Published in Senior Living Magazine October 2016, p. 34
In times of stress, we are told to slow down, step back, and take a deep breath. Just breathe! Sounds trite doesn’t it? What do you mean “just breathe?” I am breathing! Yes, we are allowing nature to take its course through what is known as our “reptilian” breath, the unconscious breath. To discover conscious breathing through Yoga is a liberating experience.
The first step is the healthy practice of breathing through the nostrils – our natural filters, temperature regulators, and breath regulators. Becoming more aware of the nostrils through Yoga helps us strive for balance. Take notice of which nostril is more open than the other. This may change throughout the day as nature regulates our body temperature through the left cooling nostril, and the right warming nostril. However, if the same nostril is consistently allowing less air to flow through, this can be a sign of imbalance related to anxiety or depression. The practice of alternate nostril breathing helps in this discovery, and to achieve balance. Those of us with sinus trouble will first feel no air flowing at all, but with practice soon come to realize that more air is flowing through the nostrils.
Begin your alternate nostril breathing practice:
- Sit tall; extend the top of the head toward the sky; tuck the chin slightly to allow space for the breath.
- Rest the index and middle finger on the bridge of the nose; rock thumb and ring finger back and forth to gently open and close the nostrils on each side.
- Inhale through the right nostril, and exhale through the left nostril for three rounds.
- Inhale through the left nostril, and exhale through the right nostril for three rounds.
- Keep the breaths slow and controlled, completely filling the body with air on each inhale, and slowly releasing all of the air on the exhale.
- Practice the alternate nostril breathing daily, increasing the number of rounds each time, and perhaps increasing the length of the breath on each inhale and exhale.
- At one point, try the exercise without using your fingers to open and close the nostrils – rest your hands by your side and enjoy the control you have over where you bring air into the body.
So much more to share on the conscious breathing practice in Yoga – in the meantime, I hope you will find balance in this practice of alternate nostril breathing.
“Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures: It is our home.” (Rolf Gates)
Julie Hunt-Juneau, RYT 200
Yoga By Water
Bayou Bonfouca, Slidell, LA
 “When breath is taken through the mouth, there is nothing from mouth to lungs to strain the air, or to catch the dust and other foreign matter in the air.” (Yogi Ramacharaka, “Science of Breath” VI, p. 24)