Ara Wiseman

Alternate Nostril Breathing

During this time, many people are experiencing higher levels of stress and are having a hard time relaxing. Luckily there is a simple and effective breathing exercise that helps to reduce stress and anxiety, clears and releases toxins, balances hormones, and enhances mental focus and concentration. It also helps balance the hemispheres of the brain and saturates the brain with more oxygen, which signals the limbic system to relax and enter a state of calm.

This method of breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing.

Start by getting into a comfortable seated position. You can choose to be cross legged on a cushion or sitting on a chair with your feet touching the floor. Lengthen the spine and relax your shoulders away from your ears.

  1. Place the ring finger of your right hand over the outside of your left nostril. You may rest your index and middle fingers lightly on the forehead or tuck them into the palm. Keep your thumb on the outside of your right nostril.
  2. With both nostrils open take 2 or 3 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through both nostrils keeping the mouth closed but not clenched.
  3. On the 4th inhale gently apply pressure to the left nostril with your ring finger so that you are only able to collect air through the right nostril. Inhale deeply into the belly, visualizing the breath filling the right side of the body.
  4. Once your lungs are full and the breath has reached the crown of the head hold the breath for a moment and use the thumb to gently close the right nostril while simultaneously releasing the left nostril.
  5. Exhale deeply through the left nostril and visualize the breath washing out through the left side of the body, taking with it any tension or worries. Gently pausing at the end of the breath.
  6. With the right nostril still closed inhale deeply through the left nostril into the belly, once again visualizing the breath filling the body on the left side, filling right up to the crown of the head. Pause here and release the right nostril and close the left.
  7. Exhale deeply through the right nostril and visualize the breath washing out through the right side of the body, taking with it any tension or worries.

Continue alternating inhaling through the left, exhaling through the right. Then inhaling through the right and exhaling through the left. Maintain a gentle, slow, fluid and relaxed breath throughout the practice.

You can do this for a few rounds (right left, left right) or for several minutes to deepen the relaxation.

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