You may want to do this in private, but do it you should – pranayama, alternate nostril breathing can improve sleep, boost your thinking, calm your emotional state and your nervous system. All it takes is a few minutes daily.

Yogis have believed for thousands of years that many diseases are a result of disrupted nasal breathing.

Your nose is directly linked to your nervous system and brain.

Your left nostril accesses the right hemisphere of your brain – the feeling area; and your right nostril accesses the thinking area. When you consciously breathe through alternate nostrils it activates your whole brain.

Here’s how:

1. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril.
2. Inhale slowly through left nostril
3. Pause for a second
4. Now close your left nostril with your ring finger and release your thumb off your right nostril
5. Exhale through your right nostril
6. Inhale through right nostril
7. Pause
8. Use your thumb to close off right nostril
9. Breathe out through left nostril
Begin slowly, without forcing your breath. Repeat this a few times and sit quietly for a few moments once you’re finished. You can also do the exercise by inhaling for four counts, holding for four and exhaling for four.

Note: If you have high blood pressure, it’s unwise to do this exercise. It’s best to practice alternate nasal breathing on an empty stomach.

Here’s why:

  • Just a few rounds of alternate nasal breathing gives your body a quick energy boost
  • It improves brain function by increasing oxygen to your whole brain, helping to clear foggy thoughts
  • This type of breathing removes stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs
  • Just a few minutes of alternate nasal breathing can calm an anxious mind. The ancient yogis believed that if you can control your breathing, you can control your mind
  • By helping you access and activate both sides of your brain, your ability to think and feel clearly is enhanced

TIP Use your knowledge of what the left and right nostrils access to give yourself a quick boost of either thinking or feeling by breathing through just one nostril, as the situation calls for.
If you’re battling to fall asleep, lie on your right side and gently close your right nostril with your right thumb. This will help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, calming you down and slowing your heart rate. If you’d like to try meditation but can’t seem to clear your mind, alternate nasal breathing is a great way to ease you into a meditative space.

Find a great yoga teacher in Cape Town or meditation retreat in South Africa to discover more powerful breathing exercises and techniques.

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