Nasal Cycle

The Nasal Cycle

Every 90-120 minutes, the nostrils switch over their work shifts.  Some thought that this rhythm is a method used to stay balanced and grounded to the rhythms of the cosmos and of all humanity.  Others attribute it to full or new moon cycles..  While others have concluded that the tissue in our noses mirror states of health.  The nose seems to work like an HVAC system, controlling temperature and blood pressure and feeding our brain chemicals to alter our moods, emotions and sleep states.  

Left Nostril Dominance

  • Right brain activity (creativity, mental abstractions and negative emotions) / alpha brain wave
  • Parasympathetic nervous system stimulated
  • After eating
  • Relaxed, tried, sleepy
  • Love, empathy, emotional connect
  • Feelings of calm and creativity
  • Cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • Cools the body
  • Reduces anxiety

Right Nostril Dominance

  • Left brain activity (logical decisions, language and computing) / beta brain wave
  • Sympathetic nervous system stimulated
  • Hunger
  • Wakefulness / alert
  • Prepped for physical activity / exercise
  • Feelings of go-go-go, anxiety, action
  • Circulation speeds up
  • Cortisol, heartrate, and blood pressure all increase. 

Nasal Cycle Test

Place your finger under your nose and do 3 of those breath of fire breaths that we did at the beginning.  Can you tell which nostril is more dominant (by the amount of breath coming out of one over the other?) 

  • Discovered in 1895 by German, physician Richard Kayser

  • Not an exact science / approx 10% fail rate 

  • Best times test: morning, before/after meals, before bed

  • Expect 90-120 minute shifts

  • Shift can often be induced through yoga breathing


**Fascinating research from UCSD (University of California at San Diego).  Tracked a schizophrenic woman over the course of 3 consecutive years and found she had a significantly greater left-nostril dominance. Hypothesis was that she was overstimulating the right side creative part of her brain and this caused her imagination to run amok.  When researchers taught her to breathe through her opposite logical nostril, she experienced far fewer hallucinations! 

Breathwork Practice

How about trying a technique that alternates using each nostril.  It’s called Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing.  This is a balancing breath, that improves lung function and lowers heart rate, blood pressure and sympathetic stress.  

Here are the instructions (see video below):

The Mudra (hand position) is left hand is not used, place it in your lap.  Right hand fold the pointer and middle finger down and the ring finger and pinky stick together and are up as well as the thumb. If you are of the age, think of the Mork From Ork salute and then just bend down the pointer and middle finger.  

Close off your right nostril with your thumb and slowly inhale through your left nostril.

Close off your left nostril with your ring finger and pause. 

Remove your thumb from your right nostril and slowly exhale through your right nostril.  Pause. 

Inhale slowly through your right nostril. 

Close off your right nostril with your thumb and pause.

Remove your ring finger from your left nostril and slowly exhale through your left nostril.  Pause. 

Inhale slowly through your left nostril. 

Alternate switching nostrils, doing a full exhale and inhale on each side, switching on the exhale.  

3 x 10 rounds is a good target.