Take A Breath

“Let your worries drop by the wayside.  Feeeeeel the stress fall away with each exhale.  Inhale, now reeeeeach a little further, keeping your core aligned, exhale, now reeeeeach……reeeach…..”

The soft melodic voice tries to soothe me as I struggle in a tangled pretzel mess of a position they call the Eagle.  I call it the ‘Abused Pretzel’.

Give me Plow pose all day long.    Ohhhh oh no….I’m tipping over….. “thud.”

And that’s Yoga.

Everything is sore.  It’s been months of three times a week of discovering new things about me.  I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had.  New places every time. They say this practice is supposed to calm you.  Somehow, I seem to always be sweating, swearing, grunting and gasping for air and surely turning blue on some of those poses and am anything but calm.  Exhausted?  Yes.  But calm?  It’s impossible to defy the laws of physics.  How everyone else in the class is able to stick their big toe into their ear is beyond me.  Seriously?  Yoga is without a doubt a practice of excruciating pain and embarrassment.  My body just doesn’t bend in those ways.

But someday, yes, someday it will.  It will because I keep going back for more.  More punishment.  More, give me more Down Dog!  More Warrior 1, more planks, and don’t forget to throw in a backbend or two or three!  Eventually I will improve my practice enough to be able to take a breath.  Until then, there will continue to be an occasional “thud” in the back of the room.  That would be me.  What the heck, the floor is a good place to be.  Solid.  Very solid.  I’m just stretching….

But it’s not all moan and groan.  There is one redeeming element of Yoga.  A surprisingly easy feat to master, too.  The practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing, or “Pranayama”.  This one simple activity can actually be life changing.  And the good news is, you don’t have to be quadruple jointed to pull it off!  It only requires you to sit comfortably, and take a breath.  I can do that!

According to the ancient ways of the Kundalini Yoga gurus, there are two energies called Ida and Pingala  that run up the sides of the human spine, intertwining like a grapevine gone wild.  They unite to form the Sushmana, or, the central channel.   In scientific terms, they are referred to as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system, or Pingala on the right side, is your danger alert system that engages the fight or flight mode.  The parasympathetic system, Ida, on the left side, is more of the regulatory system, and focuses on keeping your day to day bodily functions operating well.  Just think if either is not operating at full capacity.

“Left handed people are the only ones in their right minds.”   Or vice versa.

The “calm, creative, feeling” hemisphere of your brain (the right side) becomes engaged by breathing through your left nostril. The “thinking” hemisphere of your brain (the left side) becomes engaged by breathing through your right nostril.  By alternating your breath between either nostril, you are able to activate and engage your whole brain.  Practicing regular Alternate Nostril Breathing presents an array of health benefits.  In fact, here are 5 good reasons to consider incorporating it into your daily routine:

 

First and foremost, it is a profoundly calming ritual. 

It brings you back to center.  A place of wholeness and well being.  Alternate nostril breathing will break away pent up stress being held in the body and the mind.  This is a critical tool for coping with things that turn our world upside down.  cloudsYou can feel the clenched fist inside of you melting away almost immediately.  Before you respond to a difficult situation that’s got your blood boiling, that unreasonable boss, colleague, neighbor or significant other, take a breath and purge the stress away.

 

Second, it improves the ability of your brain function at peak performance.

Let’s go back to the right and left hemispheres of the brain and what they represent. Our bodies need oxygen to live. Often throughout the day as we stress and work and run, our breathing quickens, shortens, becomes restricted, and we basically starve our minds from much needed nourishment.  Feeling less creative than normal, less sharp, not as attentive, or a little sluggish are all signs of being at less than peak.  Focused, one nostril breathing feeds and restores the imbalances in your brain, and increases your calm, clarity and ability to execute critical thinking.

 

Third, it promotes whole body housekeeping. 

Calming your nervous system helps your inner workings to regulate and cleanse.  Deliberate, focused breathing oxygenates your blood, and has been known to clear out impurities from the lungs, and decrease respiratory and circulation problems.   By focusing on one nostril breathing and deepening it, you “dial up” and engage the parasympathetic nervous system to move from a stressed state, into a relaxed state.  You can effectively manage many ailments and pain by feeding and taking care of your nervous system, the lifeline that feeds the whole body.

 

IMG_1140Fourth it aids with insomnia and overall better sleep. 

A ‘must-do ritual if you’ve found yourself staring at the ceiling more than once, or waking up repeatedly throughout the night.  Calming your nervous system automatically calms your emotional state, and washes away the tension and anxiety that goes with it.  De-stressing at bedtime with focused breathing not only relaxes the body to a state of rest, but slows the heart rate to promote a deeper, more restful sleep.

 

Fifth, and lastly, it will boost your energy.

Consciously pulling oxygen through your nose cleanses, nourishes and energizes your whole system. Just a few minutes of focused breathing is better than a power nap if you are starting to lose steam throughout the day.  It will kick start your body into a refreshed and renewed state of strength, calm and clarity.

 

You can practice Alternate Nostril Breathing virtually ANYWHERE!  In the privacy of your home, your office or “cube”, your car, the bus, on the subway, or anywhere that allows you to sit comfortably and safely for a few minutes.

  • Need a “pick me up” in the middle of your day? Try 5 minutes of Right Nostril Breathing.
  • Simply want to boost your overall energy, prepare to ace a test or get your game on? Try 5 minutes of Alternate Nostril Breathing.
  • Need to calm down, get better rest or just be able to relax enough to fall asleep? Try 5 minutes of Left Nostril Breathing.

 

Eight Easy ‘Get Started’ Steps for Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Close your eyes and sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor, with relaxed shoulders and nice straight aligned spine.
  2. Rest your left hand palm up on your left knee.
  3. With your right hand, anchor your middle finger between your eyebrows, float your ring finger on your left nostril, and your thumb on your right nostril.
  4. Gently hold your thumb down to close the right nostril and exhale through the left. Count to 4. Take care to not force your breath.
  5. Inhale in from the left nostril to the count of 4, hold for 4, then close the left nostril gently with the ring finger.
  6. Let go the right thumb from the right nostril, exhale out from the right, counting to 4.
  7. Inhale from the right nostril to the count of 4, hold for 4, close with thumb, and exhale from the left to the count of 4.  Round one is completed.
  8. Repeat these steps 7 – 10 more times.  Pay attention to how your breathing will slow and deepen with each round.  With continued practice, your breathing pattern will become smoother, deeper and longer.

Dedicated Right or Left Nostril Breathing is just that…follow steps 1 – 5 repeating only on the one side.

IMG_0910

The Yoga Pretzel Poses may come eventually, but Alternate Nostril Breathing can be mastered today!  So go ahead and give it a try.  Empower yourself with a feeling of fresh, renewed, calm and energy.

Take a breath!

 

Contact PR Brady AdVentures for individual and group gatherings focused on health, wellness, and taking care of YOU!

Don’t Want to Miss a Thing? Subscribe to My Blog

Comments

  1. Patty, thanks for the reminder about the benefits of yoga:) I need to get back to my yoga classes.

  2. Yoga can be exhausting and liberating all at once! I haven’t done the alternate nostril breathing in quite a while but know how great it can be. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. This is cool. I used to do this, a long time ago, after reading Perfect Health, by Deepak Chopra. If my nostrils weren’t plugged up from allergies, I would try it right now!

  4. How awesome! I learned so much reading your post….I’ve only tried Yoga once and failed miserably at it! But, you are right….I think I can actually succeed at this right/left nostril breathing thingy! I’m gonna give it a try! Thanks!

  5. Wonderful post. I absolutely love working with kundalini yoga. A good reminder to get this one back into my daily routine. Thank you

  6. Thanks for sharing! I could think of so many times during the day when this would be so useful. I can’t wait to try all three variations of nostril breathing. I started doing Kundalini yoga just last year and I love it. I’m currently following spiritvogage.com’s 40 day global sadhana and it’s been amazing so far. Sat nam 🙂

  7. Oh wow! I just did a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing, and I do feel quieter and more energized at once. I do this breath in yoga class with my wonderful instructor guiding us, but I’d never thought to do it at home as part of a quick pick-me-up. Thank you for reminding me that rejuvenation is right at my fingertips — and right at the tip of my nose! 🙂

Speak Your Mind

*