Simple, effective and powerful, Alternate Nostril Breathing can ground and center you before you even leave your bedroom in the morning.
Breath is not something most people think about unless they’re in a yoga class, meditating, trying to catch it from running or doing another vigorous activity, or have a stuffy nose. Your inhales and exhales are automatic so it’s easy enough to forget about your breath. Breath is a natural process; you don’t have to think about it, so why should you? Because it can work in your favor, my friend.
Don’t understate the power of your breath. It’s a mighty source of power and energy. Breath = vitality. If pranayama (Sanskrit for breath work) is in your wellness toolbox, you already know the big, beautiful benefits of working with it. For those who’ve never experienced the depth of what it can do, I have a practice for you. It’s called Alternate Nostril Breathing, where you breathe in through one nostril while the other is closed and then switch—breathe out the opposite nostril while the other is closed.
I practice this every morning, and I’m hooked, not just because it brings balance to both hemispheres of the brain, but because a sense of renewal, peace and hope wash over me, like that sensation the moment you step out of the shower and wrap the towel around you. Fresh. Pure. Cleansed. And to think all it takes to feel like this is to sit for a few quiet minutes in the morning with this breath work, that’s what keeps me coming back for more. Yes, I’ll have more of where that came from, please.
On mornings I skip this practice (if I’m too rushed from waking up too late, my hair wouldn't cooperate or my 3-year old protests her breakfast—you know, the usual working mom stuff) my mind and body notice.
This is a good one to practice any time of day, but its best to stick with it at the same time every day so you remember to do it (like just before or after you brush your teeth).
Practice It: Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Begin seated with a long, tall spine. Melt shoulders away from ears and close your eyes.
Place your left hand on your left knee or thigh. Bring your right hand toward your nose. Tuck your index and middle fingers toward your right palm. Bring your right thumb to your right nostril. Close your right nostril with your thumb as you inhale smoothly through your left nostril.
Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, pause for a beat and then release your right thumb from your right nostril, exhaling through it.
Inhale through the right nostril, close it off, pause. Repeat this cycle for three or more minutes.
Listen to the sound of your breath, its smoothness and steadiness. Sometimes if I really listen, it sounds like a tide rising on the inhale and crashing to a sandy shore on the exhale, and I just ride that wave.
Transition out of this practice with an exhalation through the left nostril, and then let that go. Take a few cleansing breaths in and out through both nostrils. Notice the impact of this breath work on your thoughts and outlook. How do you feel?