If you've read my blog in the past, you may have seen me mention proper breathing as being integral to health and healing. How many of us even pay attention to how we breathe, let alone use specific types of breathing to further our healing?
My own history with breath work has been with traditional Qigong belly breathing. It was amazing how hard it was to take a proper deep belly breath when I first learned it. I had no idea how shallowly I was breathing before that.
Lately, I've added another type of breathing into the mix: alternate nostril breathing (or Nadi Sondhana), which is part of the yogic Pranayama tradition.
I'd vaguely heard of it in the past, but it never interested me until I read about the benefits of it in Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Dr. Claudia Welch. She comes from a Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda background. This is a seriously great book, as it gives real, practical context to things like yin, yang and energy flow and how they impact our health and hormones.
In the book, Dr. Welch discusses alternate nostril breathing as a powerful tool for brain balance and hormone balance, both of which I am striving to achieve right now. She even gives accounts of her patients having hot flashes and insomnia cease after implementing the practice.
Here are some of the alleged benefits:
-Improves brain function and brain balance. Deep breathing oxygenates the brain and alternating between each nostril activates both hemispheres. Favoring one nostril can also be used to activate the opposite hemisphere.
-A calmer mind. Who doesn't need that?
-Improves sleep. Breathing through the left nostril is said to especially activate a parasympathetic response and quiet the mind so your busy brain doesn't keep you awake and your body can relax.
-Regulates and balances hormone production through balancing the yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) energy in the body. For those who think that sounds wacky, consider that TCM medicine uses this as the premise for increasing fertility and balancing hormones and it has a great track record for getting the job done.
There are other benefits, too, but those are the big ones that appeal to me. Also, it's FREE, so how can I possible pass up trying it, right?
So far, I've only done a few short sessions, but it definitely has a profound effect on my mental clarity and it induces a nice, calm state. It also helps to clear my sinuses.
Here's a short video demonstrating the technique. She doesn't mention pausing between inhales and exhales, but it's really beneficial and quieting to the mind to pause between breaths. The usual pattern is to inhale for 4 counts, hold for 12 and exhale for 8. Long exhales really calm the mind and body and induce a powerful parasympathetic response.
Now, take a deep breath and enjoy!