What Is Alternate Nostril Breathing & Why You Should Do It NOW

What Is Alternate Nostril Breathing & Why You Should Do It NOW

If you are having a stressful day and are looking for a shortcut to quiet your mind and experience some quiet peaceful moments then you should try alternate nostril breathing technique. It is a simple yet powerful breathing practice to calm your buzzing mind. In this post, you will discover, what is alternate nostril breathing and it’s five awesome health benefits. Towards the end of this post, you will learn the exact steps to practice alternate nostril breathing and reboot your mental state of mind in a matter of a few minutes.

Have you come across days wherein you find yourself doing too many things at once and feeling mentally exhausted as the day comes to an end? Ever wondered…why this happens to you? This happens to you because the energy or prana of your energetic body is completely out of alignment.

Alternate nostril breathing also called Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit is a breathing technique that helps to restore balance in the mind and body. The term Nadi means “channel” and Shodhana means “purification”. So in the true sense, Nadi Shodhana means “purifying the channel” of air circulation by regulating the flow of air through your nasal passages. But how does this stuff work…discover the cool science behind alternate nostril breathing.

The Science Behind The Alternate Nostril Breathing

What Is Alternate Nostril Breathing - Science

Did you know – when you breathe through your left nostril, it triggers the right side of your brain, and similarly, when you breathe through your right nostril, it triggers the left side of your brain?

Knowing this connection between the nostrils and brain is important because there is something more interesting – The right side of your brain controls your rest/relaxation response whereas the left side of your brain controls the fight/flight response.

Now just pause here for a moment and think how incredibly powerful is this?

By choosing which nostril to inhale you can trigger that part of the brain and can make yourself feel either more relaxed or more energized. So if you choose to inhale through your left nostril, you are in some way triggering your right brain for more rest and relaxation and vice versa.

By practicing alternate nostril breathing, you can balance the subtle energy of your body by consciously choosing to breathe through each nostril for an equal amount of time and thereby stimulate both parts of the brain.

Science also tells us that in a healthy person the breath will alternate between nostrils every two hours – This is called the nasal cycle. This cycle will vary from person to person depending upon his / her health. If it takes more than two hours or longer to switch from one nostril to other then he/she is experiencing adverse effects on their health.

Five Awesome Benefits Of Alternate Nostril Breathing

Five Benefits Alternate Nostril Breathing

1. Balances The Right & Left Hemispheres Of The Brain

The practice of alternate nostril breathing helps to synchronize the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It revamps the functioning of the brain by calming the mind and keeps unwanted stress at the bay. This in turn helps in improving the clarity of your thoughts and increase in your concentration power.

2. Relieves Stress, Anxiety & Mood Swings

Giving attention to the breath promotes purification of the energy or prana and increases vitality. It clears tension, reduces stress, and enhances your state of mind. It raises the energy in your body and this keeps your mind active free from mood swings.

3. It Improves Sleep

If you are tossing and turning in bed at night or stress keeps you up at night then you can practice alternate nostril breathing practice before going to bed. This would help in lowering blood pressure, relax your body, and stop the thoughts which are preventing you from sleeping.

4. It Maintains Ideal Body Temperature

The practice of alternate nostrils breathing helps in purifying your blood of toxins and supplies an adequate amount of oxygen to every cell of your body. This in turn helps to maintain your body temperature and keeps you away from lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.

5. Improves Respiratory & Cardiovascular Health

As you practice this technique of deep, slow breathing through alternate nostrils, you will access the full capacity of the lungs. It strengthens the respiratory system and the nervous system. Cardiovascular disease is one of the lifestyle diseases afflicting a large segment of society today. Daily practice of alternate nostril breathing for 5 – 10 minutes every day will ensure relaxed and efficient functioning of the cardiovascular system.

How To Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit comfortably on a chair with your spine erect or sit cross-legged on a yoga mat to ensure your spine is straight and shoulders are relaxed. Keep a gentle smile on your face.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee and lift your right hand up toward the nose.
  • Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger in the between the eyebrows, there is no need to apply any pressure, just place them lightly.
  • Place the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril and the thumb on the right nostril. You will use the thumb to open or close the right nostril and the ring finger & little finger for the left nostril.
  • Use the thumb to close the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril.
  • Now breathe in from the left nostril, then press the left nostril gently with the ring & little finger and simultaneously removing the right thumb from the right nostril and breathe out from the right.
  • Now breathe in from the right nostril and breathe out from the left nostril.
  • You have now completed one round of breath.

Suggested 4-Week Alternate Nostril Breathing Practice

Week 1 & 2: Approximately 5 minutes daily

1 Round = Inhale through LEFT, Exhale RIGHT, Inhale RIGHT, Exhale LEFT

Do around 5 – 10 rounds. Maintain a breathing ratio of 5:5 i.e. Take 5 seconds to inhale and 5 seconds to exhale. Try to control your breath so that your breathing ratio remains the same.

Week 3 & 4: Approximately 10 minutes daily

1 Round = Inhale through LEFT, Exhale RIGHT, Inhale RIGHT, Exhale LEFT

Do around 15 – 20 rounds. Maintain a breathing ratio of 10:10 i.e. Take 10 seconds to inhale and 10 seconds to exhale. Try to control your breath so that your breathing ratio remains the same.

As you master the breathing ratio, from Week 5 onward you can practice for 15 minutes. If you are short on time then continue with your 10-minute practice on a daily basis.

Focus on keeping your breath slow, smooth, and continuous. Focusing on your breath will help you to remember where you are in the cycle. You should be able to breathe easily throughout the practice.

That’s it, my dear friend, go ahead and give alternate nostril breathing a try & be consistent with the practice. Keep me posted in the comments if you have any further questions.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Kerryanne

    Hi Satish,

    What a simple move and what a wide range of benefits from it. Although, it shouldn’t be surprising, as without the right amount of oxygen brought to each part of our body, it can’t function to it’s full potential. I need to try this exercise, as it sounds like another excellent way to keep both, body and mind in balance.
    I do suffer, however, with my sinuses approximately once a year. It becomes pretty unpleasant, with a blocked nose, headache and even swelling and pain in my forehead. Do you think this technique may bring some relief for that, too, or should I be cautious about it?
    Thank you for your answer in advance

    1. Satish

      Hi Kerry,

      Avoid practicing alternate nostril breathing while suffering from cold, flu or fever. If you feel any adverse effects, such as shortness of breath, while doing the breathing technique, you should stop the practice immediately. This includes feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous.

      Also, I would recommend speak to a doctor if you have a medical condition such as asthma, COPD, or any other lung or heart concern. Otherwise alternate nostril breath is safe for most people ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  2. Mick

    Hi Satish,

    I spend a lot of time in meditation and breathing correctly is so important. What I wasn’t aware of was the left nostril controlling the right side of the brain and vice versa. Certainly going to check alternate nostril breathing method out more.
    As your website is about meditation then I have bookmarked your site and when I have a little spare time then I will go through the rest of your articles. Always looking to learn new things and I’m sure this site will benefit me. Thank you for sharing

    1. Satish

      Hi Mick,

      I am glad you found this post informative and I hope you enjoy other articles on my website. See you around ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  3. Andy

    Hi Satish,

    Thanks for sharing this interesting article. I learned this technique and other slight variants many years ago as a 5-minute practice before daily meditation. I learned it as Pranayama but I think I have heard the term Nadi Shodhana before.

    I didn’t know about the links between the functioning of the different cerebral hemispheres as you so well explained. So thank you very much for that. I have not always been consistent in maintaining the practice of Pranayama often using the excuse of shortness of time even though I am completely consistent with the meditation practice.

    As you say it is such a calming and settling practice and so well worth integrating into one’s daily routine.
    Andy

    1. Satish

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and I am happy to know that you have a consistent meditation practice. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is a breathing technique that helps clear these blocked energy channels, thus calming the mind. This technique is also known as Anulom Vilom Pranayama ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  4. Brian Leist

    Hi Satish,

    Thanks for the post. It is amazing what you can do with your own body without the need for any outside substances or equipment. I learned about this technique in Kundalini Yoga. I usually include the breath of fire in my daily routine. In my yoga course, I learned numerous breathing techniques and they definitely alter your mind. For fun and for free.

    1. Satish

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and happy to know that you are aware of breathing techniques. Keep up with your practice and have fun ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  5. Shyla

    Hi Satish,

    Wow this is an amazingly informative post. I had no clue about alternate nostril breathing or the benefits it had on your body. I find it really interesting and I will most certainly be trying this to help me relax and remove stress. Thank you so much for sharing this post!

    1. Satish

      Hi Shyla,

      Happy to know that you found this post informative & learned something new today. Follow the suggested 4-week practice and share your experience. Be consistent with your practice ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  6. Roy

    Hi Satish,

    I think you have a great article here about breathing techniques, body energy and well-being. Breathing techniques have existed a very long time. I have been using such techniques myself some time ago, before going to bed. It was very effective and my sleeping pattern improved tremendously.

    I also use breathing techniques to focus before training, with very good effect. The details you have provided about Nadi Shodhana, explains very well how it impacts energy levels and how you can take control of your health with the technique. The best part is that you can do it anywhere.

    -Roy-

    1. Satish

      Hi Roy,

      Yes you can do this anywhere and is free tool which can be practiced for overall well-being. Thank you for sharing your experience ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  7. Renata

    Hi Satish,

    This is incredibly great post with very useful information! I have found out nostril breathing during yoga exercise. I am going to practice this for 4 weeks each day and will see how the results will be. As I meditate each day I believe it makes my balance better and better.

    Thank you again for this great article, I have bookmarked your website so I will check your posts regularly since now.

    Have a great time!

    1. Satish

      Hi Renata,

      Glad to know that you found this information useful, do share your experience as you follow the 4-week practice ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  8. Lyne

    Hi Satish,

    I happy to have read this article, I have some problems sleeping at night and I’m going to try this technique today before going to bed. Thank you for sharing this great information with us. Will share this information with my friends.
    Lyne

    1. Satish

      Hi Lyne,

      Sleep deprivation can be caused by a busy mind. If we allow thoughts and worries to take over, we can cause our minds to be frantic and our bodies to be super-tense. Practice this technique for 5 to 7 minutes before going to bed and most likely you would experience relaxing effect on the body. And I hope you won’t need to lie awake counting sheep all night ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  9. Michael

    Hi Satish,

    This is very interesting. All of the issues you have mentioned I have some experience with as I have a messed up nose. I am always looking for ways to improve sleep, concentration and relaxation but I never thought that my nostrils could have anything at all to do with it. Obviously, I have tried breathing techniques, and some of them work to some extent, but not very well if I am honest. I suppose using individual nostrils kind of narrows it down a bit more. I will definitely give these a try.

    Thanks,
    Michael.

    1. Satish

      Hi Michael,

      When you try any breathing techniques ensure you follow the general guidelines; practice on a light stomach, empty the bladder beforehand and stay within your comfort zone.

      Also, while practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing use a hand position that elicits energy movement in your body. This makes the closing and opening of nostrils smooth and efficient. This hand position is called Vishnu Mudra. Use your right hand, place the tips of the first two fingers on the base of the thumb. The thumb rests lightly above the right nostril, the ring finger rests lightly above the left nostril. Use right thumb to very gently close off your right nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through left nostril ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

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