Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Image credit - Unsplash Iva Rajović
It's fair to say it's been a year. I'm finding in my yoga classes students are loosing their balance standing on two legs. It feels a like we're all just a bit out of sync.
So if like many you've spent the year struggling with motivation and are vaguely overcommitting to resolutions you know you'll never keep to compensate. I'd like to bring your attention to your nose. More specifically your nostrils. I always assumed that they both worked at the same time.
You know -
Breathe in. Breathe Out.
Two nostrils, one nose. It turns out they take turns and rotate duties so at any given time one is on standby. It's a clever system especially when you have a cold and a single nostril picks up double-duty. So what do noses have to do with finding balance at the end of yet another (insert adjective of choice) year?
Now here is where it gets interesting, the yogis believe in energy channels called nadis. While there isn't much in the way of peer-reviewed literature on the nadis themselves there is rather a lot on meditation and pranayama techniques (which this is, a breathing exercise). Both have been proven to have calming effect on the nervous and cardiovascular system. The general idea is that the nadis run through the body in a configuration a bit like the serpents you see in the medical logos, figure 8s with extra twists, and can be unblocked or balanced through breath work.
One pranayama (breath) technique nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing is theorised to align both channels.
So how do you do it?
Organise your hand in front of your face, with your thumb over one nostril and ring finger over the other. The two middle fingers rest between your eyebrows and pinky is tucked away. You can use the other arm for support to hold the arm in place.
Gently close the right nostril with the ring finger and breathe in through the left.
Gently close the left nostril and breathe out through the right
Keeping your fingers where they are, breathe in through the right
Reverse your hold, breathe out through the left.
I find it helps to imagine a slinky bouncing from hand to hand to remember not to swap sides too early.
One of the studies looking into the restorative effects of the technique had people practicing for to 20minutes.* I'd suggest this is a lot. You might find a couple of rounds back and forth to be plenty. Go with what feels good and stop if you're feeling lightheaded or getting anxious. Also be a bit cautious if low blood pressure is a problem for you. You are going to be breathing anyway so why not mix it up a bit? Plus it's faster than running a bubble bath or listening to a murder podcast to try and shake off the year. You never know, nadis (or energy channels) may exist and we just haven't found a way to measure them yet. Footnote: If you're interested to read about the effects on blood pressure you can see one of the articles here. *Though it's worth noting this was a small study of 25 yogis who most likely were familiar with the technique before the study. Similar studies (all with small test groups) found similar results.