Yoga Breathing

Breath is absolutely essential to life. You can go weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without breath. In one day, you breathe in and out more than 20,000 times. Because your breathing is automatic, a function of your autonomic nervous system, you probably don’t give it much thought unless you have a breathing problem like asthma or emphysema, or you get pneumonia or bronchitis.

Yoga teaches you to be conscious of your breathing, to improve how you breathe, and to increase and strengthen your vital life-energy which is linked to your breathing.

Alternate Nostril Breathing
Nadi Shodana (NAH-dee SHOH-dah-nah)

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a breathing exercise that calms both body and mind.

At any given time, often without being aware of it, you breathe mostly through one nostril. It is usual for one side to be more open than the other. The nostril dominance switches every 2 to 2 ½ hours and is controlled by your pituitary gland, which is considered to be the master gland of your body.

Learning the Alternate Nostril Breathing technique takes a little practice, but don’t let that stop you. The key is to remember that whichever side you exhale from is the same side you inhale on. Use the finger placement to alternately block or unblock your nostrils, switching finger placement after each inhalation.

The finger position for Alternate Nostril Breathing:Hand Position

  • Make a loose fist with your right hand.
  • Extend your thumb and your fourth and fifth fingers (ring finger and pinky). Your other two fingers are curled against your palm.
  • This may feel awkward at first, but is the traditional hand position used for this breathing exercise.
  • Take a deep breath in to completely fill your lungs.

Begin the pattern of alternation as follows:

thumb positionThumb to Right Nostril

Cover your right nostril with your right thumb.

Exhale slowly through your left nostril.

Inhale slowly through your left nostril.



ring finger positionRing Finger to Left Nostril

Cover your left nostril with your ring finger as you release your thumb from your right nostril.

Exhale slowly though your right nostril.

Inhale slowly through your right nostril.


thumb positionRepeat Thumb to Right Nostril

Cover your right nostril with your thumb as you release your ring finger from your left nostril.

Exhale slowly through your left nostril.

Inhale slowly through your left nostril.


Continue, alternating the closing of each nostril. Consider one breath to be an exhalation followed by an inhalation on the same side.

Practice for at least 3 minutes, but as much as 5 minutes if you are comfortable. Then, sit or lie quietly for a minute to appreciate the mental clarity and quiet created by this breathing exercise.