Alternate Nostril Breathing
There are many different breathing techniques that can be used in meditation. In Clarity we generally use a breath that has a shorter in and a longer out breath to calm the nervous system and lower your heart rate quickly.
There are some other types of breathing that can help you with different hormones in the body and also to improve your heart rate variability (which lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke) and one of those methods is alternate nostril breathing.
How do you do it?
Alternate nostril breathing (sometimes called alternate nose breathing) is essentially like it outlines in the name – one nostril at a time then change. The idea is to block off one nostril, breathe out and then in the open nostril, close both nostrils and open the nostril that was blocked first, and repeat!
While it doesn’t sound all that difficult, getting the setup can be a little tricky at times so we have a little video and some images to help you get set up. We will walk you through the process on day 4 of the introduction to mindfulness, as well as in the Perfect daybreak and Daybreak Mindfulness in the sleep pack on the clarity app.
The video shows you how to set your fingers up and runs through a couple of breaths using this process:
We use the two fingers in the middle as an anchor for your hand to make it easier to balance your hands while practicing your breathing. If this doesn’t feel comfortable you could try balancing your hand like in the image below.
Image by Contemplative Studies
The main concept is to block off one nostril and with the open nostril breath out slowly, then in slowly. Once your lungs are full you close off both nostrils and have a small pause, then release the opposite nose (that was closed last time) and repeat the air going out then in again.
The action should be slow, gentle and smooth. You may need to clear your nose before you start to make sure you can access the most amount of breath possible.
For this position you need to be in an upright position. You can sit on the floor or on a chair with a straight but not rigid back. Lying on the floor will tilt your head slightly and not be the best to fully access the breath with one nostril blocked.
How long should you do and when?
The research isn’t clear on how many cycles will be of the most benefit. We would recommend a minimum of 3 full cycles to help you get in to the rhythm and build from there. In our morning sessions we take you through 10 cycles as this is a full 5 minutes of practice. You could use the silent mindfulness session to practice your alternate nostril breathing without guidance for 3, 5 or 10 minutes.
We advise this breathing method to be used in the morning for the best results. If you practice this breathing within the first 20-30 minutes of waking it actively helps to reduce your cortisol levels which have a peak around this time. This will help to reduce your perceived stress, heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. As well as setting you up for the rest of the day feeling clear and relaxed.
This practice is contraindicated in pregnancy as it includes holding your breath which is not advised.
We wish you the very best of luck with your practice – let us know how you get on!