I’ve been fascinated for quite a while with how stress affects my body, and with all the incredibly simple things I can do to change that. One of the practices which is right up there on my list of amazingly simple ways to relax yourself, is alternate nasal breathing or ALB.
It’s a cleansing and calming yoga practice, which recreates the natural alternating nostril breath pattern which should happen over the course of the day, but which happens less and less frequently as our bodies age and become more diseased.
This is how it’s done. Hold your right hand in front of you, with your palm towards your face. Block your right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly through the left nostril. Then move your thumb away, and block the left nostril with your little finger, exhaling through the right side. Once you’ve exhaled, breathe back in through the right side, keeping the left blocked, and then exhale through the left, with the right side blocked. Repeat this for as long as you can, with a breath rate of around 5 per minute. Ideally you do it for at least 15 minutes, but I often use it as an emergency manoeuvre where I do it for about a minute, and it brings pretty much instant calm.
Because it’s almost impossible to really think about anything else while you’re doing it, ALB becomes a meditation in itself. As with all relaxation techniques which involve slow deep breathing, ALB has an instantaneous effect on your heart rate, slowing it down, by stimulating your parasympathetic, or calming nervous system. There is a bucket load of research out there on the practice, and how it affects your nervous system and your cardiovascular system, but something which interests me is the idea that the effects are not just temporary. They are at their peak in the first 15-30 minutes following practice, but there is evidence to suggest that if you practice long term, then your parasympathetic nervous system is essentially trained to become more dominant.
That sounds like a dream come true to me…a sea of calm! I’m going to perform an independent study on myself, and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!
Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT