Alternate Nostril Breathing is a basic yoga breathing exercise (pranayama) where you inhale through one nostril, retain the breath, and exhale through the other nostril.
About Alternate Nostril Breathing
Yoga teaches that there are two energies called Ida and Pingala that intertwine up the sides of the spine and that unite to form the Sushmana, the central channel.
The Ida energy, on the left, is the moon energy: reflective, calming, cooling, female. The right is Pingala and has the energy of the sun: bright, fiery, awakening and male.
We compare these systems in our Western terminology to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic system, Pingala, is the fight or flight system and charges you up in times of danger. The parasympathetic system, Ida, slows you down and helps your body automatically run its day to day jobs of digestion, elimination, sleep cycles and more.
Interestingly, scientists also discovered that the nasal cycle corresponds with brain function. The electrical activity of the brain was found to be greater on the side opposite the less congested nostril.
The right side of the brain controls creative activity, while the left side controls logical verbal activity. The research showed that when the left nostril was less obstructed,the right side of the brain was predominant. And test subjects were indeed found to do better on creative tests.
Similarly when the right nostril was less obstructed, the left side of the brain was predominant and test subjects did better on verbal skills.
Modern scientists have found that we do not breathe equally on both nostrils.
That is, one nostril is much easier to breathe through than the other at any particular time. Each nostril seems to naturally alternate about every three hours. The Yogis claim that natural period is every two hours.
By actively practising Alternative Nostril Breathing you produce optimum function to both sides of the brain: that is optimum creativity AND optimum logical verbal activity.
And the Yogis consider this to be the best technique to calm the mind and the Nervous System.
This may sound complicated at first but is really easy when you get going.
Here is the technique for Alternate Nostril Breathing in condensed form:
IN THROUGH THE LEFT
OUT THROUGH THE RIGHT
IN THROUGH THE RIGHT
OUT THROUGH THE LEFT
IN THROUGH THE LEFT
Each in, out, and hold is done to a count of eight (approximately one second per count
Caution - Stop if you feel dizzy.
For those of you who prefer to see how to do alternate nostril breathing, watch this informative video.