Breathing Exercise to Help you Relax
I know that for most of us in the US (or even those just following US politics right now), our blood pressure is through the roof. (Personally, I woke up with a stress headache yesterday and it’s still hanging around today like an unwanted roommate.)
So, in honor of all of us combating election stress, here’s an exercise from our upcoming title, Unfuck Your Body by Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN. This exercise should help you reconnect with your body and relieve stress (and hopefully lower your blood pressure).
Alternate Nostril Exercise
(Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
This breathing exercise includes breathing from alternate nostrils. This exercise cleans nostrils, nadis, and sinus. It is also helpful in the activation left and right side of the brain simultaneously.
- Get your body comfortable, sitting if possible.
- Place your left hand on your left knee, and lift your right hand up to your nose.
- Tuck your middle three fingers into the palm of your hand, leaving your pinky and thumb extended (the universal sign for “call me!”)
- Complete an exhale, then use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, then use your pinky to close your left nostril while opening your right nostril and exhaling through the right nostril.
That is one complete breath cycle.
Continue for up to five minutes, completing the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.
This technique is great for balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain and balancing the vagal system. Studies of pranayama have demonstrated that alternate nostril breathing was the only type of breath work that was found to have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system (heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure).
Hypertension, an active migraine, an active sinus, or an chest infection are contraindications for this technique. Also generally be aware of discomfort if you have a full stomach.