The Breath: Your Ultimate Tool for Healing

Did you know one nostril is dominating your breathing right now? Furthermore, that stimulates one side of the brain, which colors the flavor of your thoughts, emotions, and activity. In this article, we will explain the connection between the breath and brain activity, and give you an empowering practice for daily integration of the hemispheres of the brain. Your breath is a healing tool you always have with you.

Experiment:

Try this: block off one nostril and breathe in through the open nostril. Notice the quality of air flowing in. Now, switch sides. Take note which nostril feels more open. This is the dominant nostril. Now, bring awareness to any thoughts or activities. We’ll come back to this exercise in a minute. First, lets talk about the energy that allows you to breath: Prana.

Prana:

Prana is a Sanskrit word, which translates to life force energy in English. It is the force that keeps the planets circulating the sun in the universe. In the body it is the energy responsible for all physical and mental movement and activity. It is the energy that performs respiration, circulation, digestion, and all other bodily system functions. Prana is not something physical or tangible, but rather it is the subtle energy that creates and supports the gross body.

The breath feeds pranic energy. We can access prana through breathing. We inhale cool, lunar air and exhale warm, solar air. The breath is the bridge between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Our left side is lunar, feminine energy; our right side is solar, masculine energy. The pranic energy from the right brain goes to the left side of the body, and is therefore considered feminine. Feminine energy is compassion, receiving, and intuition. The pranic energy from the left brain goes to the right side of the body, thus it is the masculine. Masculine energy is ambitious, linear and logical, aggressive.

Left nostril for calming, Right nostril for energizing:

Approximately every 90 minutes, your breathing cycle changes and you breathe through one nostril more than the other. As you breathe through the left nostril, you stimulate the right brain encouraging lunar energy, which enhances creativity, compassion, and intuition. As you breathe through the right nostril, you stimulate the left-brain encouraging solar energy, which enhances logic and skepticism, planning and assertion. With this knowledge, you can use your breath to access a particular mental state an activity calls for, or calm any imbalances.

So back to our exercise: Do your activities, thoughts, or emotions correspond with your dominate breathing nostril?

Nadi Shodhana: A practice to access your whole brain:

A simple practice we prescribe here at Santa Cruz Ayurveda is Nadi Shodhana. This practice utilizes alternate nostril breathing to help balance the use of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, or feminine and masculine energy. Nadi Shodhana calms the mind and revitalizes pranic energy.

This practice can be done anywhere, at anytime, and is most beneficial done regularly as part of a daily practice.

Method

  1. Sit with head, neck, and spine erect but not stiff.

  2. Exhale through both nostrils

  3. Close the right nostril with the right thumb

  4. Inhale gently through the left nostril

  5. Pause at the top of the inhale

  6. Close the left nostril with the right ring finger

  7. Exhale gently through the right nostril

  8. Pause at the bottom of the exhale

  9. With the left nostril still closed, inhale through the right nostril

  10. Pause at the top of the inhale

  11. Close the right nostril with the right thumb

  12. Exhale gently through the left nostril

  13. Pause at the bottom of the exhale

This completes one round. Begin with 5-8 rounds.

At the end of your rounds, sit quietly in awareness.

Breath and Concentration:

  1. Gentle and slow breathing

  2. Concentrate at the space between the eyebrows, or the movement of the breath

Yoga is the union of the individual self with the universal, the ego with cosmic intelligence. Yoga gives us practices to use towards this union, pranayama being one of them. The aim of Ayurveda is a life in harmony with nature, or cosmic intelligence, so that ultimately we reach Yoga, unity with nature. We need balanced and well functioning prana to reach this ultimate aim of life, yoga. Pranayama is just one practice utilized in both Yoga and Ayurveda for creating balance and revitalizing pranic energy. We hope you give this practice a try and let us know how it has helped you!

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