Ida & Pingala – Alternating Dominant Nostril Breathing

Which nostril is dominant and what does it mean?

Your right nostril is most often your dominant nostril when you are active, it is connected to your sympathetic nervous system.  The right nostril is associated with the masculine — think sun, hot, ida, yang.

Your left nostril is usually dominant when you are at rest, it is connected to your parasympathetic nervous system.  When you breathe through your left nostril it is more calming, think feminie, moon, cooling, pingala, yin.

In yoga language this is hatha or ha/tha. In our language of science today around yoga research Ha is more known as you sympathetic nervous system, and Tha is now your parasympathetic nervous system.

It is normal for your dominant nostril to switch throughout your days. In reality we have erectile tissue in our nasal passages (same tissue as in the genitals), whichever side is more erect is more open. In a healthy individual your dominant nostril will alternate throughout your days. In a perfect world, by night time you will be mostly left nasal dominant.

Here is a meditation that can help you feel this switch, I have named it:

Ida & Pingala

  • Settle in with your breath
  • Which nostril is dominant right now?
  • Bring all your attention to the opposite nostril for about one minute or 7-8 slow breaths — see if you can get your breath to switch — if you are new to this it may take longer.
  • Once your breath switches, and you can feel it clearly in the nostril you were focusing on stay there for another minute or 7-8 breaths. 
  • Now switch it again to the original dominant nostril.  Focus on the other nostril and keep your attention there for another minute.
  • See if you can switch it once again to full receptivity in your original non-dominant nostril
  • You can continue this alternating pattern for up to 11 minutes, even just 3 minutes though is all you need.

To finish; Breathe deep through both nostrils

  • Flare your nostrils and take in the air
  • Control and slow your breath – making your inhales and exhales equal
  • Feel your three streams of air – 2 going down to your lungs, 1 going up to your brain
  • Feel your whole body breathing
  • Feel every cell in your body breathe — feel your cells take in oxygen and give off CO2
  • Breathe as if your whole body is breathing — IT IS!

You can use this knowledge to help balance your day, if you are heading home after stressful day of work and notice you are still right nostril dominant, take 3 minutes and try to balance it out.  Or if you feeling lethargic but need to muster up some energy to do yoga or exercise or just get up -focus on making your right nostril dominant.

In a perfect world by night time you will be mostly left nasal dominant.



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