Am I always as relaxed and serene as I look in this photo? Aaah - no. No one with a teenager in the home can remain calm and nonplussed for too long. But, because I practice yoga, I know how to get myself back on track with a few simple techniques which include the alternate nostril breath. I don't have a photo of me doing this right now, however, I trust the following instructions will show you exactly what to do. So the next time you feel anxiety, you won't have to reach for the prozac or whatever prescription drugs people use to calm down. Just sit down and lie down and do the alternate nostril breath! I taught this breath the other day in my beginners yoga demo class and my colleague used it when she was having insomnia a few days later.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Type of yoga pose: Breathing technique that can be done seated or lying down
Body parts targeted: Lungs and nervous system
How to do the pose:
1. Sit in a comfortable position on your mat or in a chair with your spine erect (or lie down with your entire body flat on your mat).
2. You may choose to close your eyes. Closing your eyes enhances the relaxation and calming effects of this technique.
3. Place your right thumb gently on but not closing your right nostril; place your index finger and middle finger on your forehead in the space between your eyebrows; rest your ring finger and little finger gently on your left nostril without closing it.
4. Press down upon your right nostril with your right thumb. Lift your ring and little finger from your left nostril and breathe in deeply expanding your abdomen and fill your lungs to the count of 8 (or to whatever count is comfortable for you).
5. Press your ring and little fingers down on your left nostril and hold your breath for a count of 4.
6. Raise your right thumb off your right nostril and exhale all the air in your lungs through your right nostril to the count of 8.
7. Without changing the position of your hand, immediately breathe in through your right nostril for a count of 8.
8. Press your right thumb down on your right nostril so that both nostrils are closed. Hold your breath for a count of 4.
9. Lift your ring and little fingers from your nostril and exhale through your left nostril for a count of
This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing.
Number of repetitions: 3 rounds or for 5 minutes alternating nostrils. Over time, build up the counts so you are inhaling, holding, and exhaling for a count of 8. Do at any time of the day when you need to relax, clear your mind, or slow down your pace.
Key benefits from this pose:
1. Increases “prana” – i.e., the “life force” or energy in the body.
2. Helps clear air passages.
3. Relaxes and calms body, mind, and nerves.
4. Clears mind.
5. Balances opposite currents in your body and helps restore equilibrium.
6. Functions as an excellent beginning to your yoga session, as a prelude to meditation or for winding down after doing poses.
7. Quiets the mind and can help in overcoming insomnia.
8. Strengthens the nervous system and improves circulation.
9. Relieves sinus conditions by dissolving obstructions in the nasal passages and can increase immunity to colds.
10.Can alleviate headaches or stomach aches caused by anxiety.
11.Helps develop overall serenity.
Special hints and Laura’s experience with this pose:
Always inhale and exhale without strain in and out through the nose, not through the mouth. When you begin this technique, you may notice, as I did, that one nostril is clearer than the other. I had trouble breathing through my right nostril. Don’t worry – over time both nostrils will clear and you will breathe in and out fully from both.
You can use this breathing technique to increase your energy during afternoon lulls or whenever you need to “pep” yourself up. I have used the alternate nostril breath technique to alleviate anxiety or stomach aches caused by stress by doing the breath while focusing on the words, “deep relaxation.” Within 2-3 minutes, my stomach aches have subsided!
You can also use the alternate nostril breath technique to help you relax at night before sleep. At bedtime, lie down in your bed and do 5 to 7 rounds of the alternate breath technique to release all tensions and to dose off.
Yours for achieving serenity naturally,
Laura Venecia Rodriguez