Anand Ramaswamy

Watch your breath! – Alternate nostril exercise (Part 4 of Breathing series)

Yoga & Meditation

Welcome back to part 4 and the concluding article of the breathing series.

Earlier, we spoke about – just watching the breathequal breathing, and long exhalation techniques.

These exercises are meant to bring in a change in the body and the mind; they help in:

  • Calming down the mind
  • Calming down the body
  • Rejuvenating and energizing the body, among other things.

If you notice the benefits of performing any of the yoga asanas, you’ll find them to be somewhat similar. They improve the flexibility of the body parts or improve digestion or work on the secretion of the glands etc.

Yoga practitioners should ideally be looking beyond these or, should I say, not even look; there might be something that surfaces beyond the pattern of time, space, and causation.

That was just some food for thought!

Let us now move on to the alternative pattern or alternate nostril breathing technique.

How to perform the exercise?

breathing series
  • Sit in any comfortable posture, either on the floor or on a chair.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Keep the back straight and chin parallel to the ground, so there’s no obstruction to the breath.
  • Focus your attention on the breath.
  • With your right hand stretched out, fingers stretched out, to begin with, roll in your index and middle finger, leaving the thumb, ring finger, and little finger extended and open.
  • Place the left hand on the left thigh with the palm open, facing up or just touching the tip of the index finger to the thumb.
  • We will now be breathing through one nostril, constricting the other.
  • We use the thumb to gently press against the right nostril while breathing in through the left nostril.
  • Open up the right nostril releasing the thumb while simultaneously closing the left nostril by touching the ring and little fingertips onto it.
  • The touch should be gentle, do not press the nostril.
  • Inhale from the right nostril for 2 counts, and exhale from the left nostril for 4 counts.
  • Inhale from the same nostril for 2 counts and exhale from the other nostril for 4 counts.
  • Continue the cycle.

 Let’s look at it again:

  • Closing the right nostril with the thumb, inhale from the left 1—2—
  • Closing the left nostril, exhale from the right 1—2—3—4—-
  • Inhale from the right nostril 1—2—-
  • Closing the right nostril, exhale from the left 1—2—3—4—-
  • Inhale from the left nostril 1—2—-
  • Follow again from steps b to e.
  • To end, exhale from the left nostril and release the hand and relax the arm.

What will you gain?

  • Improves concentration
  • Improves lung function
  • Lowers the heart rate
  • Improves control of blood pressure and reduces stress.
  • It makes a person calm, reducing anxiety

 When you can and can’t do it:

You may do this at several times in the day for 5 to 10 minutes. While this simple exercise can be done any time, you may find it difficult to do it immediately after consuming your meals or heavy snacks.

It works beautifully when done just before bedtime.

You may increase the practice time to 10-15 minutes overtime and observe the effect.

 Application in your daily life:

Doing the exercises once or twice in the week will not be as fruitful.

Just like everything else, it’s an only regular practice that will help us bring control over our breath. These exercises, when practiced, will help us to calm down at will, at any given point, especially when there’s unwanted stress or a situation that creates stress in our lives.

One cannot possibly imagine the body relaxing or the hormones working in a way that relaxes the body. Hence, with a lengthier duration of practice, we can perform longer exhalation, thus creating the need for the body to release certain hormones, leading to relaxation of the body and mind.

Pranayama, the traditional way of breath regulation, is one of the parts of Ashtanga Yoga as postulated by Maharishi Patanjali. It’s like a cog in the wheel; the wheel rotates smoothly only when all the cogs are lubricated and working properly. And hence the other elements, which include the foundation (yamas and niyamas) and exercises (asanas), will ultimately lead you to a meditative state or a level of self-awareness through reflection.

I wish you all the best in achieving a relaxed state of body and mind with the practice of alternate breathing and these 3 techniques (watching the breath, equal breathing, and long exhalation) so you can live a calmer, fuller, and more fulfilled life.

 Live life, live yoga.

Anand Ramaswamy, Founder of We Live Yoga – Join the Movement. Connect with him on [email protected]