Alternate Nostril

At an event, September 7th, 2017, Hillary Clinton shared some of the tools she used to overcome her disappointment at losing the election to Donald Trump. She said, “I did some yoga. I tried alternate nostril breathing. I highly recommend it. It kind of calms you down.” She also used prayer, friendship, readings, and a “fair share of chardonnay.” Through her process of self-care, Clinton discovered something that yogis have known for thousands of years: that yoga breathing gives the practitioner the power to calm themselves down.

But what is Alternate Nostril Breathing and why would it work?

Alternate Nostril, known as Nādī Shodhana in yoga, is the process of alternating the breath in the nostrils as an act of clearing the energy channels, or nādīs, in the body. The beauty of this practice is that you don’t have to believe in energy channels for it to work. Research has shown that the practice lowers the blood pressure (Telles, et. al., 2014 & Telles,, 2013), calms the mind better than quiet sitting (Telles, et. al., 2017), tones the parasympathetic nervous system known as the relaxation response (Sinha, et. al., 2013), changes the heart rate variability (Subramanian, et. al., 2016; Ghiya, et. al., 2012)as well as a number of other benefits (research on alternate nostril breathing).

“I do it every day.”  — Timothy McCall, MD, board-certified internist, Yoga Journal’s medical editor
See his recent article, Is Alternate Nostril Breathing Really Just Placebo? A Response To The Atlantic

Vishnu Mudrā

How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit with the spine erect.
  • Use Vishnu Mudrā by making a fist of your right hand. Next, release the thumb and the ring and pinky fingers, leaving the index and middle finger against your palm.
  • The hand is situated in front of the nose. The thumb is for closing the right nostril, the ring and pinky are for closing the left nostril.
  • Place the thumb against your right nostril and slowly inhale through your left.
  • Close off the left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers of your right hand.
  • Then release your thumb and slowly exhale through your right.
  • Inhale through your right, then close off the right nostril, then exhale through your left. This is one round (one round = two breaths).
  • Keep the inhalation even with the exhalation.
  • Do five rounds to begin, ending by exhaling through your left nostril. Work your way up to the tradition count of 12 rounds (24 breaths).
  • Always begin and end through the left nostril.

Options for practice:

  • Begin with 1:1 breath – inhaling for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 4.
  • As you are ready, advance to 1:2 – inhale for 4, exhale for 8.
  • If it feels appropriate, add a slight pause of two counts at the top of the inhale.
  • Practice 4 times a day for deep balancing.

About the Author

Rose Kress

Rose Kress ERYT-500, C-IAYT, YACEP, Owner/Director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, and author of Awakening Your Inner Radiance with LifeForce Yoga. She directs retreats and training programs on using LifeForce Yoga to manage your mood.

27 thoughts on “Alternate Nostril”

  1. Shari Phares Aslaksen says:

    I wanted to sign up for the 21 day challenge beginning Oct 1st but did not know how???

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hello Shari- We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  2. Judith Robinson says:

    I want to be a part of the 30 day challenge that starts October 1. Thank you.

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hello Judith- We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  3. I know I should do this–but haven’t picked up the habit.

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hello Lisabeth- We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      We’ll have a live video discussion tomorrow on the practice 🙂
      Thank you!

  4. Nanette says:

    Please include me in the nostril challenge

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hello Nanette- We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  5. karen says:

    I was just about to commit to doing this practice on my own when I saw this. Perfect!

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hi Karen- That is fantastic, great minds think alike 😉
      We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  6. Linda says:

    I want to become a part of the alternative nostril breathing challenge!

    1. Rose Kress says:

      We have added you to the challenge. There is more information here:

  7. Mary Martin says:

    Yes, I would like to be part of this breathing challenge, too. Thanks!

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hello Mary- We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  8. Karen says:

    Hi Rose
    Could you sign me up for the challenge please.
    I must be practicing another version (which I learned over 30 years ago). It includes a breath retention between in and out breath.

    1. Rose Kress says:

      Hello Karen- Yes, there are different versions.
      We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  9. Ramona Miranda says:

    Yes I would like to learn more about this practice

    1. Rose Kress says:

      We have added you to the list, emails go out tomorrow. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

  10. Sarah says:

    Yes please! I’m in!

  11. Gloria says:

    Please add me to your list. Just seeing this now.

  12. Noelle Farmer says:

    I’m with you Rose!!

  13. Nancy A. Tan says:

    I attended your Friday session (Saturday morning) and did Day 1 this morning. Not sure if I have done registering. Posted by picture in FB also under Nancy A. Tan. Is there anything else I need to do? Instagram is nancya.tan. I am so new to this. Thank you!

    1. Rose Kress says:

      You are good to go!

  14. Olga Campora says:

    I am in!

  15. Marcia Siegel says:

    I want to be added to the list. I already had been doing this with another group and today was day 25 for me but I plan on continuing this. My blood pressure has gone down and I have to keep track of the bp and my pulse rate for medical doc to prove to him that I am ready to get off the medication. Lots of incentive for me. I do not know how to do that hashtag stuff- FB is plenty. I hope this was a private message to you, Rose. 🙂 Marcia

  16. Patricia Kalma says:

    I would like to be part of the alternate nostril breathing challenge. thanks!

    1. Amy Weintraub says:

      Hi Patricia, Just now saw this, sorry! We have added you to the list, you can start at any time or unsubscribe. There is more information here:
      Thank you!

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