• Aurora Cady

Ease Anxiety with Alternate Nostril Breathing

Why Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing?

Nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is an easy but effective breathing technique that you can practice anywhere to help calm anxiety, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your lungs, improve your energy, and feel energized. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll feel the benefits immediately! This is also a great calming, but energizing breathing technique to practice before yoga or even meditation. If you practiced all three, you will likely watch all of your anxiety melt away!

Why is it Important in Ayurveda?

Unlike Western Medicine, Ayurveda recognizes a channel of our mind, similar to the way we view our vascular system as being a channel for to carry blood and nourishment to our cells. The manovaha srota is the system responsible for receiving sensory information such as sounds, tastes, touch, and social interactions, and processing these interactions into thoughts, ideas, desire, emotions, and communication. The manovaha srota (system of our mind) is composed of 10 great channels in order to receive and process information. While the Ayurvedic texts are vague about what 10 great channels compose the system, the writings suggest that we look to the sister sciences of yoga, and tantra for the answers. Tantric writings suggest that the 10 great channels are one for each eye, one for each nostril, one for each ear, one for the mouth, one for the organs of elimination, one for the organs of reproduction, and one inside of the spine.

We can access three of these channels, the right and left nostril and the spine, through alternate nostril breathing. These channels have the ability to affect prana, improve circulation and clear our rasa (blood) of toxins, and calm our nervous system. And the benefits don’t stop there! Our digestion is impacted by stress, and practicing activities that reduce stress improves our digestion. As we all know by now, you are not what you eat, but what you digest!

How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit with your spine straight and your body relaxed.

  2. Using your dominant hand, fold in your index and middle finger towards your palm so your thumb, ring finger, and pinky are still extended. If this is too big of a stretch for your fingers, you can still do alternate nostril breathing using your thumb and pinky with your middle three fingers folded in.

  3. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.

  4. Using your thumb (or ring finger if you’re left handed) close your left nostril. Take a deep breath in through your right nostril.

  5. Pause your breath, and then switch your fingers so your ring finger now closes your right nostril. Breathe slowly out through your left nostril.

  6. Inhale slowly through your left nostril, then switch your fingers to close your left nostril and breathe out through the right.

  7. Repeat the process for a few cycles or a few minutes. I usually set a timer for a few minutes.

Check out the video above to practice alternate breathing with me!

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