What Is Alternate Nostril Breathing?

January 24, 2017 • Rehack Team


Alternate nostril breathing is a simple but effective breathing technique that calms the body and the mind. In Sanskrit it’s called Nadi Shodhana, and many people use it before or during meditation to quiet the mind before practice. It calms racing thoughts that people experience during bouts of anxiety and helps them fall asleep easier.

Though there are different methods of practiced breathing, they all bring balance and help regulate the natural flow of air through the sinuses. In fact, Nadi Shodhana translates to purifying the channels.

How Alternate Nostril Breathing Benefits You

This specialized breathing technique is extremely beneficial, even if only done for a few short minutes a day. Though it’s a great way to start a meditation, it’s also an efficient method for calming the mind when you get frazzled or when multitasking becomes unbearable. When you feel out of balance, this breathing method is great for restoring it.

Not only does this type of breathing reduce anxiety and stress, it also:

  • Increases oxygen and supports lungs
  • Builds and improves focus
  • Restores balance to both hemispheres of the brain
  • Clears energy channels
  • Rejuvenates the nervous system

Use Alternate Nostril Breathing to Center Your Mind in Any Situation

No matter what is making you anxious – a presentation, a meeting with your boss or simply work stress – take a few minutes and find a quiet place. This method of breathing centers your mind so stressors don’t overwhelm you. This is a practice that helps you reset, curtailing rising anxiety and increasing your sense of wellness.

For those having trouble settling into meditation, Nadi Shodhana can help. Move through some of these breathing rounds, then shift into your meditation.

How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

Once you’ve tried this kind of breathing and felt what a powerful way it is to relax the mind and body, you’ll likely rely on it more often. Here are the basic steps to Nadi Shodhana breathing:

  • Sit comfortably with a straight back, shoulders back and down with your heart open.
  • Rest the left palm on your lap and bring the right hand in front of your face.
  • Using the right hand, rest your pointer finger and middle finger between your brows, using them as an anchor.
  • Close the eyes and take and a deep breath through your nose.
  • Use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with the ring finger. Both sides are closed. Hold your breath at the top of the inhale for a moment.
  • Open your right nostril and slowly breathe out through the right side, pausing at the bottom of the exhale.
  • Inhale using only the right side, slow and steady.
  • Close both nostrils with the ring finger and thumb.
  • Open the left nostril and release the breath slowly from the left side. When you get to the bottom, pause briefly.
  • Repeat this breathing for five to 10 cycles.
  • If your mind starts to wander, repeat in your mind: This is my breath in, this is my breath out.

Try and match the length of your inhales, exhales and pauses. For instance, when you inhale, count for 10, hold for 10, exhale for 10 and hold for 10. If you find 10 is too long, try holding for five. Practicing will organically allow you to hold your breath longer. Each cycle should take about 30 seconds, but the slower, the better for relaxing your mind and body.

Anytime you need a reset, practice five to 10 of the cycles for a more peaceful presence. Any kind of slow breathing lowers the heart rate, but alternate nostril breathing helps you feel more in control and less like the world is a stressful place.