Alternate Nostril Breathing

The first time a student is introduced to alternate nostril breathing (ANB) they usually feel silly or don’t believe it is worth the effort.  Luckily, most people try it and finish with an excited, “WOW”.  Students have reported feeling significantly calmer, their sinuses clearer and their breath deeper.  Some of the power of ANB comes from opening the sinus passages, but a lot of its power comes from bi-lateral stimulation.  I plan to talk more in-depth about bi-lateral stimulation in a future post, but for now let us keep it simple.  Bi-lateral stimulation refers to activating one side of the body-mind and then the other, which in turn alternately activates the two halves of our pre-frontal cortex.  The pre-frontal cortex is the part of our brain responsible for higher order thinking.  Well to make a long story short, these two halves of the brain communicate with each other through areas of the brain that are responsible for homeostasis.  This homeostasis or balance is both physiological and emotional.  In essence we are strengthening our ability to feel balanced. If you want to investigate further on your own, here are some places to start:

12 Great Reasons To Start Alternate Nostril Breathing: by Carole Fogarty

Mapping the Mind: Revised and Updated Edition by Rita Carter

Basic Instructions for Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Sit upright with your spine tall. If you are uncomfortable sitting cross-legged on the floor, you may want to sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Keeping your spine tall will allow your breath to move in and out of the chest cavity with less resistance.
  2. Relax, close your eyes and breathe naturally for several cycles of breath. If your sinuses feel blocked you may choose to gently blow your nose. (Keep tissues nearby while practicing ANB.)
  3. Bring your right hand up to your face. Practice closing off one nasal passage at a time. Usually the thumb closes the right nostril and your middle finger closes off the left nostril.  Experiment using other fingers if this is not the most comfortable combination for you.
  4. Start by exhaling fully and then closing off the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale and then exhale through the left nostril. Switch and close off the left nostril. Inhale and then exhale through the right nostril.
  5. Repeat for three or more cycles. Return to your natural breath for a few moments and then begin ANB again.  When you feel ready you can extend the number of cycles of ANB.  If you begin to feel tense or panicky return to your natural breath and focus on a slow gentle rhythm of breathing.

Extra Tips for Practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Try to always stop and start with your left nostril. The left side is believed to activate the calming and cooling aspects within the brain.
  • Eventually you can work up to practicing for 5-10 minutes.
  • If you find your mind wandering, gently guide it back to attending to your breath.
  • If allergies make this practice difficult, using a neti pot can help tremendously.  The combination of the neti pot and ANB can greatly reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

How many therapies do you see?

  1. Yoga – ‘legs up the wall’
  2. Full spectrum light therapy
  3. Pet therapy
  4. Meditation
  5. Positive Ion air purification
  6. Pranayama – deep breathing, breath awareness

The perfect way to start the day!

Pranayama Smiles

Today I spent all day at a Pranayama workshop.  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to teach what I love.   Fellow Shanti staff member, Lori Tindall, and I were all smiles.

Published in: on November 13, 2011 at 5:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Are you still afraid of the Neti Pot?

Many of my students have been commenting on allergies and colds.  Not only is weather likely to be effecting your quality of breath, but we are all turning on our heaters again.  Particularly if you have forced air heat, you may want to spend some time cleaning your vents, duct-work and replacing your furnace filters.  This will help cut back on the particulate matter blown into the air within your home.

This is also the time to be making regular use of your neti pot.  If you still feel hesitant to try it out, I highly recommend giving it another try.  To make the experience as comfortable as possible make sure you use plenty of salt and use warm water. It can feel a bit strange the first couple of times you use it, but after that you will wonder how you lived without a neti pot.

“The practice of nasal cleansing – known as Neti – has been used by practitioners of Ayurveda and Yoga in India for thousands of years. Neti is one of the 6 purification techniques performed prior to practicing yoga as a way of preparing the body for the yoga practice.”

The practice of nasal irrigation originated in India, but now many people around the world use it on a regular basis. It can be used daily or as needed. Using a neti pot one can use warm salt water  to gently cleanse the nasal passages. As the water flows through your nose it washes away pollens, mucus, viruses and bacteria. The nasal passage, with its fine hairs and mucus membranes, is one of the ways nature protects us from illness. The neti pot can have an amazingly positive effect on your body’s ability to stay healthy and fight off sickness.

Here in Boise there are a number of places to purchase a neti pot. I bought a very pretty ceramic one at the Boise CO-OP for about $12. They all come with clear instructions and the salt can be purchased right off the same shelf. Below are some basic instructions and a short video to give you an idea of how it is done.

Neti pot instructions:

1. Fill the neti pot with warm water and the recommended amount of salt. Hot water is dangerous and cool water is not soothing. You may also play around with the amount of salt you use, to find out just the right amount for your greatest level of comfort.

2. Tilt your head to the side. One ear pointing down toward the sink and your forehead is lower than your chin in relation to the counter.

3. Insert spout of neti pot gently into the raised/top nostril creating a seal between the neti pot and the nostril. Try to relax. If you are too tense the solution just won’t flow. Breathe gently through your mouth throughout the process.

4. Raise the neti pot slowly to develop a steady flow of saline solution through the upper nostril and out the lower nostril.

5. When you’re done, exhale firmly several times to clear the nasal passages.

6. Reverse the tilt of your head and repeat the process on the other side.

Published in: on November 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Symphony of Breath

“Our breath is constantly rising and falling, ebbing and flowing, entering and leaving our bodies. Full body breathing is an extraordinary symphony of both powerful and subtle movements that massage our internal organs, oscillate our joints, and alternately tone and release all the muscles in the body.  It is a full participation in life.” Donna Farhi

  1. The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama by Richard Rosen
  2. Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing by B. K. S. Iyengar and Yehudi Menuhin
  3. Anatomy of Breathing by Blandine Calais-Germain
  4. The Little Book of Yoga Breathing: Pranayama Made Easy. . . by Scott Shaw
  5. Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help You Live More Fully by Dennis Lewis
  6. Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing by Andrew Weil
  7. The Breathing Book: Vitality & Good Health Through Essential Breath Work by Donna Farhi
Published in: on October 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Visions of apps are swimming in my head!

I am a self professed technophobe, but I have to confess that I am quickly recovering.  When faced with learning how to use a new computer, program or phone I have been know to get hives.  About five years ago I realized that no matter how hard I tried technology was going to be all around me.  I decided to begin to ‘make nice’ and figure out ways that technology could serve me rather than unnerve me.

I didn’t own a computer, but decided might be fun. Well, long story short…I met my husband, Stu, after only two months.  We just celebrated our third year wedding anniversary and I think he is the most amazing person I have ever met.  Stu works remotely from home so of course he didn’t understand how I survived without a personal computer. It didn’t take long before my lap was getting cooked by the tiniest laptop Dell makes.

This is where the snowball really started growing…I started a Facebook page, built my website, began my blog, discovered Twitter…oh my, I figured I was cured.  Somehow, though, smartphones and Kindles still weird-ed me out. Four days ago I took a step into another realm and bought an iPhone 4G!  It is the coolest gadget ever.  It can do almost anything and I was still able to figure out how to use everything my old phone did in less than an hour.

Now the real point of telling all of you about my experience is that I have discovered some amazing apps that can really help a person gain deeper awareness.  Seems counter-intuitive that a micro machine could connect us better with our inner environment, but I believe it might.  Below you will find a list of the kinds of apps I am talking about.  I have also included some links for you Android lovers.

  1. Mood charting apps that allow you to quickly record mood-triggers and self-care.  In seconds you can record your current emotions, stress level, hours sleep, naps, exercise, medications and so much more.  Then you can hit one button to look at a simple line graph of all your information.  It even allows you to send this information to your doctor via email.  Examples can be found at:
  2. Meditation timers galore to choose from. Examples can be found at:
  3. A mantra app that allows you to pick from about a hundred mantras or chants and listen to recordings.  Examples can be found at:
  4. A pranayama (breathing exercise) app that is really quite amazing.  It is particularly helpful for equal-ratio breathing or facilitating a deeper, slower breath.  Somehow while watching the little ‘pie-chart’ image move about & direct when to inhale and exhale it seems almost impossible to not have your breath sync up with it.  It works the same way that watching the waves crash in at the beach or the swinging pendulum of a grandfather clock influences our heart rate and breath. Examples can be found at:
  5. Yoga apps that will help you build sequences or recommend postures for specific needs.  Examples can be found at:
  6. Nutrition apps…

I could list even more, but I just wanted to encourage you to take a look at ways to make your technology work for you and not the other way around.  Happy hunting and I hope to see you out in the real world.


Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Winter Blues

Many of us experience low moods, irritability or even depression during the dreary days of winter. It is important to be kind to yourself and recognize that being effected by the seasons is natural. The farther our society has moved away from living in sync with the seasons, the less excepting we have become of our body’s need to slow down in the winter. When we feel sluggish, less energetic or less social we often beat up on ourselves….asking “what is wrong with me”….. well nothing…..just some winter blues. There are a number of things that might help you weather the winter with a little more ease.

  1. Go outdoors everyday. Even if it is just for a quick walk around the block.
  2. Get some sun exposure or exposure to a full spectrum light.
  3. Read a good book.
  4. Drink hot herbal tea throughout the day.
  5. Dress in your favorite most comfortable cloths.
  6. Eat satisfying, tasteful and clean foods.
  7. Add an extra hour to your nightly sleep.
  8. Take some things off your to-do list. (the world won’t end if you wait till the sun comes back to mop the floor or clean out the garage)
  9. Get 30 minutes of exercise everyday (doesn’t matter what kind)
  10. Be kind to yourself, make yourself comfortable, do the bare essentials and then let yourself be. This is temporary the sun will come out soon.

Quick self-care resources:


Neti Pot –

Breathing Exercises & Tools –

Reading List –

Library –

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Simple. Soothing. Breathing.

There is a great tutorial on pranayama at the site below. Click on the demo at the bottom of the page. It has a visual tool that I would never have thought of, but found it very helpful. Have fun, relax and watch the tension just slip away.

Connect through the Breath


Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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Just Breathe

Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever : NPR 

Deep breathing is not just relaxing; it’s also been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system. Research has shown that breathing exercises can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure. Read NPR’s whole article or view a video at the link below.
Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lion’s Breath

This may look very silly, but it is a very simple and powerful breathing exercise. Try it. What is the worst that could happen….you could make yourself giggle?

Lion’s Breath

1.    Scrunch all the muscles in your face and inhale deeply.

2.    Exhale fully, while sticking your tongue out and opening your eyes wide.

3.    Repeat several times and then relax.


Scrunch & Inhale



Exhale Lion's Breath


Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 1:25 am  Comments (2)  
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