Sunday 12 January, 2020.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is a basic yoga breathing exercise (pranayama) where you inhale through one nostril, retain the breath, and exhale through the other nostril.
Yoga teaches that there are two energies called Ida and Pingala that intertwine up the sides of the spine and that unite to form the Sushmana, the central channel.
The Ida energy, on the left, is the moon energy: reflective, calming, cooling, female. The right is Pingala and has the energy of the sun: bright, fiery, awakening and male.
We compare these systems in our Western terminology to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic system, Pingala, is the fight or flight system and charges you up in times of danger. The parasympathetic system, Ida, slows you down and helps your body automatically run its day to day jobs of digestion, elimination, sleep cycles and more.
Interestingly, scientists also discovered that the nasal cycle corresponds with brain function. The electrical activity of the brain was found to be greater on the side opposite the less congested nostril.
The right side of the brain controls creative activity, while the left side controls logical verbal activity. The research showed that when the left nostril was less obstructed, the right side of the brain was predominant. And test subjects were indeed found to do better on creative tests.
Similarly when the right nostril was less obstructed, the left side of the brain was predominant and test subjects did better on verbal skills.
Modern scientists have found that we do not breathe equally on both nostrils.
That is, one nostril is much easier to breathe through than the other at any particular time. Each nostril seems to naturally alternate about every three hours. The Yogis claim that natural period is every two hours.
By actively practicing Alternative Nostril Breathing you produce optimum function to both sides of the brain: that is optimum creativity AND optimum logical verbal activity.
And the Yogis consider this to be the best technique to calm the mind and the Nervous System.
How To Do Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Blow your nose to clear the nasal passages.
- Put your right hand up to your nose. Place your index and middle finger on your forehead (or facing down, whatever is more comfortable), with the thumb and ring finger on either side of your nose.
- Now use your thumb to close your right nostril. Take a slow, deep breath in through your left nostril, counting to eight. Slow down your in-breath so that it takes eight seconds to fill your lungs.
- Plug your left nostril (both sides blocked now) and hold your breath to a count of eight.
- Now lift your thumb off your right nostril (keep left nostril closed) and breathe out, through your right nostril only, for a count of eight.
- Do not pause at the end of the breath. Start breathing in through the right nostril to a count of eight.
- Plug both sides and hold breath for a count of eight.
- Now breathe out through your left nostril for a count of eight.
- Continue to breathe in and out through alternate nostrils, holding your breath on the inhalation only.
This may sound complicated at first but is really easy when you get going.
Here is the technique for Alternate Nostril Breathing in condensed form:
IN THROUGH THE LEFT
OUT THROUGH THE RIGHT
IN THROUGH THE RIGHT
OUT THROUGH THE LEFT
IN THROUGH THE LEFT
Each in, out, and hold is done to a count of eight (approximately one second per count
Caution – Stop if you feel dizzy.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Video
For those of you who prefer to see how to do alternate nostril breathing, watch this informative video.
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