A Circle of Noses

Take a deep breath in, and then a deep breath out.

Now do it one nostril at a time.

Okay, lesson over.

Otherwise known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, nose breathing is just about one of the easiest, most healthy calming and meditation techniques on hand. As long as you’re not congested.

This is a great all-around technique. It’ll help condition and train every part of you, together.
Heck, you could even call it holistic.

Looking at sources, it seems best to be practiced on an empty stomach with the eyes closed. Proper posture can help too!


The Practice

  1. Start in a comfortable seated position. Or stand. Lay down. Probably don’t walk, though – you may get lightheaded if you’re not careful.
  2. Raise one hand to your face. Let the other one stay in your lap, your pocket, wherever.
  3. For the more ‘official’ yogic practice – place the tips of the pointer and middle finger of your face-hand right between your eyebrows. Place your thumb against one nostril. Place your pinkie and ring finger against the other nostril. Or, just improvise.
  4. Start with a nice, deep breath in. We’re not going for speed or force here. Instead, try to keep your breathing (at this step and after) smooth and relaxed.
  5. Press one nostril gently closed. Exhale through the other nostril only. This is the real trick of it – try to exhale at a steady pace. Let your nasal passages relax. I know it may take a bit of force if the path is tight, but it’ll relax eventually.
  6. Inhale through that same nostril. Same idea here – keep it calm and steady. If you inhale too quickly and forcefully, you may actually tighten the airway, making it even more difficult. Just relax. It’s literally less work to have an easier time here.
  7. Once your lungs are nice and full, or as full as you want them to be, go ahead and switch nostrils. Open that other one up, close the one you just had open.
  8. Exhale.
  9. Use the same new nostril to inhale through.
  10. Repeat for… a while. Different practices say different amounts; some say no more than 5 minutes, some say 5 / 10 / 20 minutes, while some mention going for 5-9 ’rounds.’
  11. End the practice with an exhalation through the left nostril.

The pattern is : Exhale, inhale, switch. Exhale, inhale, switch.
You’ll always be breathing in through the same nostril you just exhaled through. Switch when your lungs are full, stay when they’re empty.

Nadi Shodhan Pranayama condensed guide

So what does this thing do?

That all depends on which version of this you use, how deep you go, and what you believe in.

Let’s split things simply: Do you refer to it as nose breathing or Nadi Shodhana?
If you look at this as nose breathing, it’s touted as being able to:

  • Improve respiratory function
  • Improve focus
  • Increase breath retention
  • Clear and strengthen breathing channels
  • Help reduce overall mouth breathing
  • Improve the function of both halves of the brain, separately

If this is a pranayama (yogic breathing practice) to you, it’s going to do a little bit more.

Beyond helping the physical body in purely physical ways, Nadi Shodhana helps with the purification (shodhana) of the energy channels (nadi) present all throughout you. By separating the two sides and focusing on an even balance between the two, you can bring balance to the energies of both; the sun and moon, masculine and feminine, hot and cold. (The potential build-up of excess heat gets released in that final left-nostril exhale)


Whatever the reason for looking into this, however far you intend to take it – I’d recommend at least giving it a try. Regardless of the spiritual implications of this practice, the physical side is pleasant enough to go on.

Still, if you’re looking for more resources and trying to decide whether this is all alright, here are a few places you might be able to look further.

On the practice itself:
From The Art of Living
From Healthline
From Banyan Botanicals
From Jivamukti Yoga

For studies on the benefits and effects of such uninostril breathing: Science Direct
For the effects of YBP (Yogic Breathing Practices) on the lungs of competitive swimmers (and hint, it’s good news long term): Science Direct

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