Alternate Nostril Breathing / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama - Breathing Exercise
This breathing exercise is one of my personal favourites and I refer to it as ‘The Balancing Breath’ (also referred to as ‘Single Nostril Breathing’). It very quickly brings a calming sensation to the whole body and quietens the mind after a busy day. This practice is great for instant relaxation, for both the mind and body. I use this one often when I am unable to sleep or when I am feeling overwhelmed as it very quickly taps into the parasympathetic nervous system and literally balances the breath (when I notice that shallow breathing). It helps lower the heart rate and blood pressure and helps release tension, stress and fatigue in the body.
This breathing technique is not only relaxing for the mind and body, but helps reduce anxiety and lower stress and there have been studies that show how it can also improve cardiovascular function if practiced regularly. There was a study done in 2017 on the effects of this practice on competitive swimmers and it shows a positive effect of their respiratory endurance and performance. This breathing technique is not only relaxing for the mind and body, but helps reduce anxiety and lowers stress and there have been studies that show how it can also improve cardiovascular function (if practiced regularly).
Like with all breathing exercises, practice safely and stop at any point that feels right for you, coming back to the natural easy breath.
Instructions Firstly start by clearing you nose with a tissue (if you have a cold then this might be one to skip for another time).
Come into that comfortable seat
Close the eyes (or take a soft gaze)
Take 2 deep inhales and exhales through the nose
Lift your right hand in front of nose and rest the first and second finger on the space between the eyebrows
Place the thumb gently by the right nostril and third finger by the left nostril
To start, close the the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril
Then close the the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril
Keep the right nostril open and inhale on the same side (right nostril)
Then alternative between nostrils, exhaling and inhaling on each side (always starting with exhale)...i.e. exhaling and inhaling on left, exhaling and inhaling on right You start by inhaling on left to direct the oxygen flow and energy into the right hemisphere of your right brain, tuning into and turning on the parasympathetics nervous system. A nice visualisation you might want to go with this breath is:
• Imagine breathing in is positive and nourishing energy...and exhaling is anything that doesn’t serve you anymore.
I would recommend breathing exercises (pranayama) everyday! We live in a culture where ‘multi-tasking’ and moving ‘quickly’ through whatever we are doing has become the ‘norm’. Most of us these days breath into the upper part of our lungs, especially when we are busy. This is whats known as ‘shallow breathing’ and is another reason why our shoulders and chest can become tight. As we are not using all of our lungs capacity we are not giving the body the oxygen it needs to function properly. This is why breathing exercises are a great way to bring balance into your life. By spending a few minutes a day doing breathing exercises, not only will you lower stress levels and calm the mind, but we also oxygenate the body. This provides the brain, the blood and all the organs the nourishing oxygen it needs to function well. I recommend starting your day with breathing exercises to open the lungs, kick start the metabolism and circulation, and tap into our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest response).
Breathing exercises are such an important part of my daily routine, as well as my ‘go to’ when I am feeling anxious or overwhelmed and I use them at the start of all my yoga practices to settle the mind and body.
If we are shallow breathing regularly, we are not giving our bodies enough oxygen to function properly, this can lead to low energy, anxiety, stiffness in the body, contracted breathing and toxic build up. We are simply not providing the body with the essential nutrients it needs and the lack of oxygen and toxins lead to acid build up and inflammation in the body. Through breathing exercises and bringing more oxygen into the body, we can produce more alkaline as well as ‘de-excite’ the nervous system, leading to that calm and relaxed feeling, as the body becomes more balanced. Breathing exercises and deeper breathing give our bodies the nourishment and energy they need and supports healthier lungs, encourages oxygen to move through through the blood and all cells, detoxifying, energising, nourishing along the way.
I do a Breathing and Mindfulness sessions online, look out for dates on the Yoga Page (under the weekly classes you'll find 'monthly specials', workshops and online retreats). These will also be advertised on social media too (be sure to follow us if not already @wildandfreeadventures and @wildandfree_yoga). Also if you don't already...sign up to our newsletter, where we share up and coming events and whats on next month - just add your email to the 'subscribe' box at the end of every page on website.
These will not be running through our retreat seasons (June and September) because we'll be busy surfing and yoga'ing with our retreat guests in magical Cornwall!