Brain Power with Alternate Nostril Breathing

By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle

In the yogic philosophy, one the main ways of feeling union of the mind and body is through breathing. There are many powerful breathing techniques we use in yoga. Alternate Nostril Breathing is a powerful technique that can balance, calm, and energize the mind. It can develop concentration and bring a sense of peace and clarity. As firefighters, you want to be clear, calm, sharp, and ready for any situation.

There are many benefits to Alternate Nostril Breathing–it goes much deeper than purely meditative. There has been a strong link to improved brain function while practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing. This breathing technique enhances the use of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain by providing equal amounts of oxygen, which assists in further developing the brain to its maximum potential.

When breathing through the right nostril, you strengthen the left hemisphere of the brain. When breathing through the left nostril, it helps to improve the function of the right hemisphere of the brain. Just five minutes of Alternate Nostril Breathing every morning, prior to taking an examination or before a social event, can help open the door to gain access to your entire brain. Increasing oxygen to the brain reduces the brain bound free radicals, improving memory and cognition. Alternate Nostril Breathing has the immediate advantages of increasing mental sharpness. Another benefit of Alternate Nostril Breathing is that it supplies oxygen to the other vital organs in the body, such as the heart and lungs. Developing the technique of Alternate Nostril Breathing enhances the synchronization of the left and right brain hemispheres of the brain; the advantages after one full week of practice will amaze you.

Here are some simple steps to performing Alternate Nostril Breathing:

  1. Connect the middle and index finger and slide your hand above the brow bone. You can rest your elbow on the other arm.
  2. Use the thumb to close your right nostril and the fourth and fifth finger together to close your left nostril.
  3. Start by inhaling through the left nostril.
  4. Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
  5. Exhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed.
  6. Inhale through the right nostril.
  7. Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
  8. Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed.

Special Notes:

a)  Alternate Nostril Breathing is performed with a smooth, steady, and subtle breath.
b)  Relax into the rhythm and flow of the breath, without forcing or straining.
c)  If your raised arm gets tired, support it by bending one knee and propping your elbow against it.
d)  The suggested practice is 20 to 30 minutes daily. You may wish to start with five minutes a day and build your practice gradually over a period of time.
e)  Maintain your focus on the “third eye” throughout the practice, especially when holding the breath.


Those with unmediated high blood pressure, abdominal inflammation, lung conditions, or hernia should minimize or omit holding the breath.

Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.” 




Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.


No posts to display