Let’s face it. Some of the stuff of Kundalini yoga is pretty daunting: three minutes of stretch pose, nine minutes of the pranayama Breath of Fire with Lion’s Paws, thirty one minutes of Sat Kriya. If you’re like me, it takes some internal convincing to gear up to do one of these strenuous, challenging feats. So, I tend to appreciate the practices that are easy-to-do but nonetheless effective. Right and left nostril breathing exercises are in this category. They can be done anytime, anywhere — free of dread.
Breathing solely through one nostril can change your energy and mood. The yogis say that right nostril breathing is associated with sun energy, vigor, and alertness; while left nostril breathing is connected to moon energy, calmness, and sensitivity. If you experiment with these simple techniques from the indispensable book Praana, Praanee, Praanayam, you’ll enjoy immediate benefits from just a few moments of focused effort.
• Energizing: Increasing Solar Energy (p. 106) – If you’re feeling tired and slow moving, give this pranayama a try. Sitting in easy pose, block the left nostril with the thumb of the left hand and keep the other fingers straight and pointing up. Take 26 long, deep breaths through the right nostril. That’s it!
• Energy Boost (p. 108) – If you’re feeling really, really tired, use the same seated posture and hand position as above, but perform breath of fire through the right nostril. Continue for three to five minutes, and then give yourself a few moments to allow the energy to circulate. (I often use this one right before it’s time to pick up the kids at school, so I can keep up with them in the afternoon.)
• Soothing: Increasing Lunar Energy (p. 107) — If you’re feeling anxious and nervous and want to relax, you can use this breath exercise. Sit in easy pose, block the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand, and take 26 long, deep breaths through the left nostril. It’s that easy! (This is great to do just before bed.)
As with anything in Kundalini Yoga, the experience of these breath exercises can be enhanced with music. I enjoy listening to the mantra “Pavan Guru,” which means “the breath is your Guru.” At the moment, my favorite song featuring this mantra is Sat Kirin Kaur Khalsa’s Angelic Version on her album Ignite Your Light. The music beautifully underscores what I’m feeling in the moment as I block one nostril and change my energy: the breath is so powerful.
Editor’s Note: Praana Praanee Praanayam is an excellent resource for any Kundalini yogi’s library. If you are interested in going deeper with the practice of right or left-nostril breathing (or any other sort of breathing!) it’s a must-have!