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Grab the Kleenex; it is Alternate Nostril Breathing Time!

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a simple, yet extremely safe and effective pranayama yoga technique that will help balance our brain, bodies and nervous systems - but it can be a little messy. That is, a little snotty!

If you don't understand what I'm referring to yet, just trust me on this one. We'll do the exercise first and then I'll describe the science and benefits of alternate nostril breathing.

So, get going - grab some extra tissue, stand clear of anything (or anyone) that may not enjoy a nostril shower and let's get started.

(Photo compliments of common.wikimedia.org)


How to do Alternate Nostril Breathing:

In this particular yoga breathing exercise, you should always feel relaxed; the breath is full and deep, but not forced.

We will use the thumb of the right hand to close the right nostril, and then we will switch to using the ring finger of the right hand to close the left nostril.

Now that you are ready, follow these alternate nostril breathing steps:

  1. Start by closing the right nostril and gently and fully inhale through the left nostril.
  2. Then close the left nostril and exhale fully through the right nostril.
  3. While the left nostril is still closed, inhale fully through the right nostril.
  4. Finally exhale through the left nostril (right one closed).
  5. Repeat this series, alternating nostrils after each inhalation.

When you begin alternate nostril breathing, what you will find is that it may be easier to breath through one nostril than the other. That is ok and quite normal.

What happens is that there is a normal rhythmic switch in dominance of nostrils used to breath throughout the day, and the body runs on a 90 to 150 minute cycle. So for approximately 2.5 hours your left nostril will be dominant, and then for a short time (about a minute or two) your body will breath through both nostrils, before switching to the right as the dominant nostril for the next 2.5 hours.

The Science Behind Alternate Nostril Breathing:

You may not realize the importance of your nostrils in your body. Yes, they allow you to breath (and they form a small cavity that 'pickers' enjoy), but their real importance lies in the energy anatomy connected to your left and right nostril.

The left nostril:

    Is the end point of the Ida Nadi, which travels along the left side of the spinal column, next to the Sushumna. It is linked to the right hemisphere of the brain. It is the energy of the feminine. It brings calming, cooling, sensitivity, empathy and receptivity.

The Right Nostril:

    Is the end point of the Pingula Nadi, which travels along the right side of the spinal column, next to the Sushumna. It is linked to the left hemisphere of the brain. It is the energy of the masculine. It brings warming, alertness, vigour, will power, concentration and readiness-for-action.

If you actually take the time to track which nostril you are dominantly breathing out of, you will find that you take on the emotional and mental qualities of that nostril, due to its brain and energy connection in the body.

For example, if throughout the day, you find that you are primarily using your right nostril, it may indicate that you are in hyper-alert or stress mode, one of the key signs of stress. If on the other hand, you find yourself a primary left nostril breather, there may be some signs of being over sensitive, and calm to the point of mild depression.

The key with everything in the body is balance and alternate nostril breathing is just the ticket to assist in balancing the left and right sides of our bodies and brains.

The Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing:

As you can see from the description of the above, there are a number of key balancing features to this particular yoga breathing exercises:

  • Creates whole brain fitness and function by balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain
  • Gently purifies the two main Nadis along the spine, the Ida and Pingula
  • Generates a deep sense of physical, mental and emotional well-being and eliminates all three of these types of stress
  • Can assist with headaches, migraines and other stress related illness

If you want particular help in one area, say you are finding yourself right nostril dominant and your life is too stressful, then simply plug the right nostril and breath slowly in and out of the left for a few minutes.

It may be tough at first if your body is really shut down, but keep persevering (snot and all!) and you'll find that it improves over time.

Hope this was a fun experience for you!

Yours in Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

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