Alternate Nostril Breathing

I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don’t.
— Steve Martin

I’ve always been the nervous type.  As a kid, I would bite my nails or frantically bounce my knees for what I thought no reason at all.  This nervousness morphed into anxiety in college due to my endless (exhausting) quest of being 'the best.' Which also resulted in me becoming an insomniac and putting on more than the traditional ‘freshmen 15’. By my senior year, I was ready for a change and decided to enroll in a yoga class.  Back then, yoga wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now with all the different genres, so I just expected we would stretch a lot.

I can’t remember what we did in class, but I do remember how I felt in them.  It was really hard for me to be still in my body and my mind.  The resistance came from the feeling that I would forget something and if I didn’t worry about it, then how would it ever get done? I now realize that in those formative years I was programming my mind to believe that anxiety/stress/worry is normal. It’s taken me years to work on this and what's helped me the most is yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.

Our nose is directly linked to our brain and nervous system. The average person takes about 20,000 breaths a day.  Those that suffer from anxiety tend to take shallow breaths which means they are not getting enough oxygen into the body.  It’s as if they are hyperventilating all day. Not good. I know when I’m feeling anxiety, I get a tightness in my chest or my heart/mind starts racing.  When this happens, I immediately start doing breathing exercises. And my favorite is Alternate Nostril Breathing. 

  • Improves brain function by balancing the left (logical thinking) and right (creative thinking) hemispheres.
  • Calms an agitated mind. 
  • Removes stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.
  • Clears the mind and improves concentration and memory.
  • Great preparation for meditation.
  • Clears the nose and sinuses (do not practice if congested).
  • Helps with insomnia
  1. Please practice on an empty stomach. Breathe natural and relaxed. Don’t force it.
  2. Make an L with your right hand using the your thumb and index finger.
  3. Use right thumb to close off right nostril.
  4. Inhale slowly through left nostril, Pause for a second
  5. Now close left nostril with index finger and release thumb off right nostril
  6. Exhale through your right nostril
  7. Now, inhale through right nostril, Pause for a second
  8. Use thumb to close off right nostril
  9. Breathe out through left nostril
  10. This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase.
  11. Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished.

Caution: Do not hold your breath if you have high blood pressure, instead keep an easy continuous flow. If you have any health concerns, please consult with your doctor.

At one point or another in your life, you will feel anxious/fear/stress/worry, etc. It's an inevitable fact of life. What yoga provides us with are excellent tools to help cope with the difficult times as well as foster a sense of clarity and connection in the not so difficult times. 

OM the moment for your body and set an intention to practice this breathing exercise. You have the ability to control your mind and to break free from unhealthy habits. And it all begins with the breath.

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