Stressed out? In search of your center? Mindful breathing is a great tool to settle the mind and emotions. Specifically, alternate nostril breathing is the practice I find most helpful for calming my nerves and reversing stress.
When I’m feeling scattered and find myself doing too many things at once, or as soon as I sense panic or anxiety begin to rise, I move through a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana. It’s a great way to quickly restore balance and bring yourself back into alignment, acting like a reset button for your mental state.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing
With just a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing, you can sync both sides of the body and brain, restoring balance and ease in the mind, body, and emotions. We have our left side, which is our lunar side, or feminine side. And we have the right side, which is our solar side, or masculine side. Sometimes when we feel frazzled or “all over the place,” it’s because energetically, we are out of alignment. This breath is great for restoring that necessary balance.
In addition to calming the mind and reversing stress, alternate nostril breathing also:
- Improves our ability to focus the mind
- Supports our lungs and respiratory functions
- Restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the energetic channels
- Rejuvenates the nervous system
- Removes toxins
Nadi Shodhana is a quick and calming way to bring you back to your center. Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open.
- Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand in front of you.
- With your right hand, extend all five fingers and either fold the pointer finger and middle finger over into your palm and allow them to relax, or your can bring those two fingers between your eyebrows and lightly use them as an anchor. The fingers we’ll be using are the thumb and the ring finger.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale.
- Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side. Pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
- Inhale through the right side slowly.
- Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
- Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
- Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
Steps 4-9 represent one complete cycle of alternate nostril breathing. If you’re moving through the sequence slowly, one cycle should take you about 30 – 40 seconds. I recommend moving through 5-10 cycles when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or in need of a reset button.
Tip: Consistency is helpful, so try to match the length of your inhales, pauses, and exhales. For example, you can start with an inhale on a count of 5, hold for 5, exhale for 5, hold for 5. You can slowly increase your count as you refine your practice.