Jamie Sparks
Licensed Massage and Body Work Therapist


Alternate nostril breathing

Posted by Jamie Sparks on January 23, 2012 at 2:15 PM

 This is not so much a medititiation, but a breathing exercise, or pranayama.  This practice can help to calm the mind, balance the body and aid in your meditation practice.  

When the energy is not balanced, one of the most visible ways in which this is seen, is in the nostrils. Most of the time, one or the other nostril is more dominant, allowing air to move more freely in that nostril. This is quite a natural process. However, when the nostrils are evenly breathing, the mind more easily quiets and likes to meditate.

 Alternate Nostril breathing, or Anuloma Viloma, is a method where you consciously work with that energy by regulating the physical breath in one or the other nostril. This in turn effects the energy and mind. It brings balance, and allows the energy to flow in the center, rather than on the left or right side.

To begin, take a comfortable seat.  First, sit with your eyes closed and begin to notice the depth of your breath and which nostril might be dominating.  Which one are you breathing out of, or breathing more fully out of.  Now, bring your right middle finger and index finger to your 3rd eye, with your thumb and ring finger available near your nostrils (to alternate closing off one nostril and then the other).  At first, close off the left nostril.  Take 5 even deep inhales and exhales through the right nostril.  Then close off the left and take 5 deep even inhales and exhales through the left nostril.  You may continue to do this for 2 more rounds.  


Move to alternate nostril breathing.  Exhale all of your air and then close off the left nostril with your right ring finger (Right middle finger and index finger is still at your 3rd eye).  Inhale deeply through the right nostril.  Retain that breath and then close the right nostril with your thumb, opening the left nostril and exhaling evenly throught the left nostril.   Pause for a moment at the bottom of the exhale.  Then begin inhaling now through the left nostril, with the right nostril still closed with the thumb.  Retain that breath, close the left nostril off with the ring finger, releasing the thumb from the right nostril and exhale through the right nostril.  This is one complete cycle.  

This is a relatively simple practice that can sound a bit confusing when reading.  Basically you are keeping your inhales and exhales even and moving from one nostril to the other, generally with an inhale and exhale on both sides.  The cycle starts and ends on the right.  You may choose to count as you inhale and exhale to lengthen the breath and to aid in keeping even inhales and exhales through both nostrils.  

This has a great effect on the autonomic nervous system and helps to calm the mind and balance the body.  For more information on Anuloma Viloma (drawings to guide you and some scientific evidence of the benefits of this pranayama practice), please check out this article  http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/pranayama/basic/viloma.asp.  

Categories: Meditations

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