What are some of the natural cycles that we follow in our lives? To start with, we have a regular pattern of breathing. Another rhythm is that of our heartbeat, and then there is the daily cycle of activity, rest and sleep. Only a healthy body can have a healthy mind and vice versa, so it is essential to understand these natural rhythms and be in sync with them.
Let’s start with breathing. Each of us has a unique breathing pattern. Not only do we inhale and exhale in a specific rhythm, but our two nostrils also work differently according to the sun and moon cycles. Take a moment right now to observe which of your nostrils is more dominant – is it the left or the right? Or are they both the same?
In the yogic Shastras, great significance is given to breathing. The right nostril is associated with the Surya Nadi or Pingala, signifying activity. In scientific terms, this is the sympathetic nervous system. The left nostril is related to the Chandra Nadi or Ida, meaning rest and repose and the parasympathetic nervous system. Every couple of hours, the pattern can switch, but there is also a marked difference between day and night. Generally, the right nostril is predominant during the day and the left nostril at night. This is directly related to the movements of the sun and the moon.
When our natural balance is disturbed, a switch occurs. For example, when we are angry, the sympathetic nervous response is triggered, so the right nostril becomes dominant. The same happens when we have a lot of fear or anxiety. During this sympathetic response, the hormones adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine are released into the blood, so our hearts beat faster and faster, our muscles tense ready for action, our blood pressure goes up, and we become highly aware. We are available for ‘fight or flight’.
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To reverse this, you may try a simple breathing exercise:
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb and take a slow, deep breath through your left nose, breathing deeply into your abdomen and releasing the breath fully each time. Then continue to breathe like these eight to ten times through your left nostril. Keep your right nostril closed throughout.
- Normally, your heart will stop pounding, you will calm down, and the emotional charge of anger, fear or anxiety will dissipate to a large extent. But if you have an anxiety disorder, please consult your physician.
- Around sunrise, we witness a slow shift from left nostril to the right, and at sunset, a gradual shift from right nostril to the left. And when we meditate at one of those transition times, it will usually be fantastic, because the balance is there in nature and between the Nadis.
It is essential to breathe in a specific way to ensure that you are taking in all the goodness around you and exhaling what is hazardous for the health, mind and healthy living. With the help of breathing exercises, one can attain mental peace as well as the required steadiness of mind and body.
With inputs from Kamlesh D Patel, a spiritual guide of Heartfulness
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