Great Reasons To Start Alternate Nostril Breathing:

“I rest well.  I sleep peacefully, and I awaken with joy”  Louise Hay

Your nose is exceptionally clever. Simply by practising a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) for a few minutes each day, you can help restore imbalances in your brain – improve sleep – calm your emotional state – boost your thinking – calm your nervous system.  How impressive is that!

Another interesting fact about your nostrils, is that you don’t breathe through them equally all the time.  Right now, you will be favouring either your left nostril or your right nostril.

Left nostril for calming – right nostril for energy:

Your nose is directly linked to your brain and nervous system. For thousands of years the Indian yogis believe that many diseases are connected to disturbed nasal breathing.

Breathing in through your left nostril will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain.  Consciously alternating your breath between either nostril will  allow you to activate and access your whole brain.

Yogic breathing, the perfect relaxation tool:

I happen to believe alternate nostril breathing is up there, as one of the most therapeutic calming rituals.  It’s the very reason I include it at all my  Slow Retreats.  It profoundly helps to settle, cool, calm and nourish an agitated mind and wired nervous system.   Even after only two minutes you can feel and notice a distinct difference as to how you feel.

12 benefits of alternate nostril breathing:

1: Revitalizes you:

A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.

2: Improves brain function:

When you mind is dull – concentration and clarity is poor.  Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function.  Five minutes of alternate nostril breathing before an exam or interview is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance.  Remember the brain loses hydration first so drink water as well.

3: Cleanses your lungs:

A daily five minute practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.

It wasn’t until I started reading the The Tao of Natural Breathing body’s waste products are eliminated via our lungs.

4: Calms an agitated mind:

I’m prone to worrying.  A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful (for me) in calming my  “over thinking” and “over-doing” mind.

The ancient yogis believe that if you can regulate your breath, then you can control your mind.

5: Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain:

Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.

Try it out next time you need to drive your car.  Cover your left nostril with your thumb and breathe only through your right nostril for one minute.  This should keep you more alert when driving.

6: Encourage a calmer emotional state:

In times of emotional distress and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states.  The longer you practice, the more stable your thinking, and the calmer your emotions will become.

7: Improves sleep:

If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril.  This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.  Left nostril breathing is cooling, calming and nourishing for your whole being.

8: Great preparation for meditation:

Alternate nostril breathing is a simple little trick that can be practiced for a few minutes before you begin your meditation practice.  It’s a very easy way to help you find your meditation groove.

9: Soothes your nervous system:

By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system.  You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response.   Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on.  Gosh, your breath and nose is very clever.

10: Regulates  the cooling and warming cycles of the body:

Left nostril is feminine, nurturing, calm, receiving and cooling.  Right nostril is masculine, heat, competitive, doing, active and force.  Favouring one nostril more than the other can effect the heat or coolness of your body.

11: Clears and boosts your energy channels:

Slightly forced alternate nostril breathing improves and directs the flow of energy throughout your body – preventing sluggishness.  It oxygenates your blood and allows the energy (prana) in your body to be strong and flowing.

12: Enhances rest and relaxation:

A restless mind cannot relax.  Alternate nostril breathing melts away an imbalances between the right and left hemisphere of your brain and calms your thinking.  This is perfect for helping you access rest and relaxation far more efficiently.

An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:

Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril.

Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril

Step three: Pause for a second

Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril

Step five: Exhale through your right nostril

Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril

Step seven: Pause

Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril

Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril

Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase.Never force.Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished.

There are many, many different techniques of pranayama such as inhaling for 4, holding for 4 and exhaling for 4.


Do not hold your breath if you have high blood pressure.  More advanced methods of pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) need to be practiced with an experienced practitioner.  practicing on an empty stomach is preferred.


Here’s a couple of book recommendations:
The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work

Light on Prãnãyãma: The Yogic Art of Breathing




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One thought on “Great Reasons To Start Alternate Nostril Breathing:

    1. There are many variations. This is called alternate because you alternate. You can do simply IN left. OUT right (calming). Or IN right, OUT left (energizing). Also, as in other practices either you can use your pinky to block off the nostril or the index finger (not just ring finger). Alternate is probably the most powerful off all three versions, as you are balancing the entire brain – but it depends what you need at the time. Also, breath holding patterns for this practice range – but it is said to inhale 4, hold 16, exhale 8. Or a 1:4:2 ratio. Try 3, 11, 15, 22 or 31 minutes of this practice. 31 minutes will help you recover from any shock to the system.

    1. I believe that men should start by exhaling through the right nostril then inhaling through the right, then switching. Women should start by exhaling through the left, then inhaling through the left, then switching. The right is the masculine side, the left, feminine.

  1. I’ve been doing it every day since that day. I find my focus is much better. I use to always do a standard 10 breaths in through the nose out through the mouth before I “really” sit, but this seems to improve my concentration. Good stuff, keep it coming.



  2. @Jack I agree – the mind does seem clearer and more focused with a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. The best part is it seems to work almost immediately. Nothing like a good dose of oxygen injected into our body and organs.

    @Patricia. Thrilled the reminder was great timing for you. I love simple and you certainly can’t get any simpler than alternate nostril breathing. In fact the more I research about our breath the more I find just how vital and life enhancing it is.

  3. Utter rubbish, you will not give more oxygen to a brain hemisphere by favoring one nostril! The air goes to your lungs and then through the bloodstream to your brain the same way no matter what nostril you use!

    1. Actually, that’s not true. You have nadis and nerve ending on either side of the body- as well as the nostrils – which have different purposes and effects. That’s like saying your left pinky is the same as your right pinky. Or the left side of your brain is the same as the right side of your brain. You may not realize it yourself, but yogis over time have discovered much more subtle relationships and differences between the hemispheres of the body, and science today is (behind as usual) backing that up.

  4. lol batman, ur hella nub. The air stimulates the brain regardless and there are receptors in your nose newb.

  5. Heck, I’d be happy to be able to breath through my retinitis nostrils. They are always swolen and I can never breath properly.

  6. It is good to see simple proven things to help us feel and be better, my friend forwarded this to me and I plan to check it out . Thanks

  7. Amazing post! I regularly practice yoga, pranayam and meditation. Alternate Nostril Breathing is an amazing and highly effective technique of “Pranayam” – the science of Breath and Prana. It revitalizes us from deep within and has a host of excellent benefits as you have mentioned. Keep up the great work!

  8. I just read about this and decided to do a little more research before trying it (I err on the side of neurotic). Your article is helpful, but I’m excited about all the other content I found here as well, like the journal writing essay. Thank you for the work here. XOXO Nickie

  9. I used to do this regularly, and I got out of practice. I was writing a blog post about breathing exercises, and did a search on alternate nostril breathing benefits and found this site. What a find! Not only did you give me a lot of great reasons for starting this technique again, I now have a great new blog to follow. I just subscribed. 🙂

  10. Hi! This is wonderfully clear and well explained. Thank you for the reminder to take time for alternate nostril breathing. It is so calming, yet I rarely do it. I am subscribing 🙂

  11. I often use alternate nostril breathing to wake me up when I’m feeling drowsy and it helps. That’s my own experience. Being a singer I also like to use it and teach it to some students as it can help breathing for singing.

  12. Realy it is good for beginners, but what about nauli practitioners.thanks to you for guidence.

  13. I teach this method to my high school students. They said it feels like when they get high. Maybe someday they will look to this natural high before reaching for illegal or harmful substances.

  14. I find that alternate nostril breathing has a wonderfully calming effect, I practice it for a whole 5 minutes, an hour in advance of events that may otherwise make me feel nervous – such as doing a presentation, a test or exam. It definately reduces stress levels for me as a mature student.

  15. Does anyone do alternate nostril breath as part of an asana practice? I like to do this pranayama right before savasana. However, I was told that it should come after savasana because savasana is part of the third limb (asana) and alternate nostril breath is part of the fourth limb (pranayama). I’d be interested in hearing from other yogis about this practice.

    1. You can do it at any time. I usually do pranayam, asana, then sivasana, and then meditation. Prana gives you the energy to do Asana. Resting after Asana integrates the effects. And once the body is tired out and rested, time for Meditation (which can totally include pranayam!). 🙂

  16. I have been doing this breathing more than once a day for nine months. Plus I do a great deal of of other pranayama. I am off anxiety medication ( 6 months) that I was on for fifteen years. This is powerful information when used daily. Make it what you do, svadhyaya.

    1. Hello Linda,
      Great to hear that you have been able to overcome your anxiety.

      I have been suffering from anxiety, panic and mild depression for the last 8 years ( i am on medication but that does not seem to work anymore). I feel hopeless at times. I really want to know what breathing techniques you do to overcome anxiety. Any useful tips would be appreciated.


  17. Two Questions – one for Pyeng. I’m a singer and also have asthma – I’m wondering how alternate nostril breathing would help.

    Two – I have high blood pressure – welol controlled – I hold my breath between breaths – why not?


    John Hansen

    1. Simple straw breathing is fantastic for singers…….inhale thru nostrils, put straw in lips and exhale out the straw. Touch tongue to the roof of your mouth to ensure you inhale through the nostrils again (or remove the straw) and exhale thru the straw again. Just close the eyes and if they become agitated, you’re working a bit too hard. Pay attention to what you are feeling as your guide and take breaks if needed. Start with a short practice and lengthen as you improve and it stays with a sense of cultivating ease.

  18. An 18 year old just walked into my office in a strange mode.
    It occured to me that he should do this breathing.
    He resisted so I asked him if I could provide him with 12 reasons to do
    the excercise would he do it.
    He said yes.
    So I typed into the google oracle – benefits of alternate nostril breathing and came upon you here.
    We only did it for five minutes and as we walked towards the kitchen, he said actually I do feel different. Clearer and calmer.

    Would it not be a wonderful world where instead of television blasting adverts us all day, there would be reminders to breath consciously, to take a little stretch, to drink some water.
    This is so powerful, why is it not known by every human?

  19. Breath is the only connection between your body and brain so how you breath it effects your moods and health.Live healthy and happy.

  20. My septum was crooked and I could barely breathe from left nostril. Even after the operation I breatehe mostly from right nostril.
    May be that is the reason for my insomnia? I tried it gently today and I do feel substantially calmer.
    Thanks for great post.

  21. Hi Carole, I have just discovered your lounge this week and have really enjoyed checking out the great posts. I’m a yoga teacher – mainly restorative and mindful yoga – hope you don’t mind I have adapted this article and passed it onto my students crediting you as the original writer! Look forward to reading more of your writings. 🙂

    1. Hi Kath, the more people who fall in love with the restorative benefits of alternate nostril breathing the more peaceful our planet. Wisdom is for sharing. Thanks so much for passing it on. Peace, love and chocolate, Carole xx

  22. I have just stumbled onto this website in a quest to try and help cure my anxiety problems which keep recurring. The left nostril breathing really does seem to calm me down, just got a new baby in the house and ive been struggling with sleep….before he arrived, ive been panicking, so i will give this a try and hopefully it will work, as not getting any sleep on a regular basis really can ruin your quality of life.


  23. This is really interesting. Especially about the left side being calming, and the right side energetic. I’ve been kinda worrying the last few days, so I’m definitely gonna try this out. Calm myself a bit.

  24. Its called allom villom in ancient yoga , the information given above is correct and further more the increased oxygen reduces the free radicals in the body and boosts the immune system . On daily practise twice a day 1/2 hr each has shown great improvement in life threatening disese. Since the increased oxygen in RBC’s help boost the body and mind as a whole . Please check divyayoga site for more information

  25. I have a deviated nasal sectum and lately has started to affect my sleeping capacity. For some time i went to sleeping pills but i realised they should be treated with moderation and non frequently, so, maybe this breathing excercise could be the answer for me. Deffinitely trying it out.
    I think sleeping is nos just rest. I am a dream recaller and I love to enter into lucid dreaming states.
    So if i cant sleep, i will loose some of my “Mental Disneyland”… If it works, i will be VERY happy. Thank you for posting this technique.

    1. Roo,
      similar situation as me ,, i was in a mental drunk state with anti depressants , i tried this breathing exercise Yoga is very common for India
      feel better ,lungs feel like drycleaned and washed .Please try this . Best of sleep and dreams …

  26. I should be doing this. I have terrible allergies and a chronically blocked nose. It’s the one thing I haven’t been able to cure naturally yet. Maybe this will help.

  27. Thanks for an intresting article!

    I have noticed that my left nostril is nearly blocked all through my day, while at night when I awake from sleeping, it is opposite, then I breath from my left nostril and my right nostril is almost blocked. Do you have any suggestions for how to change this? Is there a way to unblock so that I can breathe through either one of them by choice? As it is now it is impossible to breathe through my left unless I close the right, but then I get very little air!

  28. I have been practicing the alternate breathing as well as deep breathing over the last about 6 years & results are amazing………….over and above spend 15-20 minutes daily in morning sun ( not later than three hours of sunrise ) .

  29. Heya! I know this is somewhat off-topic however I needed to
    ask. Does running a well-established blog such as yours take a lot of work?
    I am completely new to writing a blog but I do write in my diary every
    day. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips for new aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!

  30. From my early teen I used to breath long and my chest expansion was from 31-36 at the age of 25. Now I am past 73 . For the past six months I am breathing
    from right nosestril and leaving the breath by left. This I am doing for the past six months. After I practised this I got new energy and stamina. It is very difficult to continue this through out the day and night, but I am able to control by consentration Breathing takes place as one way and my heart feel so light and smooth while breathing. I am sure this will keep in good health with out any ailment. I am the only person succeeded in this attempt and trying to continue months together as I feel young both in mind and body

  31. Hello Carole,
    I have been suffering recently from anxiety problems which causes me increased heart beat. It always kept me in an agitated state. I wasn’t able to relax, focus or concentrate in my studies. I wasn’t able to perform well in my studies. I was worrying badly that I have lost my personality because of these recent experiences of anxiety.
    Just today I made up my mind to see a counseller or some professional with whome I can talk about my problems. I was just giving a try searching remedies for it online and ended in your page…
    I have heard about pranayama and was even taught this technique in my schools. But now that I have forgotten, I have tried watching many videos on it… Wasn’t very happy with methods.. They differed from each so wasn’t sure if I could follow those videos. I’m really excited to read your page and it kinds of makes me really relaxed. I am now gonna try this and now have no idea of meeting a doctor for anxiety problem:).. Thanks a lot for your great and generous writing about the precious exercise.. I am very excited that I couldn’t even resist myself from leaving a comment. Great job Carole. Looking forward for your writings.. Good Luck for all your future projects:)

    1. Hi Priya, how wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for sharing a little about your life. I would suggest starting with simple belly breathing to help relax and deepen your breath. Don’t worry about anything too complicated at this stage might only add to your anxious feelings. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. xx Carole

  32. Thanks! So any advice on how to open my left nostril? It seems im always blocked. Ive been overthinking, not sleeping well etc, so this matches what ive been feeling.

  33. Hi!
    Thank you for this article, very thorough and helpfull. 🙂
    I had practiced different breathing techniques through yoga and meditation but never knew much about the effects of alternate breathing.
    I tried it a few times and loved it, but noticed my left nostril is always a bit blocked, which makes it a bit uncomfortable…
    Any suggestions about what I could do to help it?

  34. Hi,
    I sometimes block each nostril with cotton or tape for maybe a couple of hours on each nostrils and then change back. Is it a good idea to practice this very slow alternate nostril breathing?
    It seems like I build up light air hunger – I also like to do Buteyko breathing exercises – and it relaxes me. It slows down my breathing frequency and makes my breathing light. It gives me a general pleasant feeling, and It for sure gives me great passage in both my nostrils.


  35. I realize I have probably spent most of my life breathing through my right nostril because my left is often constricted. Could this be a part of the cause of my anxiety? How do you recommend is the best way for opening up my left side?

  36. When I went Home for 10 days Break, First thing I wanted to do was to learn Yoga, and I met My bro’s Yoga Master , first thing he taught me was “Alternate Nostril Breathing” which is doing wonders to me especially in terms of Mind coordination and Energy Level. With respect to the Article , It is well presented and riveting. Thanks for the Inspiration Again.

  37. I am a singer and voice teacher. My first voice teacher taught me this 40 years ago and I have used it over the years to calm me and deepen my breath before performing. In the last few months I have begun to use it in every lesson with my students, particularly those who can’t seem to access the low, released breath needed for singing well. It really helps and gives immediate results. I thought it was because the breath was slowed, and I’m sure that is part of it, but from my experience your explanation rings true.

  38. Being an Indian, I have heard a lot about Pranayam but there is this weird thing with us, we never believe in the science that originated from our country. Sounds bad? Yep, it is.
    Even when I knew a lot about this, I would have never done it. But your article did force me to consider this seriously and I would.
    Thanks for the advice. I am happy that I stumbled across your blog today and got such a great health lesson. 🙂

  39. For about 1 month i feel that breath exhalation i.e air is not coming out of my right nostril. Is it blocked stuff or what . When i put my hand against nostrils i have noticed this. Lungs power affected?

  40. My counselor just recommended left nostril breathing for calming down my nervous system. I’m left handed. I’ve always been told the hemispheres are backwards? Should I be closing the left nostril for calming instead of right?

  41. Im 25, In past few years i suffered a lot due to anxiety, depresion, restlesnes n lack of concentratn ruined my studies. I tried medication and various things bt i found solution with alternate breathing. And after noticing i found people with right nostril breathing are always restles nd face many prbs and vice versa. So go on with it ur left nostril chokeup wil get cleared in two days and than practice regularly.

  42. Great article :).

    Im a massive fan of alternative nostril breathing for “resetting” my autonomic nervous system balance, as im prone to getting into a “fight or flight” state due to being stress prone.

    Alternative nostril breathing rocks 🙂

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