(2 minute read)
Alternate nostril breathing
Yes. In one side and out the other. The ancient yogis came up with lots of different ways to breathe - for cooling off, warming up, concentrating the mind, relaxing, and all sorts of other health and cleaning benefits.
Alternate nostril breathing is one of those classic cure-all yoga techniques. It's a little weird at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will notice lots of subtle shifts in your energy. Sit up straight and tall. Close your eyes and take a few regular deep, slow breaths to get settled. Then place your right thumb over your right nostril and close it off. Inhale slowly through your left nostril for a count of 4, and then close it off with your index finger, open the right nostril, and slowly exhale for a count of 4. Then inhale through the right nostril for 4, and close it off, open the left, and exhale out. And so on. Try to sit still and breathe this way for several minutes, and as you practice, increase the count of your breath, and add a few seconds of holding the breath in before exhaling, and holding the breath out before inhaling. Not so much that's it's a struggle, just a few extra seconds of holding, and noticing.
Besides relaxing and revitalizing your energy, reducing your cravings or hunger, and cleaning the sinuses and the lungs, alternate nostril breathing is also really good for balancing both sides of your brain for more calm, clear thinking. It soothes the nervous system, improves sleep, and helps to regulate your body temperature. The left nostril is said to be cooling, the right heating, so if one side of your nose is "weaker" - bringing them into balance makes it easier to manage the shifts from blazing hot outside to refrigerated indoor environments.
A couple of cooling breath techniques are called Sitali and Sadant. They work pretty much the same way. If you can curl your tongue like a straw and poke it out of you mouth, pull the breath in long and slowly with a soft siiiiiii sound, then hold it in for a moment before releasing it through the nostrils, that's Sitali. If you can't tube your tongue, simply press the teeth lightly together, touch the tip of your tongue to the back of your front teeth, and pull the air in through the sides of your lips and teeth, with the same siiiiii sound, and release it also through the nostrils, that's Sadant.