Alternate nostril breathing is also called "anuloma viloma" or "nadi shodhana" (in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga). As the name suggests, this breathing exercise involves alternating which nostril you breathe out of by blocking the opposite nostril. Alternate nostril breathing is fairly easy to learn and has many health benefits. It is often practiced at the beginning or end of a yoga session.
One benefit of alternate nostril breathing is the revitalization it provides you when you feel tired or even stressed out. The exercise gives your body a boost of energy.
Enhanced Mental Function
This breathing exercise helps sharpen your concentration and mental clarity when your mind is dull. Alternate nostril breathing provides equal oxygen amounts to both sides of your brain. It is a great exercise to do before an important exam or interview.
Practicing alternate nostril breathing for five minutes each morning and evening can help remove stale air and other physical impurities from the bottom of your lungs.
Alternate nostril breathing helps calm an overactive or worrying mind. The ancient yogis taught that if you can learn to regulate the way you breathe, you can gain greater control over your mind as well. This is particularly helpful when you experience times of emotional distress. Alternate nostril breathing helps soften the intensity of an overly reactive emotional state. The longer you practice it, the more stable your mind and, thus, the calmer your emotions start to become.
Soothed Nervous System
By enabling you to focus your breath and deepening it, your brain will register a message for your nervous system to move from a stressed to a relaxation response. Breathing just through your left nostril (by blocking off your right nostril) can direct oxygen flow and energy into the right hemisphere of your brain, which turns on the parasympathetic nervous system (enabling relaxation).
Regulated Body Temperature
The left nostril is considered to be calm, cooling, feminine and nurturing. The right nostril, on the other hand, is associated with masculinity, heat, force and competition. Doing single nostril breathing in one nostril more than the other can enable you to feel warmer or cooler, depending on what you prefer at a given time.
Enhanced Sleep Quality
Alternate nostril breathing helps balance both hemispheres of your brain, which helps you calm your thinking and be able to rest and relax much more easily.