Breathwork has the power to deliver us into a new, refreshed state of mind in a matter of minutes. Whether you’re about to give a presentation at work, preparing for an important conversation, or just looking for a moment of clarity in your day, taking a moment to align your mind and body allows you to show up strong and centered. Read on to discover how the practice of alternate nostril breathing can help you feel grounded and gain a boost of clear, balanced energy in just 2-3 minutes!
What is Alternate Nostril Breathing?
Alternate nostril breathing involves alternating the flow of breath through the nostrils. In Ayurveda, this is referred to as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique.” Originating in India, this practice has been used for over 6,000 years to balance doshas, promote self-awareness, clear energy channels in the body, and regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Breathing through the left nostril is Chandra Bhedna, or “the moon breath.” Left-nostril breathing signals the parasympathetic nervous system, the network of nerves that controls our body’s ability to relax. Breathing through the right nostril is Surya Bhedna, or “the sun breath.” Right-nostril breathing signals the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for mobilizing our body’s response to stress including heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenal gland function. Alternating the breath through each nostril encourages the harmony of these systems.
Putting It Into Practice
- Get comfortable. Begin by finding a comfortable space to sit down where you know you won’t be distracted or interrupted for at least five minutes. You can either sit cross-legged on the floor or on a chair with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
- Prepare for your practice. Close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. This helps calm the mind and allows you to arrive in the present moment.
- Let’s begin. Close your right nostril using your right thumb and inhale gently through your left nostril for a count of four. Close your left nostril with your ring finger and release your right nostril. Exhale gently through your right nostril for a count of four.
- Repeat on the other side. Close your left nostril using your ring finger and inhale gently through your right nostril for a count of four. Close your right nostril with your thumb and release your left nostril. Exhale gently through your left nostril for a count of four.
- This completes one cycle. Repeat this cycle for 2-3 minutes, gradually increasing the time as you become more comfortable with the practice
Priti Tip: Over time, try increasing the length of breath in your practice. Begin with 4-count inhales and exhales. As you progress, experiment with increasing your length of exhalation to 6-8 counts. Then, gradually increase your length of inhalation to match. You can also advance by incorporating a 1-2 second hold at the top of the breath before exhaling.
Alternate nostril breathing aims to balance the flow of prana, or life-force energy, through the body's nadis. (In Ayurveda, “nadis” are the energy channels through which life-force energy flows.) When we harmonize our doshas, we experience more balanced physical and mental health.
Slowing down and engaging in mindful breathing calms the mind and relaxes the nervous system. This deliberate pacing of breath signals to the brain that there's no imminent danger, leading to a decrease in the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.
Deep and controlled breathing has the ability to calm the mind, reduce mental chatter, and ensure better oxygenation of the blood. Improved oxygen supply to the brain promotes clear thinking, better decision-making, and improved cognitive function.
Alternate nostril breathing involves deep and controlled inhalations and exhalations, ensuring that the body receives an ample supply of oxygen. Expelling stagnant air and promoting better oxygenation of the blood is a vital component for cellular function and detoxification. Mindful breathing also supports a healthy lymphatic system, our body’s process of balancing fluids and removing toxins.
Incorporating alternate nostril breathing into your daily routine, especially before engaging in tasks that require deep concentration, can serve as a mental warm-up, preparing you to take on the day with a clear and focused mind. Remember, with any self-care ritual: it's not just about the technique, but also about the intention you bring to the practice. Offer yourself grace and compassion on your journey and you’ll be on your way to embodying the most authentic, fearless version of yourself. And that’s what holistic wellness with Prakti is all about.