By: Audra Stawicki, PT, DPT, CMP, CYI —

When we think of yoga, the physical postures come to mind; most likely an image of a Zen-like person sitting in a crossed legged position. The physical postures of yoga, or asanas as they are called, are only one limb of the 8 fold path towards enlightenment.

The ancient technique of breath-work, pranayama, develops control of the breath in order to heighten the awareness of the mind-body connection. Let us take a look at one simple pranayama technique:

Alternate Nostril Breathing

To begin, sit in a comfortable position; ideally on a chair with a firm back. Take the thumb of the Right (R) hand and place it on the outside of the R nostril. Take the index finger of the R hand and place it on the outside of the Left (L) nostril.

Close the R nostril gently with the pressure from your thumb and inhale only through the L nostril, take in a full inhale for 3 counts, then close the L nostril with the L index finger, release the R thumb off the R nostril and breathe out of the R nostril only for 3 counts.

Pause… (Note the L nostril is still closed.)

Inhale through R nostril, close R nostril, release the L nostril and exhale through L nostril. This is one complete cycle. Continue the complete cycle for 5–10 repetitions.

Alternate nostril breathing reduces tension and stress, balances both sides of the brain, promotes increased blood flow to the body and the brain, draws attentiveness to the mind, and induces relaxation.

Try this technique to start your day, for a rejuvenating perk in the afternoon, or as a way to wind down before bed.