Practising a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) for a few minutes each day, can help restore any imbalances in your brain, improve sleep, encourage a calmer emotional state, boost your thinking power and calm your nervous system.
The nostrils do not work equally, meaning that at this moment you will be favoring either your left nostril or your right nostril.
Left nostril for calming – right nostril for energy:
Breathing in, only through your left nostril, will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in, only through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain. Consciously alternating your breath between either nostril will allow you to activate and access your whole brain.
Some benefits of alternate nostril breathing:
It Revitalizes you: A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.
Improves brain function: Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function. If you are new to this practice, start with just 2 minutes and work up to five minutes.
Cleanses your lungs: A daily practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.
Calms an agitated mind: A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful to calm the 'chattering' in the mind. The worrying about the to do list, etc.
Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling" brain: Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it. The flip side of course is, single nostril breathing can be used to activate, just the left”thinking” or just right “feeling” side of your brain for specific situations.
Improves sleep: If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.
Soothes your nervous system: By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response. Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on.
An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:
Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril.
Inhale slowly through left nostril, completely filling the lungs, and pause...
Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril
Exhale through your right nostril, and pause...
inhale through right nostril, and pause...
Use thumb to close of right nostril
Breath out through left nostril
Inhales and exhales should be of equal length and there should be a pause between each. Start out with just 2 minutes of this and gradually build up to 5 minutes. This has helped Veterans tremendously with calming their minds and energy. I volunteer at a veteran's yoga class and the breathing exercises is touted as unanimously helpful.