How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 21 February 2019
  • 3 minute read
How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing | The Health Sessions

Breathing exercises are an excellent tool to relax and recharge at the same time. They’re a crucial component of many relaxation methods: yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and mindfulness.

Now you’re probably familiar with deep belly breathing, but have you ever heard of alternative nostril breathing?

Alternate nostril breathing is an ancient yogic practice that soothes your nervous system. In Ayurvedic medicine, it’s believed that this breathing technique harmonizes the two hemispheres of the brain and restores the balance in your body and mind. Although the scientific verdict is still out on that, what’s clear is that alternate nostril breathing triggers a relaxation response in your body. It also improves your respiratory functions and mental capacities, like your attention and eye-hand coordination.

And the best part is: you can boost your heart, lungs and mind in just a few minutes a day.

Here’s how to do alternate nostril breathing:  

  • Sit in a comfortable position. You can close your eyes if you want to.
  • Place your right hand over your nose. Let your pointer finger and middle finger rest lightly in between your eyebrows.
  • Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril.
  • Once you’ve fully inhaled, hold your breath for a second. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger, release your thumb and breathe out slowly through your right nostril. Pause for a moment once you’ve fully exhaled.
  • Breathe in deeply through your right nostril. Close your right nostril off with your thumb, open your left nostril and breathe out. There’s a little pause at the bottom of your exhalation before you breathing in again through your left nose.
  • Or to put it simpler:

Breathe in left, breathe out right. Breathe in right, breathe out left.

  • This is one round of alternative nostril breathing. Repeat this cycle 1 – 5 times when you feel anxious, restless or frazzled.

You can practice alternate nostril breathing any time of day. It’s a particularly helpful technique to calm you down whenever you feel anxious or stressed, to calm you down. Alternate nostril breathing can also clear your mind and relax your body before bed.

Have you ever tried alternate nostril breathing? How did it make you feel? 

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