January 20, 2016

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing or Left Right Breathing is a great breathing practice to balance the brain and more. As I've mentioned before, breathing is more important than anything else we do.
There is the "Survival Rule of 3" in extreme situations you "cannot live more than 3 minutes without breathing, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food." Of course some people have trained themselves to hold their breath longer or have genetics that allow them to do amazing things. For example Ricardo Bahia holds the Guinness World Record for holding his breath underwater 20 minutes 21 seconds. Then there are those who can only conscious for 2 minutes without air.


There are dozens of breathing practices, but I like Alternate Nostril Breathing as a regular practice. With Alternate Nostril Breathing there are multiple versions to practice. Currently I practice the version I'm describing below.

I want to mention one cautionary note: If you have high blood pressure do not hold your breath.

To begin: Sit comfortably with your right hand in front of you, curl your index and middle finger as shown in the picture from www.shape.com.  This allows us to easily use the thumb and ring finger to close off each nostril. Start by closing the right nostril with the right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril, slow and steady, with a brief pause at the top. Close the left nostril with the ring finger and open the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril, slow and steady; now inhale through the right nostril with a brief pause at the top. Close the right nostril with the thumb and open the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril. This completes one cycle.
You are simply exhaling then inhaling on one side, pause, close the open side and open the closed side, exhaling and inhaling on that side, continuing Alternate Nostril Breathing for the length of time you've chosen. Start out 30 to 60 seconds and work your way up to 5 minutes. Alternate Nostril Breathing can be practiced 2 to 3 times per day.


Benefits: Balances the left and right side of the brain, which activates and accesses your whole brain. Strengthens the respiratory system, we are bringing in the same mount of air as a normal breath, but only using one nostril so it's a longer and slower breath. This long slow breath calms, centers and rejuvenates the nervous system. Also calms the mind releasing tension and fatigue and helps harmonize the left and right sides of the brain bringing us back to center. It's a quick pick me up if your feeling down or tired providing you with a boost of extra energy.
It removes toxins; I've read "70% of our body's waste products are eliminated through our lungs." Doing five minutes before meditation will help us settle in and ground ourselves before starting our meditation.

Left nostril breathing directs the flow of oxygen to the right side of your brain, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to be activated, calming the mind and body. And right nostril breathing is for energy.

Five minutes of alternate nostril breathing before an important event like an exam or interview is how to access your whole brain for improved performance.

I practice Alternate Nostril Breathing before Meditation or Yoga Nidra to ground and calm myself. This is part of my Ayurveda practice.

Healthy & Happy,
Yoga Chuck



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