The Breathing Exercise That Absolutely Melts Stress Away
I used to think that I needed to finish all my never-ending work in order to “deserve” a rest. However, that’s not practical or true: burnout does not actually make a person more productive, and putting yourself through undo strain is just plain unkind. Instead, try to weave in mini moments of relaxation throughout your busy day. This breathing exercise, called Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing (ANB), can help you feel calmer — even on your most stressed-out days.
Nadi Shodhana benefits
Nadi Shodhana has been shown in studies to reduce blood pressure and have beneficial cardiac effects on people who have a stressful lifestyle. I find this breathing exercise to be very effective because it slows me down and turns my attention inward. It can also be completed anywhere: at your desk, on the subway, or in the bathroom between meetings.
How to do it:
- Sitting in a comfortable position, place your left hand on your left knee, palm facing up for receptivity, or palm down for grounding.
- Lift your right hand up toward your nose, and fold your index and middle finger so that they are touching the pad of your palm. Your ring and pinky finger are outstretched and pressed together, and your thumb is straight as well. Your fingers will look a little like bull horns.
- Inhale deeply, and then exhale completely. Then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your ring and pinky fingers, then release the thumb from the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril, then close this nostril with your thumb. Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side.
This completes one cycle of Nadi Shodhana. I suggest doing a few rounds to feel the full effects and really get a rhythm going. One to two minutes is a perfect period of time to practice this pranayama, or breathing exercise, but you can practice for up to five minutes if you have the time.
End the practice by breathing out through the left nostril last. Then, release your hands to your lap while you breathe normally and deeply for a moment before returning to your day.
Jezmina Von Thiele (they/them) is a 200-hour Kripalu certified Yoga Instructor with a Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga Certificate. They are a dancer, healer, artist, art model, and tell fortunes in their mixed Roma/Sinti family’s tradition. Follow them on Instagram at @jezmina.vonthiele and visit jezminavonthiele.com for more.
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