• Julien Demaret

Through which nostril are you breathing?

Tell me your dominant nostril, I’ll tell you how you feel.

Photo by Patrick Malleret on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed that you are not breathing through both nostrils simultaneously? At any given time, you’re breathing more dominantly through the right or the left nostril, and it alternates every 40 to 50 minutes throughout the day.

In this article, I am going to use some Yogic knowledge I was exposed to during my 500 hours of teacher training in Rishikesh, India. My wish is that it helps you to be more conscious about your body.

For those of you who do not know what yoga is, or have some preconceived ideas about it, yoga is not just twisting your body on a mat. It is composed of 8 limbs. Asanas ( postures on the mat) are the third limb.

The ultimate goal of Yoga is to fuse your individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. When attained, this state of being is called Samadhi.

A lot of extraordinary human beings through the ages have reached this state, like Gautama the Buddha. This state allows you to experience everything that is, by looking inside, not outside. In other words, you have access to all the knowledge in the cosmos. Did you know that Gautama the Buddha was already talking about atoms and cells, more than 2500 years ago, way before modern science discovered it?

Modern science is now, day after day, proving what was internally experienced by Yogis for millennia.

With that being said, let’s look at what Hatha Yoga is saying about the alternate nostril breathing phenomenon and how it relates to modern science.

HATHA YOGA and the 3 major nadis

Hatha Yoga comes from HAKAR — solar energy and THAKAR — lunar energy. It is explaining that we have Solar energy and Lunar energy in us. Its goal is to balance the two energies. Indeed, the sun and the moon are very important for life on earth. We are all influenced by it. The sun is the fire energy, that allows our body temperature to be warm, that allows our digestive system to work effectively, and allows plants to grow. The moon is the menstrual cycle of the mother, that gives birth to all.

According to Yogic science, our body has a network of 72 000 energy channels called Nadis. Just like the nervous system is conducting electric impulses, the blood vessels are conducting blood, and the Nadis are conducting energy. Nadis are not of a physical nature, they are not observable with your eyes.

Among those 72 000 Nadis, 3 are major ones: Pingala, Ida, and Sushumna.

The right nostril, and Pingala Nadi

Breathing happens through the right nostril when Pingala Nadi is active. Pingala Nadi is situated along your spine, one and a half fingers to the right side of your spinal cord. It is associated with solar energy. Being in that state means that your sympathetic nervous system is active. It promotes physical activity and productivity. It allows the fight and flight mechanism to kick in case of danger. It also promotes good digestion.

The left nostril, and Ida Nadi

Breathing happens through the left nostril when Ida Nadi is active. Ida Nadi is situated along your spine, one and a half fingers to the left side of your spinal cord. It is associated with lunar energy. Being in that state means that your parasympathetic nervous system is active. It promotes homeostasis and maintenance in the body, allowing your system to repair and regenerate. It allows you to relax and rest, to feel calm and composed.

The balanced state, and Sushumna Nadi

Practicing Hatha Yoga allows the practitioner to balance is energy between Ida and Pingala and to flow into Sushumna Nadi which is situated on the Spinal cord at the center of the spine. In this state, both nostrils are used simultaneously and equally. This state promotes meditation and higher states of consciousness.

Final words

So here is what you can remember from this article :

  • Your breathing pattern always alternates between right and left nostril

  • When breathing through the right nostril, it’s a good time to have food, do physical activity, and be productive.

  • When breathing through the left nostril, it’s a good time to rest, allow yourself to relax, and do mental activity.

  • Your alternate breathing pattern should regularly switch between the right and left nostrils. If you notice that you spend too much time breathing on the right nostril, it might be a sign of hyperactivity or too much stress. If you notice that you spend too much time breathing on the left nostril, you might have digestive issues and be unproductive.

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