The world is being brought together closer than ever before. This provides great opportunity to form and maintain relationships, but also puts one in a constant stream of different interactions. To some, such activities as public speaking and being in big groups of people in general cause stress and anxiety. Thankfully, yogis have had a practice exactly for that for ages. It reduces stress and anxiety, makes you more aware of your surroundings and brings more awareness to your life. It’s called alternate nostril breathing, and it’s about to change what you think about this most common of actions you perform unconsciously.
The appeal of breathing techniques
Breathing through one nostril has been practiced for ages in yoga. These techniques, known as pranayama, are done ‘to extend the vital force of life’. It makes you stronger in your body as well as in your mind. It is an incredibly rich practice consisting of many different techniques and being done regularly.
But you don’t have to be a yogi – or even believe in spirituality – to partake in the alternate nostril breathing benefits. There have been some medical studies with a small number of participants, that have shown this practice to lower stress and heart rate, at the same time improving cardiovascular and lung function, and reducing stiffness in the body. More extensive studies are needed to confirm the positive effects of this technique, but the benefits look promising so far.
Exhale the stress
All the health gains aside, there’s a reason why psychologists recommend this easy, but relaxing exercise to their clients suffering from stress or anxiety. In fact, many types of breathing exercises are proven to have positive impact on mental health. Besides, they don’t require much preparation – you can just sit on the ground or anywhere, really – and give a couple of minutes of your time to de-stress.
There are virtually no risks involved in single nostril breathing. Not unless you have a serious heart or lung condition, that is. If you’re suffering from asthma or COPD, you should talk to your doctor before taking up this practice. Also, if you recently happened to catch a cold and you have a runny nose, it’s better to start this practice another day.
How to do alternate nose breathing
Without wasting too much breath explaining the benefits of this technique, I would recommend trying it for yourselves. Virtually no harm could be done and it doesn’t take much time or energy to try it out.
- Sit down where you feel comfortable – maybe a mattress or any flat surface.
- Move your attention from all the worries you have – try to concentrate on sensations in your body when you breathe.
- Take your dominating hand to your nose, let the other hand rest on your knee.
- Put your index and middle fingers on your nose bridge, letting thumb rest on one side of the nose, and ring and pinky fingers – on the other.
- Close your eyes.
- Now close your left nostril and inhale slowly through the right.
- Close your right nostril and release the left.
- Exhale slowly through the left. Inhale through the same nostril.
To put it shortly, you inhale from one nostril and exhale from another, then inhale from the same one you inhaled to, exhale from another and so on. Continue this cycle for 2 to 5 minutes.
You will feel short-term benefits immediately, but to get the long-term benefits of alternate nasal breathing, you have to practice it daily.