Breathe in, breathe out


How often throughout our day do we find ourselves stressed out, frustrated, or completely overwhelmed? If you’re anything like me, it’s all too often. (Really, though, once is too often, isn’t it?) Well, friends, I have a pretty cool technique to teach you that will help you to calm yourselves down and center your minds. It’s a breathing technique called alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana. It’s a method of pranayama, which is a fabulous yogic tool. Pranayama is the fourth limb (of eight limbs) of yoga. The word is Sanskrit, and derives from the words “prana”, meaning life force (particularly “breath”) and “ayama”, which means “expansion”. (Some would say that the second half is from the word “yama”, which means “control”. Either way, good stuff.) There are several methods of pranayama.  Nadi Shodhana translates to “channel cleansing” or “clearing the channels of circulation”. And, ladies and gents, this is how you do it!

Find a comfortable seated position. You can do this on the floor in lotus (if you’re that flexible), cross legged, or if you’d rather, you can sit in a chair. However you sit, make sure your spine is nice and tall. Place your left hand, palm down, on your left knee. You could place it palm up in gyan mudra (fingers extended with the index finger and thumb touching), but I find that the palm down method is more grounding. On your right hand, bring your index and middle fingers to the palm of your hand and keep the other fingers extended (it should look a little something like this).

photo-41If this is at all uncomfortable for you, keep the first two fingers extended and just rest them gently on your forehead between your eyebrows. Take an inhale, and when you exhale place you ring and little fingers on the left side of your nose to close the left nostril, and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, release the left nostril and place your thumb to close the right nostril, exhaling out the left side. Inhale again, switching sides before each exhale. If it’s comfortable, try to make your exhale slightly longer, and exhale fully. Your breath should be gentle and quiet, not forced at all. Breathe within your comfort level. It shouldn’t be an awkward struggle!

You can repeat this several times. If you’re at work, you can do this right at your desk and in  no time you’ll be feeling much more calm and centered. If you don’t like the idea of people watching you do this at work, sneak off to the bathroom and give it a try! And if you’re embarrassed and worried people might wonder why you’re in the bathroom so long, well… that issue calls for a whole separate blog post, buddy.

This practice of pranayama helps calm the mind, gets the left and right brains working together more harmoniously, clears the nadi (energy channels in the body) for prana (energy or life force) to flow through more smoothly, and in general just makes you feel peachy. It gets the oxygen flowing to the brain and, c’mon, whose brain doesn’t need that?  Because alternate nostril breathing is so calming and centering, it’s great to do just before you meditate, too.

So hopefully I’ve given you a tool you can use whenever you need a nice, calming break throughout your day, and that you won’t find yourself in too many stressful situations that call for it. Although, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras say that with the practice of pranayama “fitness of the mind for concentration is gained”. So why not do it every day? Namaste, friends!


  1. Elaine McIntosh says:

    Thanks for the cool information! I’m going to use it every day. :)

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