A Mindful Breathing Exercise: Alternate-Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing from Jennifer Hartman on Vimeo.

Check out the above video, my first ever video blog, where I teach you how to do alternate-nostril breathing. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s actually pretty cool. This breathing practice comes from yoga tradition and in the yoga world, it is touted to have all kinds of benefits. Although  we don’t have enough scientific research to know for sure all of the benefits we get from this breathing practice, there is some suggestive evidence that this practice can help us feel calmer and more balanced.* Personally, I like to practice and teach it because the practice offers a structure that keeps us anchored mindfully in the current moment. It’s a great mindful breathing practice, and mindfulness practices are an excellent intervention for anxiety, depression, and the stresses of modern day living.

By the way, you are welcome to play around with the counts on alternate nostril breathing. I don’t believe there is any magic to the counts I suggest of inhaling for the count of four, holding for the count of eight, and exhaling for the count of eight. To get the calming and balancing benefits of this breath, though, try to make sure that your exhalation is longer than your inhalation. When you first begin to practice alternate nostril breathing, just do a few rounds, learning the steps and finding a comfortable, easy rhythm. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can gradually increase the number of rounds you do. I usually start my daily meditation practice with two to three minutes of a mindful breathing practice like alternate nostril breathing.

Happy breathing!

With gratitude and well wishes,

Dr. Jen

*For a great review of the science of breathing practices, check out The Healing Power of the Breath by Brown & Gerbarg.