If you are interested in adding breathwork to your health and wellness toolkit, then this article, which looks at exploring alternate nostril breathing, might be for you.
Breathwork: Exploring Alternate Nostril Breathing
What is alternate nostril breathing? Well, it’s literally just like it sounds.
Essentially, alternate nostril breathing is a specific breathing exercise that rotates the inhalation and exhalation on either side of the nose.
Practicing the alternate nostril breath can be very calming, once you get the hang of it.
How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing
For this breathing exercise, we recommend a seated posture. As you become more comfortable with this technique, you can certainly practice lying down. However, to begin, find a seat where you can sit long and tall through the spine.
Now, there is a lot of information out there on this breathing technique. Some people suggest you place your hand or fingers in a certain way. You can get really fancy with this breath, however, we’re starting out basic for the beginners reading out there.
Using your right hand, you will push your right thumb onto your right nostril. Inhale only through the left nostril (the open side). Then, press your right forefinger and/or middle finger into the left nostril, releasing the thumb from the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril only.
Inhale through the right nostril. Press the right thumb into the right nostril while releasing the right forefinger and/or middle finger from the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril.
Inhale through the left nostril. Press your right forefinger and/or middle finger into the left nostril, releasing the thumb from the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril.
Continue back and forth for as long as you like.
In the beginning, you may want to start out with less time. Perhaps you practice alternate nostril breathing for just one minute. Then, as you get comfortable with the technique, you can increase the duration to two minutes.
Without getting into too much science, alternate nostril breathing is one way to balance the brain and the body.
The brain is made of two parts, the left and right cerebral hemispheres. Each hemisphere is in charge of unique activities. The left and right sides complement each other. When we alternate nostril breathe, we provide each side with equal amounts of oxygen, enhancing the use of both the left and right hemispheres and further developing the brain to its maximum potential.
Alternate nostril breathing is also good for the nervous system. The nervous system comprises the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These two systems also have specific functions. When we alternate our breath between one nostril and the other, we activate these systems independently of each other.
Benefits of the Alternate Nostril Breath
This breathing technique has many healing properties.
Alternate nostril breathing is a great way to stimulate your vagus nerve, increase your heart rate variability, and bring your body back to homeostasis much faster after a stressful event. Practicing this breathing exercise consistently over time may lower your heart rate, lower stress and/or anxiety, improve cardiovascular function, improve respiratory function, and bring the body, mind, and spirit into harmony.
Contraindications for Alternate Nostril Breathing
We are not offering medical advice or information in this post. Please consult your doctor or medical professional before accessing any breathing exercises.
Some contraindications include uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled asthma, or other breathing issues. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous, you may want to stop.
As with all breathing exercises, listen to your body. Honor your body and do only what feels good.
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About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC, RYT (200) is a board-certified holistic nurse, registered yoga instructor, and reiki master.
Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a certified coach, nature lover, and avid meditator.
Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bulls. She enjoys gardening, jigsaw puzzles, farming, music, and hiking.