Hay fever can be a nightmare, especially this time of year. Also known as ‘allergic rhinitis’, symptoms include: runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, fatigue, and a stuffy nose due to congestion. If you prefer not to take the conventional medical route of antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays, there are recommended home remedies that include: keeping windows closed, wearing glasses/sunglasses, washing your hands and not touching your face after petting animals, using a dehumidifier, mite proof bed linen, and eating honey from your local area. There is however a yogic breathing technique that can be particularly helpful this time of year.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma/Nadi Shodhana)
In Yoga we breathe in and out of the nose because the sinuses and our nasal hairs, filter out foreign particles that we’re breathing in, like pollen or dust. (That’s why you should avoid over plucking or cutting nose hairs during allergy season!) In Alternate Nostril Breathing, as the name suggests, you breathe in and out of one nostril alternatively, which helps clear congestion and strengthens the respiratory system. This breathing technique also balances the anabolic and catabolic rhythms of the body (the process of breaking down and building up biomolecules in the body), which can become disturbed with allergic rhinitis.
- With your right hand, bend your index and middle finger so that the tips touch the palm of your hand. Practice using your right thumb to press and block the right nostril, and your ring and little finger to block the left nostril. (Lift the right elbow slightly so that it’s not constricting your lung capacity)
- Take a deep breath in with both nostrils and then using the thumb to block the right nostril, breathe out fully through the left one.
- Then breathe in fully through the left nostril, block it with your last 2 fingers, release the thumb and breathe out through the right nostril.
- Breathe in again through the right nostril and continue swapping as above, for a minimum of 1 minute.
As the technique helps clear the pathways to the lungs you should have some tissues nearby so that you can blow your nose if needed during or after. It is also normal to have one nostril more blocked than the other, but this breathing method helps equalize the flow of oxygen taken in to the lungs, and to both hemispheres of the brain.
If however one of your nostrils is too blocked to breathe out of, then this technique may not be feasible. You can try massaging the side of your nose and under the eye bag to break down mucus in the sinus cavity, before blowing your nose, to relieve congestion on that side.
Other than a fully blocked nostril, there are no contraindications to alternate nostril breathing, and it can be done by anyone of any age, during pregnancy and after surgery. Besides it’s benefits to allergy season, it also calms the central nervous system and balances the pathways to the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It is a calming and relaxing breathing technique that is very effective on both adults and children.
Leave me a comment below to let me know how you get along!
Charlie began practicing yoga over 25 years ago and has been teaching for more than 12 years to people of all ages and abilities. She is the lead trainer in the Indiv Yoga 200 hrs & the RCYT Kids Yoga Alliance Teacher Training Courses, and has certified over 350 students worldwide.
Originally from London and having worked in New York and Lisbon after her Psychology degree, she has since settled in Switzerland with her husband, and dedicated her life to expanding her knowledge of the science of yoga, mindful meditation and better physical and mental health.
Over the years Charlie has worked with some of the most renowned yoga teachers around the world (David Swenson, Shiva Rea, Anne-Marie Newland, Leslie Kaminoff, Sadie Nardini, Sonia Sumar etc) certifying in Hatha, Sivanada, Ashtanga, Childrens and Family Yoga, Yoga for the Special Child, & Inner Engineering with Sadhguru. She has become highly respected for her successful work in yoga therapy, especially for Autism, ADHD and other behavioural and developmental syndromes. She has also talked at some of the biggest corporations in Switzerland and the annual SGIS (Swiss Group of International Schools) Conference on implementing Mindfulness in the work place and the education system.
Charlie holds the highest yoga qualifications as an ERYT500 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher), RCYT (Registered Children´s Yoga Teacher), RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) and YCEP (Yoga Continued Education Provider) with the Yoga Alliance, and has developed Indiv Yoga™ to bring a more physiological, therapeutic and individual approach to yoga. Indiv Yoga™ Switzerland is a RYS (registered yoga school) and RCYS (registered children’s yoga school) providing Yoga Alliance teacher training certifications of the highest professional standards.
The focus of Indiv Yoga™ is to provide the benefits of yoga to every type of individual, using its teachings to achieve physical and mental balance, and diminish the anxieties of modern life for adults and children.
Read her onlineand for a feel of her knowledgeable and friendly professionalism.