Here’s a little something for you to try …. close off 1 of your nostrils with your thumb and see how easy it is to breathe through the other, now swap sides, do you find 1 of your nostrils is more dominant, easier to breathe through? Try it again in 2 hours and unless there’s some reason why you can’t breathe freely through 1 of your nostrils, I guarantee your dominant side will have swapped. Try it in about an hour and you should find they’re pretty much equal.
…And it gets better – I can feel the excitement building! If you did this every 2 hours over a 24 hour period, making a note of how you are breathing, you will find that you swap between left and right nostrils every 2 hours, all day long.
The brain is split into 2 hemispheres, left and right sides of the brain. The left side of our brain is our logical side, whilst the right side of the brain is much more interested in creative, fun and relaxing activities. The left side of the brain governs the right side of the body (and the right nostril). The left side of the body and nostril are governed by the right side of the brain. So our 2 hour nostril cycle will help to highlight which side of your brain you are favouring at the moment, ie. if we are dominant with the left nostril we will be much more open to logical tasks and vice versa. You can take this a bit further still. Try a balance practice, which nostril needs to be dominant for you to balance the best?
Of course we can still perform a logical task, when we are favouring the right side of the brain (left nostril), it just might take us a bit longer or we may get more easily side-tracked or confused (or on the plus side we could employ some creativity to solve a tricky problem), and it is still possible to be creative or relaxed when in the left side of the brain, but perhaps lack the flair or ease that we would have experienced if performing the same task with the right brain. It makes sense then, that if we could bring more balance between the nostrils, so that we do not swing so far one way or the other, we can function with greater ease, performing our tasks with clarity and focus, combined with a sense of joy and creativity.
One of the aims of yoga is to bring balance, unity and harmony to our mind, body and soul, and this understanding of the left and right hemispheres of the brain is key to that. The ancient yogis knew about this principle thousands of years ago and you can see much evidence of this innate knowledge in yoga teachings. We work in a very balanced manner in yoga – if you do a side stretch or a twist to the right, you do the same on the left, we counter a backward bend with a forward stretch and so on, always bringing the physical body back to our natural centre of balance. The great thing about this is that as we bring the physical body back into balance, the mind and emotions will follow so much easier.
We can also use breathing techniques to further improve our balance. Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhanam) being the most important … can you see where I’m going with this nostril / breathing theme?! So next time you find your physical, emotional or mental balance wavering, give this a try :
Sit comfortably, back nice and tall.
Bring the middle finger of the right hand to the bridge of the nose.
Close off your right nostril with your thumb, so that you can inhale through your left nostril.
Now close off the left nostril with your ring or little finger, open the right nostril so that you can exhale through the right nostril.
Keep the fingers where they are, inhaling through the right nostril.
Close the right, open the left, exhale through the left nostril.
This is 1 complete round. Repeat a few more times, working up to 10 if you’re happy to do so.
Regular practice of this pranayama should help you to feel more in control, improve focus and clarity and improve your ability to stand on 1 leg!
Give it a go and let me know how you get on. Ix