The beginning of the work week is upon us, and maybe you’re gearing up for things to be a bit hectic. Even if you aren’t preparing for it, stress gets the best of us when we’re living such busy lives. Unfortunately, too much stress can cause a slew of health problems, on top of making the days seem down right unbearable. In that light, we bring you a simple technique that will help to balance your brain, reducing tension and even improving your mental performance — alternate nostril breathing.
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana as it’s called in yoga, is a technique that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine (the health science from which yoga is derived) to bring balance to the mind. It’s said to balance out both the right and left hemispheres of the brain which contributes to physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
While modern science doesn’t have a ton of research about alternate nostril breathing (it’s still beginning to be studied in Western medicine), there are some studies which confirm a few of it’s benefits. One study showed that the practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, our “rest and digest” pathway. When we become stressed, our bodies go into fight or flight mode through the sympathetic nervous system. This can result in things like high blood pressure, anxiety, and other health issues. Alternate nostril breathing signals the body to relax and slow down, lowering blood pressure and sending calm through the entire system.
What’s more, everyone knows that when we’re calm, we make better decisions. When we react to situations in our lives under stress, we can easily become flustered and become prone to unconscious reactions, handling things in a way that isn’t always best. However, slowing down with alternate nostril breathing puts you in a relaxed state where your mind is clear and decisions can be navigated with full awareness. One study even confirmed that it improved attention and motor skills!
With alternate nostril breathing, we can provide the conscious link between what our brains are doing and what our bodies are doing by using the breath to signal that it’s ok to relax. To practice alternate nostril breathing, follow the instructions below:
- Begin sitting in a comfortable position, either on a chair or on the ground in cross-legged position with your spine up straight.
- Using your right hand, place the thumb over your right nostril and deeply inhale into your belly through the left nostril.
- Using your right ring finger, block the left nostril so that both are now closed. Hold your breath with both nostrils closed for two to four seconds.
- Lift your thumb from your right nostril and exhale through the right.
- Leaving the right nostril open, inhale through the right, then block with your thumb and hold in the middle.
- Releasing the ring finger from your left nostril, exhale through the left. This completes one round.
You can practice alternate nostril breathing for 12 rounds, for 15 minutes at a time, or for even a few breaths any time during the day that you feel the need to relax or calm your mind. For best results, practice alternate nostril breathing first thing in the morning when you wake up or at night before bed. We're wishing you a relaxed and productive week ahead!