Try This Easy Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise

If you are feeling stressed or anxious, alternate nostril breathing is an easy and powerful way to quickly calm your mind and body, as well as give you an instant energy boost.

Most of us, especially those prone to anxiety, tend to breathe very high up in the chest. Stop and notice how you are breathing right now. As I write this, I have just caught myself holding my shoulders up tensely and breathing very shallow.

But because breathing is done automatically we usually don't even notice it. But the more tense we feel, the more shallow our breathing becomes.

Alternate nostril breathing, a type of pranayama, is incredibly simple yet has fantastic benefits, both immediate and long term. Pranayama means "control of the breath" and there are several pranayama techniques. However I like this method because it's simple, very effective and you can do it anywhere.

I first learned alternate nostril breathing in meditation classes many years ago. Before we get into the actual technique, let's have a look at the benefits:

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing

alternate nostril breathing
  • Reduces your anxiety level by calming your mind. If your mind is in overdrive with worrying thoughts, a few minutes of pranayama will slow down your thinking and help you regain control of an overactive mind.
  • Relaxes a tensed and stressed body. Pranayama techniques such as this one encourage deeper, slower breathing. This has a very relaxing effect and slows the body down very quickly.
  • Calms down emotional stress. If you find yourself in an emotional state, some alternate nostril breathing will take the edge off of your distress. Regular practice of this technique will make your emotions more calm on a daily basis.
  • Will revitalise you when you are feeling flat. Pranayama will improve the oxygen levels throughout your body and allow the energy, or prana, to flow freely and strong.
  • It will improve your concentration and clarity. This technique will oxygenate both sides of your brain, which will improve your brain function. So if you are beginning to feel dull at work or study, do a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing.
  • Balances and improves brain function. As you may know, the left side of the brain is for logical thinking and the right side is for feeling and creativity. So by balancing both sides of the brain, you can improve its performance (and we could all do with a bit of that!)
  • Improves your ability to rest and relax. By reducing stress and anxiety, relaxing a tensed body and balancing the hemispheres of the brain, pranayama will also improve your sleep. And if you meditate, pranayama is a great way to slow yourself down before you get started.
  • Promotes a greater connection between mind and body. Slower, deeper breathing brings you down from your head and helps you be in your whole body.

With a list of wonderful benefits like this, I'm sure you're keen to get started.

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The Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique

Before you begin, make sure you are sitting comfortably in whatever position is best for you.

1. Holding your right hand in front of your face, begin by using your thumb to close off your right nostril.

2. Inhale slowly and deeply (but gently) through your left nostril.

3. Now close off the left nostril with your ring finger while removing your thumb from your right nostril.

4. Exhale slowly through your right nostril.

5. Inhale slowly through your right nostril.

6. Now close off the right nostril with your thumb again while removing your ring finger from your left nostril.

7. Exhale slowly and gently through your left nostril.

8. This completes one round of pranayama. Now begin at step 1 again by inhaling through your left nostril, and on you go.

When you first start using this breathing technique, begin with just one or two rounds and gradually build up to around ten rounds. Always sit quietly for a few moments when you have finished.

If you have blocked nostrils for any reason, do not force yourself to do this type of breathing exercise. If you have high blood pressure do not hold your breath. If you have any medical condition consult your medical professional before you begin. 

Well, it's as easy as that! There are other more advanced pranayama techniques, but for the purposes of this website, this is a terrific little technique that almost anybody can use. Try it today and begin to see the benefits!


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