Alternate Nostril Breathing

Life is all about finding balance.  The yin and the yang, the dark and the light, the ups and the downs.  We are fortunate to have two sides of the story, two hemispheres of the brain and two nostrils of the nose with which to balance.

The 3 main nadis, or meridians, the two major pathways of energy parallel to the spine are the ida and the pingala.  And they terminate at the base of the two sides of the nose.  When we focus our breath through one nostril or the other, we are stimulating that pathway; corresponding to the moon – calming energy – on the left, and the sun – invigorating energy – on the right.  Through a simple pranayam (breathwork) meditation we can help to bring balance to the two opposing forces in our lives.

Alternate nostril breathing is exactly what it sounds like.  As with other meditations, it’s ideal if you can sit and center yourself first.  Bring your palms together into a prayer pose, “tune in” with a mantra, or otherwise signal to your consciousness that it’s time to set aside whatever is going on in the world for a moment, and to go inward.  Once you’re ready to begin, try this:


To begin, block off your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale (through your left nostril) a long, deep breath.

Then, switch by blocking your left nostril with your index finger and exhale (through your right nostril) slowly and completely.

Inhale again, this time through your right nostril (no change in posture).

And finally switch back to the original position, blocking your right nostril with your thumb, and exhale through the left side.

The whole sequence is: inhale left, exhale right.  Inhale right, exhale left.


Go ahead and try it right now, for 3 minutes, and see how it feels.  Remember when practicing this or any breathing technique to pay attention to how you feel.  If you start to get light headed or dizzy, please stop for a minute and breathe easy until you feel better.   Then, if you’d like, you can continue.  The goal is to find peace and balance, not to cause more stress.

This is a great exercise to do because it can be done just about anywhere and it works quickly.  Play with it, try it for more or less time, and add it to your tool kit.

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