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How Alternate Nostril Breathing Works

Updated on October 20, 2011

Alternate-Nostril Breathing is another powerful yoga exercise that helps you maximize in your body the flow of prana or chi or life energy. While doing this, Alternate-Nostril Breathing helps calm your racing mind and reduce your racing heart rate.

Now that you have mastered the Three-Part Breath breathing technique, which I know you have, because you've read my hub on Three-Part Breath, it is time to move on to Alternate-Nostril Breathing, which is the next step in developing a beneficial breathing pattern. Alternate-Nostril Breathing is just as easy to do as the other one and you might find it is a little bit more fun.

Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing

Benefits of Alternate-Nostril Breathing

Alternate-Nostril Breathing is known for inducing calmness and clarity in the mind. When your mind is racing with thoughts and you find it hard to sort them out, a few minutes of this exercise will help you calm yourself and put your mind in array.

At the same time, this exercise also improves thinking and concentration, and coordinates the operations between the right and left hemispheres of your brain. This means that doing Alternate-Nostril Breathing prepares you to do mental work more efficiently.

When done regularly and in accordance with the rules of Three-Part Breath, Alternate-Nostril Breathing greatly increases blood circulation in the abdominal region contributing to a healthier appetite and an improved digestion. Moving the muscles around the solar plexus causes gentle pressure on the intestines and digestive organs as well as helps the diaphragm to fully expand and contract while gently mobilizing the liver.

How to do Alternate-Nostril Breathing

Alternate-Nostril Breathing builds on the Three-Part Breath technique that I described in another hub. You should be able to do Three-Part Breath effortlessly, before you attempt this exercise.

  1. Sit in a Lotus position or in a chair - spine erect - and do at least twenty seconds of Three-Part Breathing.
  2. Close your eyes and close your right nostril using your thumb.
  3. Take a deep, slow and steady breath through your left nostril.
  4. After keeping it in for a few seconds, open your right nostril and close your left nostril with your forefinger.
  5. Exhale completely through your right nostril. (Completely means completely!)
  6. Repeat step 1 to 5 for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Watch a perfect presentation of Alternate-Nostril Breathing.

Having done these exercises for a couple of weeks, you should begin to experience the results in clearer thinking, an improved digestion, lowered anxiety levels and an overall sense of mental stability.

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    • profile image

      Bikash 4 years ago

      I don't think I wrote out my workout very clrleay! I ran a total of 6.5 miles and it probably took me 55 minutes or so. Within the 6.5 miles, I ran 25 minutes at tempo pace. I don't take Max running. He doesn't really like to go on runs. He will hike for a long time though! We only let him off his leash if there are not people around. He gets too excited and sometimes jumps on people, so he is usually on his leash.

    • profile image

      Rick 4 years ago

      But 6.5 miles in 25 mtiunes is crazy fast. 4 mtiune miles for 6.5 miles is awesome! Also, I am looking to get a dog that I can take along on my runs (mostly trail). Do you sometimes take Max. If so, on or off leash? I noticed from your pics he is on a leash mostly.

    • profile image

      Javier 4 years ago

      I don't think I wrote out my workout very cralely! I ran a total of 6.5 miles and it probably took me 55 minutes or so. Within the 6.5 miles, I ran 25 minutes at tempo pace. I don't take Max running. He doesn't really like to go on runs. He will hike for a long time though! We only let him off his leash if there are not people around. He gets too excited and sometimes jumps on people, so he is usually on his leash.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      You chose the correct word :) I'm guessing this is something I will have to work up to and will only make a difference over time.

    • Haunty profile image
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      Haunty 6 years ago from Hungary

      Sad to head that. I hope it helps you! Tbh, I haven't done this for a while. I went to an allergy test and it turns out I'm allergic to various types of grass, rye, and dust mite (don't know if that's the correct English word). Fortunately, for me the symptoms are very light, I just cough a lot.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Im most interested in this because of the comment SiddSingh made about allergies. I am the truest test to see if this works to help allergic rhinitis.

    • Haunty profile image
      Author

      Haunty 6 years ago from Hungary

      Thanks, Ardie! And please, only read stuff that really interests you. I'm just glad you are back to HP!

      Easy with this technique. It is hard for a beginner. Every one of them. :)

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Im catching up on your writing and Im glad I found this - I WILL try (emphasis on try) tomorrow when I alternate from my interval walking ;) Excellent information

    • Haunty profile image
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      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      Hey kara :) I know what you mean. I wish reading about it were a substitute for practice, but it's not.

    • profile image

      kara_michelle 8 years ago

      No matter what I read about breathing techniques, I always have a difficult time actually doing it! Maybe I should read some of your other posts about breathing techniques first!

    • Haunty profile image
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      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      Strange, but when you do it regularly it becomes easy. But if you stop it's hard to get used to again. At least that's how it is with me. Due to the lack of interest I postponed the creation of the others. Anyway, they can be found on youtube I think. Thank you for the update, missmaudie! :)

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 8 years ago from Brittany, France

      Progress update - I am getting much better at this - now I have sorted my fingers and nostrils out! I have made it part of my yoga practice but at the end not the beginning and with eyes open but glazed! Closed eyes didn't work for me. Thank you Haunty for bringing this technique to me - where are the other seven you mention? Nice to see your old new avatar back by the way.

    • Haunty profile image
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      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      SiddSingh - Thank you for your comment. There are at least seven more 'more advanced' exercises I intend to write about as I progress in my own development. :)

      Justine - Yeah, life is a race more often than not. Especially with children. Whatever you do, just try to take some time out for yourself too, ok? :)

    • profile image

      Justine76 8 years ago

      it is so a race...

      :)

    • SiddSingh profile image

      SiddSingh 8 years ago

      Hi Haunty,

      Great hub on Pranayam (this is what the exercise is called). If you are into yoga, this is basically the warm-up exercise. But I am sure you know that already :)

      Another thing - Pranayam is highly effective for a lot of breathing ailments, especially allergic rhinitis - I can vouch for that.

    • Haunty profile image
      Author

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      You're valuable ideas are always very welcome, missmaudie. :D

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 8 years ago from Brittany, France

      Winsome, what a good idea, I hadn't thought of that! We'll all be so much calmer, we're so busy thinking about which nostril to breathe through we don't have time to think about our problems.

      Haunty, I'm so sorry if I have lowered the tone of your actually very good hub.

    • Haunty profile image
      Author

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      Winsome, lol, I guess no one can stop you.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Fun yoga. If one nostril is stopped up can you alternate between the open one and your mouth? =:)

      MissMaudie you are a hoot.

    • Haunty profile image
      Author

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      This isn't a race, people. Do it slowly and conveniently. You don't have to suffocate yourselves. ;)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 8 years ago from Washington

      Excellent information - will have to try it - though if I have a lack of oxygen it may do more harm than good!

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 8 years ago from Brittany, France

      Justine - that's so funny but I know what you mean! I had to stop in the end - lack of oxygen!

      When I came back and watched the video I realised I was doing it wrong anyway, breathing in and out through alternate nostrils not in through one and out through the other. How complicated. Anyway, I will keep trying, unlike the cats who are both snoring at the moment.

    • Haunty profile image
      Author

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      missmaudie - You have absolutely stunning photos on there! Why don't you link them to your profile? I may have seen you on one of them. The castle one. :)

      Justine - lol, too funny. I know what you mean, but I write these hubs, because they help me with certain problems. missmaudie, I mean the cat, is proof they calm you. View her link above. ;)

    • profile image

      Justine76 8 years ago

      Ive done half of this before, when I had a cold and my nose was stuffy. :) This is all very informative and usefull. Im excited to introduce calmnes and clarity of mind in to my life. great hub Haunty, thanks!

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 8 years ago from Brittany, France

      OK, I tried this this morning after some asanas. It's really hard! I couldn't do it for long so I'm going to have to practise a lot I think. However, my cats who were in the room with me had a go too and you can see the results here http://www.flickr.com/photos/missmaudie I think Miss Maudie really did breathe herself into a coma! She really is a laid back cat. Will continue to practise and let you know my progress.

    • Haunty profile image
      Author

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      Sure, be cautious of how laid back you get, missmaudie. Although, I've never heard of anyone who breathed herself into coma, it might happen.

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 8 years ago from Brittany, France

      This is a good follow up to your Three Part Breath hub Haunty. I didn't know that it would coordinate the left and right hemispheres of my brain, that's interesting. Although I practice yoga I don't use this technique(yet). I have found that I already feel calmer so if I do this breathing technique too I hope I don't find I'm so laid back I can't actually function!

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