Alternate Nostril Balancing Breath
Welcome to the ninth lesson of the breathing course.
Today, we are going to explore alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit, meaning to channel purification.
Why Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing?
Did you know that our breathing is naturally more dominant through one nostril or the other and can vary throughout the day?
Favoring one nostril over the other can affect our emotional state. According to some studies, when we breathe dominantly through the left nostril, we activate the right side of the brain, associated with calming and receptive affects; this could lead to a lack energy or feeling sensitive or depressed. On the other hand, when we breathe dominantly through our right nostril, this activates the left side of the brain and is associated with alertness, revitalization, and vigor; however, we can be more susceptible to stress and not being able to calm down and relax.
Alternate nostril breathing balances your breath between your nostrils. This breath is both cooling and calming and lets your brain transition from stress to relaxation mode. It helps with mental clarity and concentration before an exam or interview by distributing equal parts of oxygen to both sides of your brain. This exercise can maintain body temperature and alleviate headaches, migraines, allergies, asthma, and constipation, while reducing snoring, obesity, and depression. This breath also purifies our brain cells and balances the subtle energy channels, or nadis. Also, according to some research, it calms our mind. So, the more often you practice this exercise, the more stable your emotions and thinking will become.
How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing
This technique is best practiced on an empty stomach in the morning or evening. Rhythmic ratios can vary the number of breath counts for taking breath in, holding, and releasing. This exercise is typically performed before a yoga or meditation session to ease you into a state of clear mind.
Sit in an easy sitting posture with a tall spine yet relaxed head and neck. Rest your left hand on your left knee. Fold your ring finger and little fingers toward the palm on your right hand, or place the index and middle fingers of your right hand in the middle of your forehead, between your eyebrows.
Close your eyes and allow your lungs to empty completely on your next exhale. Then, close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale gently and slowly through your left nostril for three or more counts. Press and close your left nostril with your ring finger and hold for one or more counts. Lift your thumb away from your right nostril and exhale slowly through your right nostril for three or more counts. Stay empty for one or more.
Inhale gently through your right nostril for three or more counts. Press your right nostril closed with your thumb and hold. Release your left nostril and exhale through for three or more counts. Pause for one or more. This completes one full cycle.
Continue this pattern for ten cycles. After you exhale from one nostril, remember to breathe in from that same nostril before switching.
One variation of this technique involves setting a timer for a number of minutes to breath in and out from the same nostril. For example, you can set a timer for three to five minutes and take slow, deep inhales and exhales through your left nostril, then reset the timer and do the same for the other side.
After completing this exercise, sit in stillness for approximately five minutes, or begin to ease into a gentle yoga movement.
As with every breathing exercise, if you need to calm and cool your body, extend the exhales, and if you need to warm your body or build more energy, extend the inhales.
When you’re ready, open your eyes, relax your arms, and rise.
You can change the lengths of inhalation, retention, and exhalation as long as you keep the inhales and exhales balanced.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about using our breath to sing OM (AUM).
To your continued success,
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