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A Breathing Technique to Balance Your Brain

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Learn about alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana pranayama) to regulate energy, restore balance and calm your nervous system.



When I am overwhelmed with too many responsibilities or frazzled by unexpected interruptions, my breath becomes shallow and rigid. Does this sound familiar? The breath is a window into our stress levels, energy and brain power and can be used as a tool to regulate these systems.


Each nostril has channels with nerves that lead to the brain. The left nostril connects to the ida nadi (comfort channel). It leads to the right side of the brain associated with creativity, intuition and rest. The right nostril connects to the pingala nadi (sun channel). It leads to the left side of the brain associated with logic, facts and mechanical actions. My brain is confused just thinking about this!


It is common for one side of the brain to be more dominant than the other — and this can switch throughout the day. Nadi shodhana pranayama is a breathing technique that cleanses the energy channels (nadis) and balances the brain by breathing in and out of one nostril at a time.


Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) has many physical and mental benefits:

  • Restores energetic balance

  • Balances the right and left sides of the brain

  • Restores lung and respiratory function and health

  • Lowers blood pressure and slows the heartbeat

  • Calms the nervous system (get out of “fight or flight” mode)

  • Reduces stress and anxiety

  • Increases focus

  • Improves sleep


I find alternate nostril breathing particularly helpful after a hectic morning, when I am stuck on a project for work or when my mind is racing before bed. Are you ready to try out the technique? This short tutorial will guide you through the practice.



Here are the steps for alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana pranayama):

  • Take a comfortable seat on a bolster, blanket or pillow with your spine tall. You can close your eyes and gently rest your left hand on your left knee

  • Use your right hand and place your pointer and middle finger on your forehead on the space between your eyebrows (your third eye center)

  • Use your thumb and ring finger to guide the nostril breathing

  • Take a deep inhale and exhale with both nostrils

  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through your left nostril for a count of 4

  • Close your left nostril with your ring finger and retain the breath briefly

  • Open your right nostril and exhale slowly for a count of 4 with a brief pause at the bottom of the exhale

  • Inhale through your right nostril for a count of 4

  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and retain the breath briefly

  • Open your left nostril and exhale slowly for a count of 4 with a brief pause at the bottom of the exhale

  • Repeat this cycle 5-10 times


You can do alternate nostril breathing in the morning or evening, before or after yoga or before meditation. It is not recommended to practice if you are sick or congested, have lung or heart diseases such as asthma or COPD, or feel lightheadedness, nausea or dizziness while breathing.


How do you feel after focusing on your breath? I hope this practice opens new ways of thinking and leaves you with a sense of clarity and relaxation. Leave me a comment below and let me know about your experience. If you found the technique helpful, share it with your community and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more tutorials.


With gratitude,

Shannon

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