Yogic Breathing: How Your Nose Can Contribute to Your Zen

At the Intake Office, we’ve been trying to practice our zen a little more. There are so many ways to do this–taking a walk on the beach, hitting up your Mindfulness app, Kondo-ing your living space–but our favorite (of course) is breathwork.

If you practice yoga, you’ve probably dabbled in Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling our breath, and thereby our life force (prana: vital force, yama: to draw out). Lately, we’ve been pretty into Nadhi Shodana, or Single Nostril Breathing, a form of pranayama that’s said to help balance opposite energies within the body to create a state of harmony. Each nostril is said to rule its own distinct domain: your left nostril is associated with ‘cooling’ energy–calmness, empathy, sensitivity–and your right nostril is associated with ‘warming’ energy–vigor, will power, drive. Breathing consciously through each ensures you can harness these energies appropriately. If this sounds a little woo-woo for your sensibilities, stay tuned: there’s scientific backing to this. 

Similar to classic, double-nostril nasal breathing, alternate nostril breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers our blood pressure and helps regulate our heart rate (it controls the opposite functions of our sympathetic nervous system, which prepares us for strenuous activity and kicks off our fight-or-flight response). Alternate nostril breathing has also been shown to strengthen our respiratory function, as well as improve coordination and focus. Sound good? Here’s how you do it:

  1. Start by taking a comfortable seat. Take a few deep breaths, and relax into your body. 
  2. Rest your left hand on your lap or your knee, and allow your eyes to close.
  3. Seal off airflow to your right nostril by either pressing the knuckle of your pointer finger under your nose. 
  4. Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril.
  5. Close your left nostril with the knuckle of your middle finger, and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril.
  6. Close your right nostril, and release your knuckle from your left. Exhale through your left nostril.
  7. This is one full cycle. Repeat this pattern for as long as you wish.
  8. When you’re finished, allow both arms to relax and breathe normally for a few moments. Then, open your eyes.

Feeling just a little more balanced? Us too.