Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Breathing consciously is a powerful act. The process of breathing sits directly at the interface of our voluntary nervous system (aspects of our physiology under our conscious control) and our autonomic nervous system (aspects generally not under conscious control). It’s a direct path for us to communicate quickly to the brain via what we do with our body. It also offers a direct link for balancing the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-relax) branches of the nervous system. Alternate nostril breathing, has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga, where it’s thought to harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in a balanced in physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Balance to both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Reduction of anxiety and stress.
Lowered heart rate to relieve tension.
Revitalization of a tired mind and body.
Purification of the body’s channels, so that prana, or life force energy, can travel more easily.
Regulation of the cooling and warming cycles of the body.
Preparation for deeper meditation.
Come into Sukhasana (Easy Pose), or sit in a chair. Your sit-bones ground you as you lift through the crown of the head, creating a long spine. Rest your left hand on your left thigh/knee in Chin mudra. Bringing the right hand into Vishnu mudra (hand gesture shown in picture).
Using the right thumb, Close the right nostril, and inhale as slowly as you can through the left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril. With the right nostril open, inhale slowly, then close it with the thumb.
Exhale through the left nostril. Once your exhalation is complete, inhale through the left, close the left, exhale right. You will soon find a natural and calming rhythm with this wonderful breathing technique. Once you feel comfortable and confident you can double the length of the exhalations.
Ratio 1 : 2 so the length of each exhalation is double the inhale. You can practice 9 rounds and build up to 3 minutes, take your time and enjoy the experience. Relax and enjoy a feeling of well-being. The energy of the nervous system is directly proportional to one's breathing.
Ancient yogic texts explain that the nostril on the right is our sun nostril and it controls our energy level; our left nostril is our lunar nostril and it controls our emotions. Consequently, if we are tired, breathing long and deep through the right nostril will give us added energy. Breathing through the left nostril will bring us calmness.
"Just as the activities of the mind influence the breath, so does the breath influence our state of mind." ~T. K. V. Desikachar