The Migraine Beating, Brain Balancing Breath

Trees in blossom at Hackney Marshes

Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhan) is a simple and safe yogic breathing technique which helps to balance the two hemispheres of the brain.

It is also incredibly beneficial if you suffer from headaches. It was the first yogic breath I learnt because I found it can stop a migraine in its tracks. I’ve successfully used this breath on a number of occasions to put pay to an oncoming migraine.

Left brain, right brain?

The left side of the brain, connected to the right nostril, is our logical and alert side and the right, connected to the left nostril, is our creative and relaxed hemisphere.

We rarely use these sides equally so one or the other will be dominant at any given moment in the day. Have you ever tried to perform a task that needs deep concentration only to be side-tracked at every turn? Or perhaps you need to think creatively and ‘out of the box’ but you feel restricted and unable to let your mind wander freely?

Here’s an experiment to try right now* so you can see what I am talking about:

  • Bring your hand in front of one of your nostrils
  • Breathe onto your hand
  • Repeat with the other nostril

Was the breath from one of your nostrils stronger than the other? Try it again in two hours time and see if the breath from the same nostril is strong.

Most likely your dominant nostril will have swapped over. This is because our breath follows an alternating pattern, shifting from one side to the other approximately every two hours. And it is not just the breath that is shifting, but how we are using the hemispheres of the brain too!

*unless your sinuses are bunged up with a cold or allergies, in which case wait until a time when you can breathe easily.

How to do Alternate Nostril Breath

Preparation

  • Adopt a comfortable seated position, with your back nice and straight
  • Bring the right hand up to your face with the thumb near the right nostril and the little finger near the left nostril and the middle finger on your brow, between your eyes
  • Support your right elbow with your left hand

The Breath

  • To begin close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through your left nostril
  • Then close the left nostril with your little finger and exhale through the right nostril
  • Keep the left nostril closed and inhale through the right nostril
  • Close the right nostril and exhale through the left
  • Keep the right nostril closed and inhale through the left nostril

Repeat, alternating so you breathe out, and then in, through each nostril in turn. Breathe easily and gently throughout – there should be no forcing of the breath and do not hold your breath at any point

Benefits

The benefits should be immediate. Alternate Nostril Breath will bring a sense of calm and balance, your breath will become deeper and more even, your focus and concentration will be improved and the flow of creativity enhanced. 

Working with the breath brings harmony to mind, body and soul but it can also work to balance up the two sides of the brain, helping you to work effectively across a range of tasks.

We’ll be working with Alternate Nostril Breath in classes for the next couple of weeks – come and have a go!

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