When you work with an Ayurvedic doctor or counselor your prescriptions aren’t the traditional medications. You’re instead given prescriptions about which foods to eat, yoga poses to do, spices to favor, and breathing exercises and meditations to focus on.
Now, breath might not sound like the most important thing to fix your health issues, but it’s a lot more powerful than you think!
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Why breath is so important for your health
On a cellular level, oxygen is your fuel. There is quite literally no energy or ATP if there isn’t sufficient oxygen. Where do we get our oxygen? Breath.
Breathing is also important for getting rid of waste products. Carbon dioxide and other gasses leave our body through our breath. This is not optional; clearing carbon dioxide from our body is necessary for consciousness and life.
Traditional cultures understood the power of breath
In yogic philosophy, our energy is known as “prana” which literally means “breath”. It’s the breath flowing through us that gives us life. It is our source of energy, mentally and physically.
Our current problem with breath
Well…we forget to do it. A lot. Humans have the unfortunate quality of holding out breath when something is tough. When we hold the breath in (which seriously..notice if you’re doing it right now!), we stop the flow of prana in our bodies. It activates our sympathetic nervous system (that’s the “fight or flight” response), and our carbon dioxide levels in our bodies rise, perpetuating the cycle of stress.
Even if we’re breathing, many of us breathe shallowly, only using the top half our lungs. This reduced capacity means that we have to take more breaths. We’re essentially panting and again, raising our stress levels as we activate our sympathetic nervous system.
How to regulate our breaths for better health
The first step in regulating your breath is noticing it. Having a mindfulness or mindful movement practice where you deliberately take deep, long breaths can do wonders to impact how you breathe on a daily basis.
Second, you can actually practice breathing techniques to help alter your energy and state to what you need in the moment. Pranayama in yoga are breathing exercises specifically designed to impact your energy in different ways.
Today I wanted to share one of my favorite breathing techniques, nadi shodhana. Nadi shodhana is also known as alternate nostril breathing.
The benefits of nadi shodhana
This breath technique is great for all 3 doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha). It is balancing and calming without putting you to sleep. This is a perfect pranayama technique to use before you go in to a meeting. It helps the right and left side of your brains connect (so you’re smarter!), while calming and toning the nervous system. Because it’s so balancing, nadi shodhana is also great for releasing anxiety and stress.
How to practice nadi shodhana:
- Place the pointer and middle finger of your right hand on the third eye (right between the eyebrows). Place your fourth finger lightly on the left nostril, and your thumb lightly on the right nostril.
- Take a deep breath in and breath out.
- Press the thumb to close your right nostril, and then breathe in the left nostril. Close both nostrils, and then release the thumb to breathe out your right nostril. Breathe in through the right nostril, and then close both nostrils. Release the fourth finger to breathe out the left nostril. This is one round.
- Repeat step 3, taking deep, slow breaths through alternate nostrils. Repeat for 5-10 rounds.
Take your time with this because breathwork is powerful! If you feel like you’re getting out of breath or dizzy, please stop! You can build up to more repetitions over time.