You’re about to give a presentation at work. Your stomach starts to flutter. Your palms are sweaty. And suddenly, you can’t even remember what you’re supposed to talk about. You are wrapped in anxiety’s strong grip.
Now, imagine the same scenario, but you know a breathing technique that can help you feel calm, centered, and focused. Before the presentation, you close your office door and do three minutes of alternate nostril breathing. As you walk to the presentation, you feel grounded and ready to confidently share the information.
What is Alternate Nostril Breathing?
We breathe all day, every day, and most of the time, we probably don’t notice or think about breathing. But, mindfully breathing through alternating sides of your nose for about 5 minutes can help you ease anxiety, increase concentration, and lower your blood pressure.
Alternate Nostril Breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana pranayama, is a quick self-care technique. It involves breathing out and in through one nostril while keeping the other nostril closed with the fingers, then switching sides. You don’t need any special props or a huge chunk of time to experience the benefits of this pranayama technique.
How can this help me?
A recent study showed that alternate nostril breathing helped lower anxiety levels before public speaking events. Even if you don’t have to give a presentation, wouldn’t it be nice to feel grounded and centered while increasing concentration with a few minutes of breath work?
Here are some more benefits that you could experience from using alternate nostril breathing regularly:
- regulate stress
- lessen anxiety
- reduce blood pressure
- lower heart rate
- be present in this moment
- balance nervous system
- improve memory and focus
How often do I need to breathe like this?
When you’re first learning a new skill, it is helpful to practice it frequently. Pranayama techniques are no different. If alternate nostril breathing is new to you, I’d recommend practicing it daily for about five minutes. You can always add more time if you choose, but consistency is more important than duration.
Choose a time of day when you’ll remember to practice. I like to do pranayama in the morning. So, after I brush my teeth, I set a timer for five minutes and do a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. Then, it’s time for coffee!
Once it becomes familiar, you’ll remember to use it when you feel stressed, anxious, or before that next presentation.
How do I breathe this way?
- Take a comfortable seat and lengthen your spine.
- Place your left hand on your thigh, and bring your right hand in front of your face.
- Bend down your right-hand pointer and middle fingers (you will only be using your thumb and the last two fingers of your right hand).
- Inhale, then use the right thumb to close off your right nostril.
- Exhale through the left nostril.
- Inhale through the left nostril.
- Open the right nostril. Use the right ring and pinky fingers to close the left nostril.
- Exhale through the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril.
- Repeat for about five minutes, letting your breath be slow, steady, and comfortable.
If you’re doubtful about the effectiveness of breathing in and out through different sides of the nose, I’d challenge you to commit to a daily 5 minute practice for one week and see if you notice any changes.
This experiment won’t cost you anything, and you don’t need any special equipment. But the reward of feeling focused, grounded, and present is priceless.
Let’s practice together!
I weave a variety of breathing techniques into my online classes. Join me to learn alternate nostril breathing and other helpful breathing techniques.
Here’s a short video tutorial that will teach you how to do alternate nostril breathing.