Tantric Pranayama – Alternate Nostril Breathing
“I rest well. I sleep peacefully, and I awaken with joy” Louise Hay
Your nose is exceptionally clever. Simply by practising 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. How impressive is that!
Another interesting fact about your nostrils, is that you don’t breathe through them equally all the time. Right now, you will be favouring either your left nostril or your right nostril.
Left nostril for calming – right nostril for energy:
Your nose is directly linked to your brain and nervous system. For thousands of years the Indian yogis believe 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.
Yogic breathing, the perfect relaxation tool:
I happen to believe alternate nostril breathing is up there, as one of the most therapeutic calming rituals. It’s the very reason I include it at all my Slow Yoga Relaxation Retreats. It profoundly helps to settle, cool, calm and nourish an agitated mind and wired nervous system. Even after only two minutes you can feel and notice a distinct difference as to how you feel.
12 benefits of alternate nostril breathing:
1: Revitalizes you:
A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.
2: Improves brain function:
When you mind is dull – concentration and clarity is 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 before an exam or interview is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance. Remember the brain loses hydration first so drink water as well.
3: Cleanses your 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 your lungs.
4: Calms an agitated mind:
I’m prone to worrying. A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful (for me) in calming my “over thinking” and “over-doing” mind.
The ancient yogis believe that if you can regulate your breath, then you can control your mind.
5: Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain:
Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.
Try it out next time you need to drive your car. Cover your left nostril with your thumb and breathe only through your right nostril for one minute. This should keep you more alert when driving.
6: Encourage a calmer emotional state:
In times of emotional distress and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states. The longer you practice, the more stable your thinking, and the calmer your emotions will become.
7: Improves sleep:
If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand 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 cooling, calming and nourishing for your whole being.
8: Great preparation for meditation:
Alternate nostril breathing is a simple little trick that can be practiced for a few minutes before you begin your meditation practice. It’s a very easy way to help you find your meditation groove.
9: 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 have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response. 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, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on. Gosh, your breath and nose is very clever.
10: Regulates the cooling and warming cycles of the body:
Left nostril is feminine, nurturing, calm, receiving and cooling. Right nostril is masculine, heat, competitive, doing, active and force. Favouring one nostril more than the other can effect the heat or coolness of your body.
11: Clears and boosts your energy channels:
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 (prana) in your body to be strong and flowing.
12: Enhances rest and relaxation:
A restless mind cannot relax. Alternate nostril breathing melts away an 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.
An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:
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 your right nostril
Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril
Step seven: Pause
Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril
Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril
Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase.Never force.Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished.
There are many, many different techniques of pranayama such as inhaling for 4, holding for 4 and exhaling for 4.
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. practicing on an empty stomach is preferred.