Friday, May 3, 2013

WTFriday: Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Pranayama

In line with deep cleansing breaths... I swear I didn't plan this. I blogged about the power of deep breaths on Wednesday and then I experienced another cool breathing technique on Thursday. It's a lot of breathing this week y'all!

I attended a yoga class on Thursday, the first yoga class I've been to in far too long, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The class ended with something that I had heard of before, but had never tried for myself, pranayama.

getting my pranayama on

Pranayama is a method of controlling your breath and is said to have all kind of affects on blood pressure, your emotional state, and your heart rate. Most of what I found was anecdotal, so I looked into some scientific evidence of the effects of pranayama.

The anecdotal evidence itself is pretty neat. According to The Healthy Living Lounge, here are "12 Great Reasons to Start Alternate Nostril Breathing".

1: Revitalizes you2: Improves brain function3: Cleanses your lungs4: Calms an agitated mind5: Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain6: Encourage a calmer emotional state7: Improves sleep8: Great preparation for meditation9: Soothes your nervous system10: Regulates  the cooling and warming cycles of the body11: Clears and boosts your energy channels
12: Enhances rest and relaxation

I can't speak to all these supposed effects, but after pranayamaing (can I make this a word???) I did feel revitalized, my allergy symptoms were temporarily relieved, and I definitely felt less stressed about the rest of my day. I'm not sure how much of that was due to pranayama, pranayama plus yoga, or just the yoga itself.


Want to try it for yourself?

Hold your hand out in front of you, palm up, and fold down your first and middle finger. Bring your hand up to your face, palm toward you, use your thumb to close off your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Hold your breath a beat, tilt your hand to the right so that your ring finger is now closing off your left nostril and exhale out of your right nostril. Rest a beat and inhale through your right nostril, hold your breath for a beat, tilt your hand to the left so that your thumb is closing your right nostril again and exhale through the left. Rest and inhale again through your left nostril... tilt, exhale, rest, inhale, tilt, exhale, rest, inhale... and so on and so forth! When you're done, try to finish with exhaling out of your left nostril. 

I'm not sure about you, but I think I'll try this the next time I'm having trouble sleeping. 

As for scientific evidence, I searched for a bit and came up with very few nuggets of info. There were a few suggestions that it might help relieve asthma symptoms, which I was interested in because I have allergy and physically induced asthma, but the studies showed that there was no real difference between the control group and the group that used pranayama to treat asthma symptoms. If you're interested, the study is here.

Any students out there? Awesome news, pranayama can help reduce test anxiety! This study took groups of Masters candidates and studied the affects of pranayama on their pre-test anxiety and their performance on those tests. I also found related evidence showing that "alternate nostril breathing" reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, you can read more here.

Namaste everyone, have a wonderful Friday!

I've been practicing crow pose, held it for about 5 seconds!

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