With time and practice, alternate-nostril breathing can bring better balance to your nervous system and lessen the stress response. It lowers blood pressure, slows the heartbeat, and lessens feelings of fear and anxiety.
The stress response is how our body reacts to stressful situations. Chronic activation of this stress response impairs health. The stress hormones norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol are released by the adrenal glands and make our heart pound, breathing quicken, muscles tense. Typically we feel some fear and/or anger.
This stress response is known as "fight or flight", and it evolved as a survival mechanism, helping us respond quickly to life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors such as a traffic jam, work pressure, and family difficulties.
Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Alternate-nostril breathing calms the nervous system, and triggers the relaxation response. It works by engaging the vagus nerve. When stimulated, the vagus nerve engages the body's parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, resulting in a sense of calm.
Here's how to do it!
- Sit up tall but comfortably
- Bring your right pointer and middle fingers to rest on your forehead between the eyebrows
- Close your eyes and take a deep inhale and exhale
- Use your right thumb to close your right nostril
- Inhale through your left nostril for a count of 6
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger and hold your breath for a count of 3
- Open your right nostril and release the breath for a count of 6
- Inhale through the right nostril
- Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and hold your breath for a count of 3
- Release your ring finger and exhale through the left nostril
- Repeat the whole process again...continue for 10 minutes. Practice daily!
The brain has two sides. Each nostril connects to the opposite side of the brain. Alternate-nostril breathing helps balance the two sides of the brain, and the result is a sense of equilibrium and peace.