Breathing, or pranayama, is one of the eight limbs of yoga. Often practiced in an effort to regulate your respiratory process and emotions, pranayama also calms the mind. Alternate nostril breathing, a yoga breathing exercise, helps to reduce blockage in your nasal cavities and to allow the breath to flow freely through your body.
Sit tall in a cross-legged position on a soft surface, such as a yoga mat or blanket. Bend the index and middle finger of your right hand. Press the right thumb against your right nostril to close off the airflow. Breathe in through the left nostril for a count of five. Hold the breath in for one count. Then remove your thumb and press your ring finger against your left nostril. Exhale through the right nostril, also for a count of five. Repeat in the opposite direction by inhaling through the right side and exhaling through the left. Continue for 10 full cycles.
Focusing on your breath as you slowly breathe in and out during alternative nostril breathing helps the parasympathetic nervous system to relax; the parasympathetic nervous system functions to slow your heart rate. In turn, stress, anxiety and mental tension can be decreased. Less stress and tension can help to control your emotions, which allow you to more easily solve problems or deal with a distressing situation. This slow, repetitive deep breathing, called nadi shodhana, also helps to clear the nostrils and lungs. Practitioners with high blood pressure should avoid holding their breath while performing alternative nostril breathing.
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