Yoga saves my butt every day—but it has nothing to do with the postures.
Yoga postures are awesome, but they are not the only thing that yoga has to offer.
They are really just a tiny part of a more holistic yogic practice that can help us cope with life like a champ all day long.
Because what seems like 95 percent of gyms and yoga studios only teach posture, most of us are either relaxed on the mat, at yoga class, or stressed at home and in life. This isn’t yoga.
Yoga should be something we can use to keep us relaxed in our daily lives. And if we’re learning and practising postures only we’re missing out on a lot of the yogic tools that can help us do just that. Because, let’s face it, we’re not always in a position to break out the Sun Salutations.
Here is one little practice that I can, and do break out often—at any time of day, anywhere. All I need is three of my fingers and both sides of my nose! Introducing—nostril yoga. For real.
Okay fine, it’s not actually called nostril yoga. It’s Anuloma Viloma, which means alternate nostril breathing in Sanskrit.
You don’t need a mat or stretchy pants either.
How to do it:
1. Sit up straight.
2. Rest your left hand on your leg (index finger and thumb touch to make an “O” shape).
3. Place your right hand in front of your nose with the index finger and middle finger tucked into your palm, and other fingers available to block the nostrils.
4. Block the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left for 4 seconds.
5. Block both nostrils and hold your breath for 16 seconds (beginners, try only holding for 8).
6. Release the thumb and exhale through the right nostril for 8 seconds.
7. Inhale through the right nostril for 4 seconds.
8. Block both nostrils and hold your breath for 16 seconds.
9. Release the left nostril and exhale for 8 seconds.
10. Repeat until you feel calm, or at least 5 rounds. Always finish up by breathing out the left nostril.
When to do it:
1. Whenever you feel stressed during the day, especially if you feel too anxious to meditate.
2. Morning & evening.
3. Before yoga class or meditation.
4. Before an important event.
5. When you’re on a bus, train, or Uber.
I’ve used it a lot to prepare for interviews with some pretty amazing, renowned people for the Yoga Summit. As we geared it up, there were more and more nerve-wracking interviews, none of which I would have been able to get through without this breathing technique.
Before each interview, I’d practice Anuloma Viloma, and it would bring my frantic energy way down. Then I could do all my interviews without a shaky voice or actually shaking.
My body feels balanced, I feel calmer, and more confident when I’ve taken a few minutes to practice this.
So the next time you sit down to meditate and your mind is bouncing all over, or you go to an important work meeting, or on a nerve-wracking date, try this little breathing technique as your pre-game warm-up.
You’ll be calmer, more focused, and centered for it.
This piece originally posted to Elephant Journal.