The practice of anuloma pranayama is used in yoga as a type of breathing exercise. Specifically, it refers to breathing first through one nostril, and then the other. Alternating breathing through both nostrils in this manner may stimulate brain activity. Several health benefits have been associated with this practice, though few have been proven. Anuloma is a Sanskrit word that means alternate, while pranayama is another Sanskrit word that is translated to mean "extension of the life force."
The cycle begins by closing the right nostril with the thumb. Air is exhaled and inhaled through the left nostril. The thumb is then removed from the right nostril, and the ring finger closes the left nostril. Air is then exhaled and inhaled through the right nostril. This process is then repeated over and over, using a normal respiration pattern, and should not be forced.
Typically, individuals that commonly use anuloma pranayama will exhale for twice as long as they inhale. It is considered very important that changing nostrils occurs after inhalation, as some yoga enthusiasts believe that changing nostrils after exhaling can have an adverse effect upon the body. Practitioners of this type of respiration use it to bring the body's life energy back into proper balance, restoring good health.
Many users have linked positive health benefits to practicing this form of breathing. Proponents of anuloma pranayama believe it contributes to keep both sides of the brain functioning at their peak levels. Equal air to the right and left brain is thought to ensure that the logical mind and creative part of the mind are balanced. Yoga practitioners consider this one of the best ways to calm the nervous system and the mind.
Some of these health benefits have been backed up through scientific studies. Researchers found that when breathing through different nostrils, different areas of the brain were indeed stimulated. This is as far as science will back up yoga practitioners, however, as there is no scientific proof that anuloma pranayama can prevent other diseases. Still, this type of breathing is sometimes considered helpful in treating stress related issues, specifically high blood pressure and anxiety. Those who practice it believe the maximum benefits can only be attained by performing it regularly.
Anuloma pranayama is frequently used with yoga. It is a type of pranayama that does not require any special training or guidance by a teacher or professional. Often, this alternate breathing method is used in hatha yoga.