The Alternate Nostril Breath

In the Alternate Nostril Breath, you breathe through one nostril at a time, switching off from breath to breath (sorry, you can't do this one if you're congested or have a stuffy nose). You may be surprised by how you feel as you take Alternate Nostril Breaths. The breath offers many physical and subtle benefits. Each nostril is associated with one cerebral brain hemisphere. The right nostril is associated with the right brain hemisphere (where your spatial perceptions begin), and the left nostril is associated with the left brain hemisphere (where your verbal skills are). Breathing through alternate nostrils stimulates alternate brain hemispheres. In traditional yoga, the right nostril is considered the warming and energetic one, and the left nostril is considered the cool and calming one.

Practice the Alternate Nostril Breath to calm your mind and nervous system in times of stress. It induces a powerful sense of being in the present moment and increases your mental clarity and alertness.

Follow these steps to test-drive the Alternate Nostril Breath:

1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.

2. Close your right nostril by pressing your nose gently with your right thumb, and then inhale through your left nostril to a count of four.

Feel your breath flowing into the open nostril. Notice if the air feels cool or warm. See how deeply into your body you can detect the breath. Do you feel it in your throat? The tops of your lungs? The bottoms?

3. Close your left nostril by gently pressing with your right ring finger and pinky finger into your nose; at the same time, remove your thumb from your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril to a count of eight.

Ideally, you want to exhale twice as long as you inhale.

Exhale quietly and evenly into the lower, middle, and upper regions of your lungs.

4. Repeat the breath, but this time close your left nostril and inhale through your right to a count of four, and then close your right nostril and exhale to a count of eight through your left nostril.

Start by doing six to ten complete Alternate Nostril Breath cycles. It requires five to eight minutes of concentrated breathing.

As you develop your technique, try inhaling and exhaling for longer periods of time, always keeping the 2-to-1 ratio of exhales to inhales. You should never force your breathing, but you can lengthen the inhale and exhale to longer counts as you develop your technique. For example, try inhaling for 8 counts and exhaling for 16 counts.

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