A guide to alternate nostril breathing / Nadi Shodhana / Anulom Vilom

We’ve all been in that space where we can’t hear ourselves think. To do lists coming out of your ears, cooking dinner whilst replying to emails on your phone, on loud speaker on hold to the doctors, kids claiming starvation and the pooch is mooching around your ankles waiting for his dinner. The head is literally ready for falling off haha! So you either run for the hills and do a Thelma and Louise, go to the bathroom and lock yourself away or JUST BREATHE!  Trust me, the latter is the better choice!

So today Im going to share with you a breathing technique I learned over my many years of practicing Yoga, a pranayama exercise that has quite literally saved my life and many others (let’s not go there haha!)

Alternate nostril breathing  is a simple yet powerful breathing technique that settles the mind, body, and emotions. You can use it to soothe the body/mind before beginning a meditation practice, and it’s really helpful to ease racing thoughts if you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or having trouble falling asleep.

There are a few different styles of alternate nostril breathing, but they all serve the purpose of creating balance and regulating the flow of air through your nasal passages. The term Nadi Shodhana means “clearing the channels of circulation.” This may be the most common label for this breathing exercise but it’s also known as Anulom Vilom. Anulom vilom does not retain the breath at the end of the inhale and the end of the exhale though. 

Benefits Of Alternate Nostril Breathing


With just a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing, you can restore balance and ease in the mind and body. Sometimes when we feel frazzled or find ourselves doing too many things at once, it’s because energetically, we are out of alignment. This breath is great for restoring that necessary balance.

  • Supports our lungs and respiratory functions
  • Restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the energetic channels
  • Rejuvenates the nervous system
  • Removes toxins
  • Settles stress

Whether you’re nervous about a new experience approaching, anxious about a conversation, or just generally stressed out, Nadi Shodhana is a simple, quick and calming way to bring you back to your centre. If you find it difficult to settle into your meditations, try moving through a few rounds of this pranayama exercise first, then remain seated and shift directly into stillness; this should help to ground you before meditation.


Don’t force the breath, invite the breath

alternative nostril breathing


How do we practice Nadi Shodhana alternate nostril breathing.

Next time you find yourself doing too many things at once, or you sense panic or anxiety begin to rise, move through a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. It’s a great way to hit the reset button for your mental state.

1.Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open.

2.Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face.

3.With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers we’ll be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.

4.Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.

5.Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.

6.Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.

7.Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.

8.Inhale through the right side slowly.

9.Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).

10.Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.

11.Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.

Steps 5-9 represent one complete cycle of alternate nostril breathing. If you’re moving through the sequence slowly, one cycle should take you about 30-40 seconds. Move through 5-10 cycles when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or in need of a reset button.


Help with easing anxiety and stress fast!


Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on. This system is also known as the rest and digest.

Tip: Consistency is helpful, so try to match the length of your inhales, pauses, and exhales for all methods.

For example, you can start to inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, hold for five. You can slowly increase your count as you refine your practice.

3 Things to Remember When Practicing Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
  • The breathing pattern is breath out, breathe in, switch sides.
  • Don’t force the breath, invite the breath – keep it gentle and natural. Allow the breath to be smooth and even without creating force or pressure. Do not breathe through the mouth or make any sound such as in Ujjayi breath.
  • Place the fingers very lightly on the forehead and nose. There is no need to apply any pressure.
Medical and Health Considerations

Contraindications: None. However I would suggest avoiding this technique if you have a really blocked nose or a fever. Also avoid retention of the breath if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, suffer from migraines or pregnant. I would suggest consulting your GP first.

While a regular yoga practice can result in improved health, know that it is not a substitute for medical treatment. It is important to learn and practice yoga under the supervision of a trained teacher. In the case of a medical condition, practice yoga after consulting a doctor.


Learn some more powerful yogic breathing techniques with me or the team in our online yoga classes or one to yoga sessions. 


Remember, if you need any more tips, please don’t hesitate to comment below or get in touch with me.


Much love, Lea