Alternate Nostril Breathing for Calm
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
One fundamental aspect of the yoga is pranayama, or breathing practice. Alternate nostril breathing is popular breathing exercise in various types of yoga including Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga. According to yogic texts, the body has nadis or energy pathways. Alternate nostril breathing helps to cleanse the nadi’s or energy pathways in the body.
Yogic literature claims that alternate nostril breathing helps to bring the left and right hemispheres of the brain into synch. Additionally, it is known to create a sense of grounding and centeredness, to improve energy flow in the body, and to promote a sense of calm. In some traditions of yoga, it is also known to help with headaches.
Recent scientific literature is beginning to demonstrate what yogi’s have been claiming for thousands of years. For example, studies now show that the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our nervous system that helps us repair from stress, was enhanced after practicing alternative nostril breathing and the sympathetic nervous system (stress response) was decreased. Additionally, studies have shown that alternate nostril breathing can help to improve cardiovascular health. With all of these benefits, why not try this wonderful, ancient breathing practice yourself? For a video demonstration, please visit
How to do alternate nostril breathing:
Use thumb of right hand to close the right nostril, and the pinkie or ring finger of the right hand to close the left nostril.
Close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril
Close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril
Inhale through the right nostril
Close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril
Continue repeating, alternating nostrils after each inhalation
Bir, S. K., Cohen, L., McCall, T. B., & Telles, S. (2019). The principles and practice of yoga in health care. United Kingdom: Handspring Publishing.
Kumari, S., Kaur, M., & Kaur, L. (2015). Effect of alternate nostril breathing exercise on cardiovascular functions among hypertensive patients. International Journal of Nursing Education, 7(3), 131. doi:10.5958/0974-9357.2015.00150.6
Sinha, A. N. (2013). Assessment of the effects of pranayama/alternate nostril breathing on the parasympathetic nervous system in young adults. JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH. doi:10.7860/jcdr/2013/4750.2948
Singh, S., Gaurav, V., & Parkash, V. (2011). Effects of a 6-week nadi-shodhana pranayama training on cardio-pulmonary parameters. Journal of Physical Education and Sports Management, 2(4), 44-47. Retrieved from http://www.acadjourn.org/jpesm ISSN 1996-0794