Do This One Breathing Exercise To Reduce Anxiety And Stress


I’ve been suffering from bouts of anxiety in the last few weeks leading to the BIG move. I guess you can say it's my first real job as a married woman and I was afraid of failing.

I’ve tried my own tips in overcoming anxiety that has helped me previously, like Creating PositivityHow to Live Life (Safely) and Getting Excited.

But they don’t seem to apply in this situation. I could feel the panic and fear come in drips - my eyes straining, restlessness seeped in, my breath felt shallower.

If I don’t manage my anxiety levels, my neck will start tensing up, which leads to migraines, insomnia and ulcers. 

It did get to that stage however the moments were fleeting and I think what helped (and was different) was including Alternate Nostril Breathing in my morning meditation practice.

In fact, I started a ritual - 

First thing when I woke up, I made myself warm water with ACV with lemon to improve my energy levels, I do simple body movements to wake up my body and a 1 min rag doll pose, then I found a comfortable seat.

To be honest, my meditation practice is pretty erratic, and having this self-care ritual gave me access to create a space for stillness.

It’s the first time I’ve consciously practiced pranayama and I can feel my nerves settling down and my mind clearing.

What is Alternate Nostril Breathing (NADI SHODHANA)?

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great breathing technique to practice whenever you are feeling anxious and unsettled, and also to calm the mind and prepare for sleep at the end of a stressful day.

Another name for Alternate Nostril Breathing is Nadi Shodhana. In Sanskrit, nadi means "energy channel” - the passage through which breath and energy flows and  shodhana means "cleansing”. In other words alternate nostril breathing stimulates the energy channels that run throughout the body like electrical wires.

The simplest way is alternating one breath in, one breath out. 

Close the right nostril with the right thumb, inhale through the left, 

Gently close the left, then exhale through the right. 

Inhale through the right, close the right 

Exhale through the left.  


How to start:

  • Always start in a comfortable seat, sitting tall in a chair or supported comfortably in a cross legged position. If sitting is not possible, this can be practiced laying down, with the spine and knees support comfortably with a bolster or pillow. 

  • If you are seated, rest your left hand on your lap or knee, palms facing or down in your favourite mudras.

  • Close your eyes and focus at your 3rd Eye. 

  • Breathe diaphragmatically. Let each exhalation and inhalation be the same length—smooth, slow, and relaxed. Do not force the breath or allow it to be jerky. Let each breath flow without pause. Gradually increase the length of the breath.

  • Start the Alternate Nostril Breathing. 

  • Breathe relaxed, deep, and full for 3-5 minutes.

  • Remember to be gentle. Simply rest the thumb or finger against the side of the nostril; this does not require more than a light touch. You’ll finish with an exhalation through the left nostril.

  • Once you are complete (with last exhalation through the left nostril), drop the hand and take in a couple of diaphragmatic breaths through both nostrils. 

  • Notice how you feel.

Nadi Shodhana Vs Anuloma Viloma

When researching, another name came up which was Anuloma Viloma.

The name comes from the Sanskrit, Anu, meaning “with”; Vi, meaning “against” or “contrary to”; and Loma, meaning “hair.” Anuloma, therefore, means “with the hair” or “with the grain,” and Viloma means “against the natural course.” 

Most people say they are the same, but some depending on which yoga school or teacher they prescribe to, say that Anuloma Viloma is the advance of the other and vice versa.

I still can’t figure out which one is which hours of goggling.

I guess the summary is that there are different ways of doing the pranayamas, and who cares of the name. I’ve been taught it as Nadi Shodhana and I’ll stick with the name I’m comfortable with.


Breathing consciously is a powerful act. It is one of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga - the yogic guide to living a blissful life. 

 It offers a direct link for balancing the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-relax) branches of the nervous system.

By nature, we are usually dominant on one side or the other; the right brain (creative, artistic) or left brain (intellectual, mathematical). 

The right nostril is directly related to the sympathetic part of the brain, the “fight or flight” mechanism. It activates the Pingala Nerve Ending which relates to alertness and activity and is associated with the sun energy, which is a constant, masculine, yang, and hot. 

On the other side, the left nostril is directly related with the parasympathetic part of the brain, the “rest and repair” mechanism. Left nostril breathing activates the Ida Nerve Ending in the left nostril, which relates to calmness and relaxation and is associated with the moon energy, which is changeable, feminine, yin, giving, and cool. 


  • Strengthens the respiratory system

  • Calms the nervous system

  • Oxygenates the blood

  • Improves circulation

  • Improves focus

  • Alleviates stress

  • Relieves respiratory issues

  • Relieves headaches

  • Promotes mental clarity

  • Prepares the mind for meditation

  • Cleanse and balance energy channels 


Not recommended if you have high blood pressure or undergone abdominal surgeries, heart surgeries, brain surgeries. Please should consult the medical expert or consultant before you try yoga or any of pranayama exercises.


1) Right Nostril Breathing:

For Increasing Energy (Active)

Breathing through the right nostril for five minutes can energize yourself and raise your blood pressure. clarity focus and more energy

2) Left Nostril Breathing:

For Relaxation

Breathing through the left nostril for five minutes can calm you and lower your blood pressure.

Tip: If you can’t sleep at night, lie on right side, close your right nostril and breathe through your left nostril.

3) 3-3-3 Variation

For balance and nourishment 

Close the right nostril with your right thumb, then slowly and gently inhale and exhale three times through the left nostril.

Then close the left nostril with your ring finger and breathe three times in and out of the right nostril. 

Next open both nostrils and consciously feel the breath coming in and flowing out of both nostrils three times


Repeat this, completing 4-5 rounds or ideally for a duration of 10-12 minutes. 

Release and return to regular diphragmatic breathing. Notice how you feel.

4) Chanbdrahedana:

FOR when THERE’S too much heat in your system, anger or irritability

Basically it’s an inhalation through left nostril and exhalation through right nostril and this completes one round.

Close off the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril, then close the left nostril and exhale through the right. Again, inhale though left, exhale through right.

Repeat for up to 5 minutes. Release and return to regular diphragmatic breathing. 

5) Suryabhedana:

For when you are are in a low mood, feel depressed, have cold limbs, or low mental or physical energy

The inhalation starts from the right nostril and exhalation from the left nostril and this completes one round.

Close off the left nostril and breath in through the right, then close the right and exhale though the left. Again, inhale right, exhale left. 

Repeat for up to 5 minutes. Release and return to regular diphragmatic breathing.

6) Alternate nostril breathing with retention (advanceD)

Beginners to start with a simple ratio of 1:1:1, 1:2:2 which is more accessible. Traditionally the full expression is  a ratio of 1:4:2.

Example of a 1:4:2 ratio as follows:

Slow inhalation through left nostril in 3 sec, 

Close both nostrils, retain the breath for 12 sec with jalandara and mula bandha engagement 

Release right nostril and slow exhalation in 6 sec. 

Slow inhalation through right nostril in 3 sec

Close both nostrils, retain the breath for 12 sec with jalandara and mula bandha engagement 

Release left nostril and slow exhalation in 6 sec.


** Some of the alternate nostril breathing variations can be quite intense and improper techniques may cause more harm. I would recommend practicing especially the breath retention (6) under the careful supervision of a teacher before doing it on your own.