Your breath is the first thing to return to your authority. The first step to gaining control of anything is to own your breath.
Swami Swatmarama wrote on the practice of Pranayama in the original text of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “When breath is unsteady, the mind is unsteady. When the breath is steady, the mind is steady, and the yogi becomes steady. Therefore, one should restrain the breath.”
This simple, yet ancient alternate nostril breathing exercise is designed to calm your mind, no matter what state it’s in. So take a seat or ideally, get into Lotus position (Padmasana) or sit cross-legged.
1. Place a fingertip lightly on your right nostril and inhale through the left.
2. Hold for as long as possible.
3. Release fingertip and place on left nostril while you exhale through the right nostril.
4. Inhale slowly through the right nostril.
5. Hold for as long as possible.
6. Release fingertip and place on right nostril while you exhale through the left.
Repeat this process for at least four to five times. Never rush yourself on the inhale or exhale. Always remember to switch nostrils from the one you inhaled with, to the one you exhale from. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll clear out your nasal passages.
In this method you should find your mind steadily grounding itself. It’s quite a simple exercise, really, but has an immense effect on your physiology. You breathe much easier through your nose than you do your mouth, and forcing air in and out in the manner will rhythmically ensure that your body has well-regulated oxygen flow.
Pranayama is arguably the most important practice in yoga. More important than any asana or posture you may ever undertake. If you can’t breath properly, you can’t move or live properly. So when the stress of life becomes too much or you’re seeking an additional focus, try this simple breathing technique any time of day.
Mike Yap is a long time martial artist turned Yoga instructor. Ever since birth, he’s had a strong passion for technology and stretching his mind and body to their limits.