Yoga: Alternate Nostril Breathing
Today's yoga focus is a powerful and accessible practice called Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB).
This practice is about BALANCE. Alternate Nostril Breathing balances the right & left hemispheres of the brain, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. In essence, ANB creates balance between "fight or flight" and "rest and digest" responses, calming the nervous system and decreasing stress.
Suggestions for Beginning your Practice:
- Clear Your Nasal Passages: Use a tissue to blow your nose, for example.
- Find a Comfortable Seat: Sit tall. A chair, pillows or a bolster may give you added back support.
- Day Time Practice: (See video above) Close your right nostril with your thumb, exhale through your left nostril. Inhale through the left, close with your ring finger then exhale through your right. Inhale through your right, close and exhale through your left and so on. When finished, exhale through your right nostril and release both hands in your lap. Observe any changes you created (calm, clarity, increased focus -- great for work, school or activities that need your full attention).
- Evening Practice: Reverse the order. Close your left nostril, then exhale through your right. Inhale through the right, close, exhale through your left. Inhale through your left, close and exhale through your right and so on. When finished, exhale through your left nostril and release both hands in your lap. Observe any changes you created (calm, relaxation -- great for bed time).
- Develop Your Rhythm: With time and practice, you will develop your own natural rhythm. You may also begin to notice a "space" between each inhale and exhale breath. This pause between the breath cycles is natural and need not be forced. In yoga, the focus on the "space between each breath" can feel like a space free of worries or wandering thoughts. This comes in time.
- Not Enough Time: If you can practice ANB for 3-5 minutes or more a day, that is great. However, even 60 SECONDS can bring about noticeable results.
- Movement: When stressed, it can feel counterintuitive to "sit down, breathe and relax"! If this is true for you (as it is for me) I recommend doing 1-2 yoga poses first- like Breath of Joy or Downward Facing Dog for example. Another gentle intentional movement may prove beneficial as well. This may help calm your nervous system, making ANB more accessible in stressful times.
- Incorporation: Try this practice throughout the day for stress prevention or practice ANB before an anticipated stressful event to induce a sense of calm (presentation, test, meeting, meal...).
Remember it is a Practice. Keyword= PRACTICE. Your breath is as unique as your finger print and the qualities of your breath can change from moment to moment.
Maybe you find alternate nostril breathing is right for you. Maybe not. Either way, as always in yoga it's about the opportunity to learn a little bit more about yourself. Yoga is about reflection and connection. NOT perfection. Invite your breath to calm your mind in any form and let the balance begin!