Breathe with Purpose for Balance

Breathe through alternate nostrils to help achieve calm and balance

Learning to breathe well is not as easy as it sounds – but you can start with this elementary technique for quick results. Simply by practicing a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) for a few minutes each day, you can help restore imbalances in your brain – improve sleep – calm your emotional state – boost your thinking – calm your nervous system. Amazing!  You can try this yogic breathing technique and see if it works for you, even if you don’t feel like going whole-hog into yoga.

Left Nostril for Calming – Right Nostril for Energizing:

The nose knows

Your nose is directly linked to your brain and nervous system. For thousands of years, Indian yogis have believed that many diseases are connected to disturbed nasal breathing.

Breathing in through your left nostril will access the right, “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in through your right nostril will access the left, “thinking” hemisphere of your brain. Consciously alternating your breath between either nostril will allow you to activate and access your whole brain.

Nostril breathing exercises profoundly help to settle, calm and nourish an agitated mind and tightly wired nervous system. Even after only two minutes of nostril breathing, you can feel and notice a distinct difference in your emotional state.

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Rocks in balance in stream

1. Revitalizes the Body and Mind: A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed, and it provides your body with a dose of extra energy.

2. Improves Brain Function: When our mind is dull, concentration and clarity are poor.  Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function.  Five minutes of alternate nostril breathing is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance.  

3. Cleanses the Lungs: A daily five-minute practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of the lungs.

4. Calms an Agitated Mind:If you are prone to worry, a few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing can calm monkey brain and calm that addiction to doing, doing, doing.

5. Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling” brain: Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of the brain, so you can access your whole brain, and reap the benefits that go with it.

6. Encourages a Calm Emotional State: In times of emotional distress and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over-reactive emotions. The longer you practice, the more stable your thinking will be, and you can actually calm your emotional state and be able to respond more effectively during stressful or difficult moments.

7. Improves Sleep: If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril.  This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.  Left nostril breathing is calming.

8. Soothes your Nervous System: By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system.  You can effectively switch your nervous system from a stressed (reactive) response to a more relaxed (proactive). Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing, once again, the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on. 

9. Clears and Boosts your Energy: Slightly forced alternate nostril breathing improves and directs the flow of energy throughout your body, preventing sluggishness.  It oxygenates your blood and allows the energy in your body to be strong and flowing.

10. Enhances Rest and Relaxation: A restless mind cannot relax.  Alternate nostril breathing melts away imbalances between the right and left hemisphere of your brain and calms your thinking.  This is perfect for helping you access rest and relaxation far more efficiently.

Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise – Purifying Breath How-To

Yogic breathing position
  • Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril.
  • Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril.
  • Step three: Pause for a second.
  • Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril.
  • Step five: Exhale through right nostril.
  • Step six: Inhale through right nostril.
  • Step seven: Pause for a second again.
  • Step eight: Use thumb to close off right nostril and release ring finger off left nostril.
  • Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril.
  • Step ten: This completes one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase to a couple of minutes or more.

There are many different techniques of pranayama, such as inhaling for 4, holding for 4, and exhaling for 4. You may want to investigate other breathing techniques to help balance your day. Breathing techniques are handy because you can do them anytime – at your desk, in your car, watching TV – without any special equipment or spaces.

Caution: Do not hold your breath if you have high blood pressure.  More advanced methods of pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) need to be practiced with an experienced practitioner. 

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