woman in meditation pose practicing yogic breathing

Breath & Mind: Find Inner Calm with this Simple Yoga Breathing Practice

Joy Stone
Updated: 
March 11, 2020

Thirteen years ago I completed my first yoga teacher training. It was in that setting that I came to understand the powerful relationship between the quality of our breath and the quality of our mind. 

Yoga teaches that “as the breath flows, the mind goes.” If our breath is fast and choppy our mind can feel uprooted and scattered. However, when our breath is smooth and long our mind has the potential to feel grounded and stable. It is in this luminous and balanced state that our inner light is set free to shine.

The miraculous thing is that our body-mind system is always seeking balance—even when we aren't consciously aware of it—so we can experience more joy and more love. 

How Yogic Breathing Balances the Nervous System

At any given moment we breathe predominantly through one nostril. It is estimated that every 90  to 150 minutes the dominant nostril alternates. Physically, this process helps bring balance to our nervous system, brain and mood, and serves to regulate our sense of smell, therefore working to support our entire endocrine system.

Energetically, when our left nostril dominates, our feminine (or moon) energy is stimulated and this activates qualities such as calming, cooling, receptivity, empathy and sensitivity. When the right side dominates our more masculine (or sun) energy is stimulated and this activates qualities such as alertness, concentration, vigor, and willpower.

We need this energetic balance, and our body-mind-heart system is built in with this knowledge. Life is magical. 

One way to engage and work with this sophisticated process is through a beautiful breathing practice called “dominant nostril breathing.” This practice can promote mental balance.

If you are familiar with alternate nostril breathing, this practice is slightly different. There is no use of the hands to close off one nostril.

Try This Simple Pranayama Practice: Dominant Nostril Breathing 

  1. Sit comfortably with your spine straight.

  2. woman in meditation pose practicing yogic breathing outsideClose your eyes gently and keep them closed throughout the breath practice.

  3. Take three deep breaths to center yourself and connect with your breath.

  4. Then, allow your breath to find its natural rhythm.

  5. Simply observe your breath coming in and out of the nostrils. 

  6. Bring your attention more closely to your nostrils and notice which nostril is dominant. Through which nostril can you feel more air moving in and out? 

  7. Spend a minute or so feeling the breath moving in and out through this dominant nostril.

  8. Then consciously switch the dominance to the other nostril. Feel the air coming all the way up into the nostril and out. Stay here about a minute or so.

  9. Switch the dominant nostril again.

Do this as long as you need, switching every 30-60 seconds until you begin to feel mental balance and ease come over your body and mind.

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Reprinted with permission from JoyStoneCoaching.com

yoga author Joy StoneJoy Stone is an experienced and certified Yoga Teacher and Personal Transformation Coach. She is also the founder of Soul Subscription – a holistic online membership designed to help you stay consistent on your spiritual path and true to yourself. With over 13 years of professional experience, she is passionate about helping men and women break free from fear, frustration and overwhelm and breakthrough into a life they truly love. Joy's special style of coaching uniquely blends the most essential tools & life-empowering practices from eastern and western psychology & philosophy. She received her positive psychology education under Harvard Professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, Wholebeing Institute and her yoga teaching certification under the Anusara style -- a therapeutic application of yoga psychology and practice. You can learn more about Joy and her work at www.joystonecoaching.com