In yoga, we breathe through the nose to activate the energy channels. The inhaled air allows the life energy to circulate. We only breathe through the mouth when we want to use the tongue as a key factor.
At first glance, there appear to be only two openings through which we can breathe. Yet in reality, there are... three, as the nose has two mutually independent openings! Let us focus on these two nasal openings.
We exist in a dual universe and are therefore dual beings. Polarity is the defining characteristic of this universe. And these two openings in our nose are vital to life and energetically linked to this essential polarity.
The left opening manifests the feminine polarity; the right opening, the male.
These polarities should not be regarded as separate from one another, as one cannot exist without the other. Together, they form a whole. Both are necessary, complete one another and nurture each other. They are both equal and equally important; neither is better than the other.
Each has its own particular qualities, exists within us and is more central at certain moments, and less so at others. We can use them for our maximum development and fulfilment at any time and during every phase of our lives. These two polarities flow through us all. The central channels through which they circulate start at the respective nostrils.
Yoga has created a variety of alternative breathing techniques to achieve subtle or specific effects. To this end, the nostrils, rhythms and inhalation and exhalation are combined with one another. Using our fingers, we can subtly help to emphasise or promote a certain effect or quality.
Spend a few minutes breathing just through your left nostril (use your finger to cover the right) if you want to relax and loosen up, need a more creative and intuitive mindset or wish to cool or refresh your body...
Breathe through your right nostril (keeping the left one covered) if you require greater mental clarity, concentration and determination for a task you are currently developing or if you want to be focused and concentrated and wish to warm and energise your body...
The body – or more precisely, the body-mind system – automatically uses this alternate breathing at all times. This vital body-mind system already unconsciously and automatically breathes alternately through each nostril during a period of around 90 to 150 minutes. And then changes over. It continues doing so day and night. We can influence the breathing flow in line with what we want to achieve: more activity and alertness, or greater calm and detail-orientation.
As soon as you start practising alternate nostril breathing, you may well sense that it feels more comfortable or easier on one side than the other. One nostril may feel open and your breathing seems be totally comfortable and pleasant. By contrast, the other nostril may feel blocked, even though you don’t have a cold, as though the air has greater difficulty getting through, and a sensation of being overwhelmed or of suffocation may set in.
But if we calmly allow our breath to flow through the nostril that feels blocked without rushing or forcing anything, then we will gradually notice that it becomes ever easier and that our breath can flow with less and less effort.
Try it right now! Pay attention as to which opening is easier to breathe through.
Sit down with your legs crossed and your back straight. You can also sit on a chair. Place your legs flat on the ground. Lay your left hand on your left knee and press the tips of your thumb and index finger together. This gesture brings alertness and calm. Close your eyes. Cover your right nostril with your right thumb and stretch your remaining fingers upwards. Breathe in deeply through your left nostril. As soon as you have inhaled, cover the left nostril with the little finger of your left hand and release your thumb to exhale through the right nostril. As soon as you have exhaled, repeat the cycle by breathing in through your left nostril and breathing out through your right nostril. Continue for 11 minutes. Finish by breathing in deeply several times and then relax.
Sit in a cross-legged position or get comfortable on a straight-backed chair. Place your legs flat on the ground. Cover your right nostril with the index finger of your right hand and breathe in slowly and deeply through your left nostril. Leave your relaxed left hand in your lap throughout the exercise. Keep your eyes closed. Continue for 1 to 5 minutes. Relax at the end of this exercise.
Sit in a cross-legged position or get comfortable on a straight-backed chair. Place your legs flat on the ground. Lay your right hand loosely on your right knee. Hold your left nostril shut with your left thumb. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly through your right nostril. Focus on your breathing for three minutes. Then breathe in deeply several times through both nostrils and relax.