If you suffer from unexpected anxiety like so many others, or just struggle to focus on the task in front of you, Nadi shodhan pranayama will be your new best friend.
Nadi shodhan pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing as we will refer to it below, is a breathing technique which has roots both in yogic communities and the Ayurvedic medicine tradition (called the sister science of yoga). It has been practiced for thousands of years and is found regularly in led yoga and breathwork classes to this day.
It is said to bring both physical and mental balance by calming your nervous system and encouraging an open flow of prana (breath) through your body.
By controlling and stabilizing the your breath, alternate nostril breathing balances your sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-relax) nervous system.
When we are feeling anxious, it is because our sympathetic nervous system believes we are in danger and need to survive.
Hundreds of years ago this would have saved our lives. Today, we often are not truly in danger of bodily harm, so we must retrain our bodies and minds to learn to calm ourselves and to assure our nervous system that we are okay and can handle what is coming up. This is the role of conscious breath.
Alternate nostril breathing requires a deep focus and allows us to shift our attention from what was previously overwhelming to the task of breathing.
Through the mental task of focusing and the physical result of the fresh oxygen the practice brings, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.
When the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, we are both consciously and subconsciously reminded that we are okay, and our anxiety will lessen.
When our anxiety lessens, our mind clears, and we feel more empowered to handle what is coming our way rather than running around in circles consumed with the worry the situation can evoke.