“Just breathe” can be a powerful and yet sometimes frustrating statement to hear when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. You might think, of course I am breathing! Yes, we are breathing all the time but what messages are being given to our brain, and subsequently our bodies, via our breath? The breath shifts the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in our blood, which signals our brain to change bodily functions. Can we truly change the way we feel in our bodies and minds, just by changing our breath? The answer is YES!
In the December newsletter, we discussed the autonomic nervous system and the physiological changes that occur when we are in either sympathetic or parasympathetic modes. The ‘3-Part Even Breath’ was offered in order to help shift the nervous system into a calmer state. Changing your breath is the fastest way to affect hormonal signaling in the brain and the entire body.
More and more research is emerging on how we can control our body chemistry, mentally and physically, just by conscious breathing. Pranayama or breath practices have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years. I’d like to teach you another practice called Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. It balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and increases focus. This is a powerful practice that will calm your mind and body if you feel overwhelmed and can be utilized when that little voice in your head says, “just breathe”.
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Sit comfortably, feel your feet on the ground
Block right nostril with right thumb, inhale through left nostril
Block left nostril with right ring finger (rest pointer and middle finger on your forehead as shown in the picture above), exhale through right nostril
Inhale through right, block right nostril, and exhale through left
Always change the side after inhale and before exhale
Start with ten rounds and gradually increase to twenty.
There are many videos online to help learn this technique but the visual of a mountain helps me. Climb the mountain as you breathe in on one side, switch nostrils at the top, exhale with the opposite side to go down the mountain, stay on that side to climb back up the mountain, etc. So, you are always switching sides at the top of the inhale and exhaling with the opposite side.