My introduction to alternate nostril breathing

alternate nostril breathingLet me give you some personal background and then theory into the simple yet effective method that is alternate nostril breathing.  In the early spring of 1991, an extraordinary encounter took place in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was during this time that I had the privilege of meeting my first Silat teacher, Guru Ma Prem. The circumstances surrounding our meeting seemed almost supernatural as if the law of attraction had conspired to bring us together. While I won’t delve into the specifics of our initial encounter here, I can say with certainty that it left a profound impact on me.


Guru Ma Prem’s teachings have remained a deeply personal part of my journey.  Every so often I revisit the notes I took during her enlightening “Guru night” talks and lectures. Each time, these writings unveil new avenues of exploration and research, guiding me toward further understanding. Moreover, I continue to incorporate several exercises she imparted to me into my regular practice.  Among the valuable methods introduced to me in those early days was alternate nostril breathing. At the time, I had little inkling of its significance in my martial arts journey. However, as time passed, the fragments of knowledge began to align like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, forming a clearer picture of its role.  Hold that thought!

Your personal vision

Having a clear sense of your intentions, vision, and goals is an essential key to unlocking not only your martial arts potential but also your overall life journey. Remarkable individuals like Einstein, Nelson Mandela, and even Bruce Lee reshaped thinking and the status quo through their unwavering vision and life mission.   In martial arts, just as in life, having a well-defined vision is paramount. Without a sense of direction, you risk becoming lost or stagnant along your path. As an ancient proverb of King Solomon wisely states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Take a moment to reflect upon your own vision and identify the aspects that hold significance for you. What are your aspirations in martial arts and in life as a whole? In a future article, I will delve deeper into the intricacies of setting goals and nurturing your vision, as it is indeed a vast and significant subject deserving of careful exploration.

Connecting breath to concentration

Embarking on the journey of discovering your profound intentions, meaningful goals, and overarching vision in life often calls for a remarkable capacity for concentration. Concentration serves as a gateway to introspection, enabling you to delve into the depths of your being and explore your aspirations. Though it may pose a challenge for some, concentration is a skill that can be cultivated through various mental training and other techniques. Among these techniques, one particularly influential tool stands out—breath training.  Breath, the essence of life, plays a profound role in quieting the mind and enhancing focus. By establishing a connection with your breath, you can improve concentration, thus being clearer in setting goals to achieve your vision. Integrating a simple breathing exercise into your daily routine can initiate this process.

The alternate nostril breathing technique

This technique Guru Ma taught me I found out had its origins in the ancient Yogic traditions.  Alternate nostril breathing is called Nadi Shodhana in its original language.  It offers both physiological and energetic benefits. By following these steps, you can engage in a revitalizing breathing practice:

  1. Find a comfortable position, such as sitting cross-legged or on a chair, ensuring good posture.
  2. Begin with a 7-3-7 breathing pattern. Inhale for seven seconds through one nostril while blocking the other with your thumb. Hold for three seconds, and then exhale for seven seconds.
  3. Repeat the cycle, switching to the ring finger to block the other nostril.
  4. Practice this alternating sequence for seven minutes. If you find it easy after a few weeks, progress to a 7-7-7 breath cycle.
  5. Breathe deeply and relax, imagining the air filling your lungs from the navel area to the chest during inhalation. When exhaling, focus on releasing the breath from the chest down to the navel.

Benefits of alternate nostril breathing

Engaging in this breathing exercise brings numerous benefits, including:

  1. Oxygenating and re-energising the body.
  2. Enhancing mental faculties, such as concentration and decision-making.
  3. Improving breathing and alleviating nasal blockages.
  4. Calming the nervous system.

Observing the results

During the exercise, you may experience light-headedness, but this is normal as your body adapts to the new breathing pattern. If severe discomfort arises, discontinue the exercise. Notice the clearing of nasal passages and the loosening of chest congestion as positive signs. By the end of the practice, you should feel more energized and alert.

Incorporating conscious breath into everyday life

As you establish a connection with your breath through this exercise, aim for deep, rhythmic breathing throughout your day. During training, maintain a relaxed pattern that keeps you in control of your breath. Dedicate seven minutes daily to this simple breathing exercise for several weeks and observe the potential improvements in your physical and mental well-being. To experience noticeable changes, commit to at least 21 days of practice.  By incorporating breathwork and developing a clear vision, you are investing time and energy into transforming not only your martial arts but every area of your life.

Johnny Silmon