Why do we Breathe through one Nostril at a time ?

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Human Body is one of the most complex machines. Its still a wonder how our body evolved like this. We have the best brain and other body parts. Our body parts seems to be weaker than other animals but still they are the best. Human race can survive the most extreme conditions found on this planet only with the help of our brain and gradually evolved body parts. Each of our body part have a motive. Nothing in our body is a waste. Sometimes people argue that why do we have 2 nostrils. One was sufficient for inhaling and exhaling. But the truth is that we use one nostril at a time, not both. We switch from one nostril to other within a time interval of 15 minutes to 2 hours. This time interval differs in different people.

The concept of breathing through one nostril at a time was discovered by Richard Kayser in 1895. He called it Nasal Cycle. Now nasal cycle is a well known phenomena.

How does our nose maintain the nasal cycle ?

Our nose have erectile tissue in the upper part of nose. These erectile tissues are similar to those found in a penis or clitoris. When the erectile tissue in one nostril swells up, the erectile tissue of other nostril shrinks. This cycle continues and erectile tissues changes their state after a particular time interval. The swollen erectile tissue does not blocks the passage of air completely. If we forcefully try to blow the air out of it then we can do it.

Whats the reason behind this Nasal Cycle ?

Several researches are done to know the motive behind this nasal cycle. Various conclusions are derived from these researches. Here we are providing a list of these conclusions.
  • A study done in 1988 found that breathing through right nostril increases our blood glucose level, which breathing through left decreases the blood glucose. This study concluded that nasal cycle is a way to maintain the blood glucose level. If a person continues to breath only through right nostril and very rarely switches to left then it means that either he is diabetic or he will be soon.
  • Another study in 1993 concluded that we consume more oxygen while breathing through right nostril.
  • In 1994 one more study concluded that nasal cycle has something to do with brain. When we breath through right nostril the left part of brain is more active and vice versa. Some scientists believe that nasal cycle helps in maintaining coordination between right and left hemispheres of brain.
  • One more thing was discovered that when we sleep on left side the right nostril opens up, and when we sleep on right side the left nostril opens up. So our nasal cycle may be the reason why we change sides while sleeping.
  • Some researchers believe that prolonged breathing through left nostril can be a factor behind Asthma.
  • The water that cleans our eyes during blinking, passes through tiny holes into our nasal passages. Alternate nostril breathing helps in wetting the surface skin of that passage which is not getting used. So it prevents dryness inside nose, which further prevents nosebleeds.
  • According to belief of Indian Yoga Teachers, Nasal Cycle helps in maintaining the body temperature and mind-body balance
Nasal Cycle is not only limited to humans. Its also found in rats, rabbits, domestic pigs, cats and dogs.

Nasal Cycle and Yoga

Yoga Teachers claim that Nasal Cycle is nothing new to Yoga. Its known for centuries and used to treat diseases through various pranayams. According to Yaga Teachers our nasal cycle should change within 2 hours. If it doesn't then it means we are not in a healthy state of body or mind.
  • If we breath with right nostril for more than two hours then it means mental and nervous disturbance.
  • If we breath with left nostril for more than two hours then it means chronic fatigue and reduced brain function.
  • Right nostril is Pingala Nadi(Sun principle or body), so breathing through right nostril is called "Surya Shawsa".
  • left nostril represents Ida nadi (moon principle or mind), so breathing through left nostril is called "Chandra Shawsa".
Nadi Shodhan or Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is a pranayam that is based on the principle of nasal cycle. All "Baba Ramdev" fans must be aware of Anulom Vilom.

How to do Nadi Shodhan / Anuloma Viloma ?

Its a breathing exercise. Initially you close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale using left nostril, then remove your thumb and close your left nostril with index finger and exhale through right nostril. Now Inhale through right nostril and then remove index finger from left nostril and close right nostril with thumb and exhale through left nostril. This cycle should continue for 5 minutes initially. After few weeks you may do it for 15 to 20 minutes daily.

Benefits of Nadi Shodhan / Anuloma Viloma
  • More oxygen in provided to body per breath.
  • Blockages in nostrils are cleared, air flow becomes optimal and healthy nasal cycle in maintained.
  • Its effective in stress management.
  • It helps in dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.
  • It balances Ida and Pingala and removes all the blockages in the pranic energy channels.
  • It helps in maintaining a balance between body and mind.

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