Breathe Your Way To Balance
So much can be said about the breath and how to breathe but today I’m just talking about alternate nostril breathing.
The name tells you what to do, but you may not know the how or why to do it.
This technique of inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other is an easy way to help make you feel more balanced, and calm.
Here is a basic (very basic) explanation of the why and how.
Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain. This is the side of the brain that is linked to creative thought and intuition. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that causes you to feel more relaxed.
The opposite occurs when you breathe through your right nostril. The left hemisphere of the brain lights up and your sympathetic nervous system prepares your body for action.
It’s my understanding that we breathe through one nostril, for the most part, for a period of time. Then both at the same time, for an even shorter period. Then the second nostril takes over and this process continues throughout your day.
With alternative nostril breathing you are literally taking it into your own hands to bring harmony to your nervous system as well as your brain.
While I mentioned earlier that this was easy, the coordination involved can be tricky at first. I promise that it will get easier with practice. The good thing is that your mind has little time to wander because it is too busy arranging your fingers and breath. When I do it I’m not making a mental grocery list, or thinking of anything other than what I am doing. Yet after practicing this even for a few rounds I definitely feel calmer but also focused.
Let’s move on to the how.
Please remember to go slow, and never force your breath.
Most instructions for this usually involve being seated in comfortable position, but I’ve practiced lying down and I don’t see any harm in doing so.
Raise your right hand and fold down the index and middle fingers. You will be using your thumb and your two end fingers (ring finger and little finger) in this breathing technique. See the picture for a visual.
If you have difficulty folding down those two fingers, you could simply rest them on your forehead between your eyebrows instead.
To start, close the right nostril by pressing your thumb against it and exhale completely through the left. Then:
1. Inhale through your left nostril.
2. Close the left nostril by pressing your two end fingers (ring and little fingers) and move your thumb away so that you can now exhale through your right nostril.
3. Inhale through your right nostril.
4. Close your right nostril with your thumb again, and move your two end fingers away so that you can now exhale through your left nostril.
5. You have now completed one round. Start slowly by doing two to three rounds and gradual increase. Take a moment when you have finished your rounds to check in with yourself and see how you feel.
There are several variations that can be made to this breathing technique. This is a basic guideline only. If you feel light headed at any point, STOP what you are doing and breathe normally (for you).
When should you do this? I usually tell people whenever you want. I’ll warn you now that you may got some odd looks if you do it in the middle of your board meeting, or while in line at the store. But if you are okay with weird glances being flashed your way, I say go for it!
Some people may practice this before doing yoga, or before they meditate. I like to do it just before bed because it slows down my racing mind so that I have an easier time falling asleep (this is usually where I am lying down). But your “when” is up to you.You now have the steps so that you can try this yourself anytime you want to de-stress and become more balanced. Let me know how it works for you.