helps balance out the left and right side of the brain, calm your emotional state and your nervous system and enhance clear thinking!
Yoga breathing or Pranayama is made up of two Sanskrit words, prana– meaning life force and yama -meaning to regulate.
Pranayama has incredible health benefits for your everyday life. Breathing consciously and regulating your breathing directly effects your brain and nervous system, the best example to illustrate this when you are very anxious and upset, your breathing will be short and shallow, often gasping for breath, this results in your body tensing and your brain going into panic mode, hence why we often tell people to “calm down”, we are actually trying to make them breathe more slowly so that their brain and nervous system can be used in a more productive way and help in the given situation.
There are many different breathing techniques in yoga, alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana is a powerful breathing technique to use.
Breathing in through your left nostril accesses the right hemisphere of your brain and breathing in through your right nostril accesses the left hemisphere of your brain. The right hemisphere is associated with feelings and emotions, the left is the thinking side. Through practising alternate nostril breathing you can access the whole brain and bring it into balance.
So, what are the benefits of Alternate Nostril breathing?
1. It revitalises you completely, after just a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing you will feel more energized, be able to think more clearly and feel less stressed. It’s a great pick me up.
2. It cleanses your lungs, the deep breathing helps remove stale air and impurities that may have settled in your lungs. This also helps clear the energy channels in your body allowing oxygen to flow freely to all your vital organs.
3.It improves brain function, not only by bringing more oxygen to the brain, but as I mentioned earlier, by balancing left and right sides.
4. Calms and relaxes, alternate nostril breathing promotes calm and relaxation, it can help you improve your sleep patterns, calm an agitated mind, stabilise your mind and soothe your nervous system.
5. It’s a great way to prepare for meditation, many people find that a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing will actually help them get into a deeper meditative state.
6. It can help to regulate your own inner cooling system, the left nostril is responsible for cooling and right for warming, if you are favouring one nostril over the other this can effect the coolness or warmth of your general temperature.
How to Practise Alternate Nostril Breathing
-Make sure that you are sitting comfortably, this can be in a chair or on a mat, have a straight spine so that the air can freely move through your lungs.
-Allow yourself to take a few normal breathes and just focus on the breath as it enters and exits your body.
-Begin to breath a little deeper with each breath, stay calm and focused on your breathing.
Using your right hand, place your first two fingers between your eyebrows so that you can close the right nostril with your thumb and the left nostril with your third finger. (If you are left handed then you can do the reverse and close your left nostril with your thumb and right nostril with your third finger.)
Take a deep breath in through both nostrils to start, then
-Close your right nostril with your thumb and and breathe out through the left nostril.
-Breathe in through the left nostril.
-Close the left nostril with your third finger and breathe out through the right nostril.
-Breathe in through the right nostril.
-Close the right nostril
-Breathe out through the left
Continue in this way, breathing through alternate nostrils.
This is called a round of alternate nostril breathing.
When you first practise you may only feel comfortable practising a few rounds, that is fine, just build up the rounds until you are able to sit and breathe in this way for as long as you want. You will observe that it really doesn’t take many rounds before you notice yourself feeling calmer and more relaxed.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great stress buster and has many wonderful properties, why not give it a try?