Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Alternate Nostril Breathing seemed to be a silly exercise when I first heard about it years ago. The practitioner has to inhale from one nostril, exhale on the other and repeat the process. But what piqued my interest is that it is believed to bring harmony to both hemispheres of your brain.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is also known as Anulom Vilom or Nadi Shodhana. Ancient yogic text says that each nostril link to a brain hemisphere. They have nerve endings connected to the pituitary and pineal gland. And practicing this breathing technique stimulates the endocrine system. This results in giving you a more balanced physical, mental and emotional state.

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Woman doing breathing exercises while meditating
Woman doing breathing exercises while meditating

Doing this for several months gave my mind hyper focus. And it somehow improved the quality of my voice too! 🙂


Why do Alternate Nostril Breathing?

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Why do Alternate Nostril Breathing?

We know from science that each section of our brain has a role in managing our body. The left hemisphere is in charge of your logical thinking and right side control. The right hemisphere is in charge of your creative process and left side control. Everyone has a dominant side that reflects on their personality or way of thinking.


“Scientifically proven to control stress levels”


The problem is that stress triggers can make us anxious, depressed, angry and etcetera. These triggers create chaos in our brain and make our hormone levels imbalanced. The hormone imbalance would then further reinforce the chaotic state of your brain. And off you run on a treadmill you imprisoned yourself with even though the “trigger” was long gone.

According to yogic theory, doing alternate nostril breathing stimulates both brain hemispheres equally. This will break the negativity treadmill and bring harmony to your brain.

But is it scientifically proven? Yes, the balancing effects have been scientifically proven by MANY case studies already. 🙂


Qualities Associated with Each Nostril

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Qualities Associated with Each Nostril

The left hemisphere connects to the right nostril. And the right hemisphere connects to the left nostril. Ancient yogis believed that focused breathing on a nostril have plenty of benefits. Doing so gives you access to qualities associated to the nostril you’re breathing on.


“This helps me get ‘in the zone’ fast for work”


Breathing with the Left Nostril

Stimulates the Ida channel that ends at the left nostril. Qualities associated with it:

  • Apana or the cleansing energy which is cooling and receptive
  • Calmness
  • Empathy
  • Synthesis
  • Sensitivity

Breathing with the Right Nostril

Stimulates the Pingala channel that ends at the right nostril. Qualities associated with it:

  • Prana or the nurturing energy which is warming and projective
  • Vigor
  • Will Power
  • Alertness
  • Concentration

I do Alternate Nostril Breathing for 10 minutes before I start work. This helps me “get in the zone” much faster. And I found it more effective than listening to music or drinking coffee.


Basic Instructions (7 steps)

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Basic Instructions (7 steps)
Level 1 / Bronze rank

Anulom Vilom is a little more complex than regular deep breathing exercise. You should be able to do decent deep breaths before attempting this. Otherwise, you’ll get hypoxia or feel like you need to catch your breath.

Basic alternate nostril breathing uses a 1:1:1 ratio for inhale, breath hold and exhale. That ratio will change the stronger your respiratory system becomes.


“You might get hypoxia if you don’t know how to do deep breaths”


Here is what you need to do:

#1. Left Nostril Inhale (6 seconds)

Close your right nostril by pressing a finger on it. This makes sure that you are breathing with only one nostril. Inhale as deep as you can using your left nostril for 6 seconds. 

#2. Breath Retention (6 seconds)

Close both nostrils with your fingers. Hold your breath for 6 seconds.

#3. Right Nostril Exhale (6 seconds)

Open your right nostril while keeping your left nostril closed. Exhale on your right nostril for 6 seconds.

#4. Right Nostril Inhale (6 seconds)

Keep your left nostril closed by maintaining the finger pressure on it.  Inhale as deep as you can using your right nostril for 6 seconds.

#5. Breath Retention (6 seconds)

Close both nostrils with your fingers. Hold your breath for 6 seconds.

#6. Left Nostril Exhale (6 seconds)

Open your left nostril while keeping your right nostril closed. Exhale on your left nostril for 6 seconds.

#7. Repeat

One cycle lasts around 36 seconds. Repeat steps 1 to 6 for at least 5 minutes straight. Remember to focus on the quality of each breath.


You might notice on your first few rounds that you have a “dominant nostril”. And it compensates for your other nostril when you breathe. You might feel like you are gasping for air when you breathe from your less dominant nostril and that is normal. Just keep doing basic alternate nostril breathing until your inhalation becomes more balanced. Pretty soon, you’ll feel the difference in inhalation between your nostrils become smaller.

Once you get good at this, you’ll feel that each breath is deeper and has better quality. Try doing the Wim Hof Breathing Method again and see how much your retention time has improved!

If you feel like you are having a hard time doing this, then you are not yet ready for it! Go back and polish your deep breaths first.


Intermediate Instructions (7 steps)

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Intermediate Instructions (7 steps)
Level 2 / Silver Rank

You train your internal organs every time you do breathing exercises. You train your lungs to be more efficient with transferring oxygen to your red blood cells. And your other organs are getting trained to store oxygen reserves in them.

At this stage, you’ll prolong your breath retention. You’ll do the alternate nostril breathing with a ratio of 1:2:1. You should only move to this stage if basic anulom vilom becomes too easy for you.


“You train your lungs to be more efficient with oxygen absorption”


Do the following:

#1. Left Nostril Inhale (6 seconds)

Close your right nostril by pressing a finger on it. Inhale as deep as you can using your left nostril for 6 seconds. This makes sure that you are only breathing with your left nostril.

#2. Breath Retention (12 seconds)

Close both nostrils with your fingers. Hold your breath for 12 seconds.

#3. Right Nostril Exhale (6 seconds)

Open your right nostril while keeping your left nostril closed. Exhale on your right nostril for 6 seconds.

#4. Right Nostril Inhale (6 seconds)

Keep your left nostril closed by maintaining the finger pressure on it. Inhale as deep as you can using your right nostril for 6 seconds.

#5. Breath Retention (12 seconds)

Close both nostrils with your fingers. Hold your breath for 12 seconds.

#6. Left Nostril Exhale (6 seconds)

Open your left nostril while keeping your right nostril closed. Exhale on your left nostril for 6 seconds.

#7. Repeat

Each cycle lasts around 48 seconds which is 33% longer than the basic version. Repeat steps 1 to 6 for at least 10 minutes straight. Focus on the quality of each breath.


It is normal to feel like you are not getting enough oxygen at the start. This only means that you need to inhale stronger in each breath you take.

Breathing exercises are like basic muscle resistance training. You push your respiratory system to its limit to make it stronger. The only difference is that you use increasing volume of air to move in and out of your lungs.

Move on to the 1:2:2 breathing ratio when this becomes too easy for you.


Advanced Instructions (7 steps)

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Advanced Instructions (7 steps)
Level 3 – Gold Rank

Warning! Do not attempt this without going through the basics! 

Skipping the basics will definitely lead to hypoxia or “low blood oxygen level”. Make sure that you’ve built enough respiratory system strength before advancing.

The advanced alternate nostril breathing uses the 1:4:2 ratio. This is the recommended breathing ratio from ancient yogic text.


“Avoid hypoxia by building up your respiratory system strength. The 1:4:2 breathing ratio can be difficult.”


Here are the steps for the advanced alternate nostril breathing:

#1. Left Nostril Inhale (6 seconds)

Close your right nostril by pressing a finger on it. Inhale as deep as you can using your left nostril for 6 seconds. This makes sure that you are only breathing with your left nostril.

#2. Breath Retention (24 seconds)

Close both nostrils with your fingers. Hold your breath for 24 seconds.

#3. Right Nostril Exhale (12 seconds)

Open your right nostril while keeping your left nostril closed. Exhale on your right nostril for 12 seconds.

#4. Right Nostril Inhale (6 seconds)

Keep your left nostril closed by maintaining the finger pressure on it. Inhale as deep as you can using your right nostril for 6 seconds.

#5. Breath Retention (24 seconds)

Close both nostrils with your fingers. Hold your breath for 24 seconds.

#6. Left Nostril Exhale (12 seconds)

Open your left nostril while keeping your right nostril closed. Exhale on your left nostril for 12 seconds.

#7. Repeat

Each cycle lasts around 84 seconds which is 133% longer than the basic version. Repeat steps 1 to 6 for at least 15 minutes straight. Focus on the quality of each breath.


When you become good at this, you can push yourself to the limit by increasing your breath count. You’ll know you are pushing yourself when you sweat bullets and feel your back and core muscles get sore.

At the time of writing, I do the 1:4:2 breathing ratio with a 9 second breath count. This means that each cycle lasts 126 seconds or 250% longer than the basic version. And I plan to increase my breath count some more!


Scientific Tests on Alternate Nostril Breathing

Rad Rookies | Breathing Exercises | Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Scientific Tests on Alternate Nostril Breathing

Are the ancient yogis several times ahead of science? Or is this just another woo woo? 

There are many research studies of Alternate Nostril Breathing that are available online. Nadi Shodhana is effective in regulating the parasympathetic nervous system of the practitioner. One study even showed that practicing it has an immediate improvement in heart rate variability.

But results like this are common among deep breathing exercises. This includes exercises like the Wim Hof Method and Qigong.

I was actually hoping to see an EEG or MRI study that shows the brain activity in response to alternate nostril breathing. Too bad I couldn’t find any research study using that method. For now, we can only rely on anecdotal evidence from those who tried it already.

But hey! A scientific study only means that it has been widely tested for consistency already. It is readying of knowledge for mass acceptance and understanding. This doesn’t disprove the teachings from ancient yogic books yet. 🙂


My Anecdotal Experience

Written here are the effects I experienced after doing advanced Alternate Nostril Breathing. These are not written in any yogic text and you probably won’t hear it from your yoga instructor.


Getting in the Zone… Quick!

If you are a “productivity freak” like me, then you’ll love what I have to say next. 🙂

What I like most about practicing Nadi Shodhana is that it is now very easy for me to “get in the zone”. I used to do slow work for at least an hour before I am able to enter a state of high productivity. But with this breathing technique, I can prime my mind to be productive within 15 minutes only.

Now whether “getting in the zone fast” was a product of the alternate nostril breathing exercise or just self-hypnosis is a different story. But either way, isn’t it interesting that you can enter an extremely focused state using a natural and inexpensive method? 🙂


Momentary Deeper Voice

This story happened a few months ago.

One day after doing 15 minutes of Anulom Vilom, I talked to an officemate about work. We talked for a few minutes and then she started laughing as if I told her something hilarious! She then asked if I was intentionally making my voice sound deeper.

I paused for a bit. And then I listened to the voice coming out of my own mouth.

I was surprised to hear how different my voice was. It sounded very deep like a Radio Jockey or some other voice talent.

It was funny so I did a bit of research on how voices can get deeper. According to science, your voice can indeed get deeper. It happens when your larynx gets bigger and your vocal chords lengthen and thicken.


“Too bad the Radio Jockey voice only lasted for about an hour. Lol”


I guess Nadi Shodhana can be a good technique to improve your voice quality. It seems very useful if you intend to speak or sing in public, haha.


What did you experience from doing the Alternate Nostril Breathing?

What did you experience from Anulom Vilom? Did you get the same experiences I’ve had? Or did you experience something totally different?

I’m very curious to hear about your experience! Let me know by writing in the comments section below. 😉

resource 1, resource 2, resource 3

15 thoughts on “Alternate Nostril Breathing (7 Easy Steps: Anulom Vilom / Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)”

  1. Pingback: How Weight Loss Works? 5 Fun Info | Breathing and Fat Burn

  2. I’m actually familiar with this since I also do yoga. I’ve never done it by myself though and I’m very curious if we’ll have that same experience. I really enjoyed this post, even the research parts. Thanks for sharing. Haha.

    1. True! There are plenty of mysteries inside the human body and deep breathing is something that we should try to understand more! 😀

  3. This is my first time to hear this and thanks for sharing and introducing it to me. I learned something new and I will really try this especially in the morning.

    1. It sure is! I hope you share this to your friends so they would also be aware of the benefits from alternate nostril breathing. ^_^

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