This Ancient “Alternate Nostril Breathing” Technique Provides INSTANT Drug-Free Anxiety Relief


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Written by: Lindsay Sibson

F-r-e-a-k-i-n-g anxiety.

This one word is associated with many intense feelings such as distress, confusion, uncertainty, pain… and so much more.

As much as I would like to describe myself as the “creative type,” I’m pretty sure anxiety has something to do with it. I’m the type of person that imagines multiple different ways I could die by just stepping off the curb and crossing the street.

I’m well aware of how morbid and ridiculous it is to vividly imagine these thoughts… but that doesn’t stop my brain ONE BIT!  

I may often appear cool, calm and collected on the OUTSIDE, but I can’t help but admit that sometimes, there is a tornado of anxiety inside of me whirling around and wreaking havoc on my thoughts.

And it appears that I’m not alone on this one.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, anxiety is now THE MOST commonly diagnosed mental illness in the USA.

Here are the most common forms of anxiety, in order of how prevalent they are:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Characterized by unnecessary worry and catastrophizing (i.e. my crossing the street example above).

2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Inability to control unwanted thoughts or behaviors.

3. Panic Disorder: Episodes of intense fear that surface without warning, resulting in physical symptoms (heart palpitations or stomach distress).

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Fear that persists long after experiencing a traumatic event.

Lack of breathing is at the core of most anxiety attacks. Your normal and natural breathing is compromised when you feel anxious as a result of your diaphragm freezing. When this happens, you do not let your lungs fully expand and fill with air.

Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center explains:

“And when you do not get enough oxygen, the brain receives a ‘danger’ signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety. Your breathing quickens and becomes, even more, shallow; in an extreme case this can lead to a full-blown panic attack, in which the person begins to hyperventilate.”

The Ancient, Anti-Drug Solution

Your nose is directly associated with your brain and nervous system. The Indian yogis have believed for thousands of years that a lot of diseases are linked to disordered nasal breathing. It is thought that you can regulate your mind and body by using a practice that slows and deepens your breathing. This practice is called pranayama.

Pranayama has two meanings:

  • “Prana” – Vital life-force energy.
  • “Ayama” – Control of breath.

This practice emphasizes using your mind to control your breath as well as the universal energy that feeds your soul and unites us all.

A relatively simple technique that you can use to equalize your breathing is alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana). This technique can help calm your nerves and balance the right and left hemispheres of your brain.

Slow diaphragmatic breathing can be just as effective in reducing anxiety as the drug imipramine, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Interested in trying pranayam? Check out 3 more reasons why you should use this practice when you are in a panic:

1. Enhances respiratory function: It elevates your respiratory endurance and strength, which is usually one of the first functions to become compromised when panic starts.

2. Improves attention and fine-motor function: Your coordination and performance improves, which helps your get back into the present moment and out of your head.

3. Activates your parasympathetic nervous system: Relaxes you by taking your out of the ‘fight or flight’ stress response.

Not only does the practice of pranayama ease anxiety, it also prepares your organs to properly digest and eliminate your food!

To receive the most benefit from alternate nostril breathing, it is best done in the morning before you eat your first meal. You can then continue using it throughout the day as needed.

How To Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing:

1. Sit in a comfortable seated position in a quiet place.

  • Relax the body and breathe naturally.
  • Take a few moments to settle your mind and body.

2. Rest your left hand on your lap or knee.

3. Make a “peace sign” with your right hand.

  • Fold the two extended fingers toward your palm.
  • Place your thumb gently on your right nostril and your ring finger gently on your left nostril.

4. Close your eyes and start by softly closing your right nostril (using your right thumb).

  • Inhale slowly, smoothly, gently and deeply without strain through your left nostril.

5. Close your left nostril (using your ring finger) and open your right nostril.

  • Exhale through your right nostril then inhale through your right nostril.

6. Close your right nostril and open your left. Exhale through your left nostril.

These actions complete one round of alternate nostril breathing, but you can continue for as long as you’d like. About 3-5 minutes of using this technique can produce noticeable calming effects.

When you are finished, relax both arms at your side and breathe naturally for a few moments before you open your eyes and stand up.

If your mind is going awry or you simply need a break from your hectic day, find a quiet place to practice this technique. Alternate nostril breathing is one of the best (and FREE) tools that you can use – no matter where you are!

Below is a 2.5 minute video that demonstrates how to implement this useful technique:

Note: If you suffer from anxiety, pranayama may help at the moment and even in the long run. However, it is not a suitable replacement for professional help or medication as prescribed by your doctor. Speak to you medical professional should you need further assistance.

Did this technique work for you? Please SHARE your experience by commenting below.

Source:  David Wolfe

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Lindsay Sibson

Lindsay Sibson

Lindsay Sibson turned her lifelong dream of traveling the world into a reality when she first stepped on a plan in April of 2014. With the simple intention of learning more about this beautiful world, she stepped away from corporate America to explore an alternative lifestyle of long term international travel, volunteering, blogging and pursuing a blissfully happy and fulfilling way of life.

Lindsay documents her journey in hopes of empowering others to find their passion, reignite their spark and freshen their outlook on life. Connect with her on her website and follow her travels on Instagram (

Through her blog, Lindsay documents her journey in hopes of empowering others to find their passion, reignite their spark and freshen their outlook on life.
Lindsay Sibson

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