A Research Paper By Malindar Jit Kaur, Mindfulness and Wellbeing Coach, MALAYSIA
Effect of Breathwork Technique Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB)
Life is defined not by the number of years a person is alive on earth, but by the number of breaths each soul is given for its journey – Vedas
As a yoga and meditation practitioner, I have practiced breathwork for many years and had tremendous success in my well-being and the well-being of others when introducing breathwork to family and friends. The understanding of breath as the life force energy (Yoga Sutra), breath is not just the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (Sadhguru, a mystic yogi), but acts as the bridge of life to consciousness (Thich Nhat Hanh, a mindfulness master) has been spoken about my many masters and present in the ancient scriptures.
My JOY coaching model advocates breathwork as a tool to go deeper within ourselves to access the inner JOY. Once the client has tasted this inner journey, bringing the awareness to the Inner Being, it is then inevitable to live through “the loving eyes” (My Power Tool) to embrace the outer manifestation of JOY in different areas of life.
Many breathwork techniques can be incorporated into the coaching practice. However, this research paper will focus on one particular breathwork technique, alternate nostril breathing (ANB). This research will interest those that are open to mindfulness practices.
Methodology: Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB) in Coaching
Examples of research done on subjects that performed ANB resulted in an increase in parasympathetic activity (Nepal Medical College), prescribed for hypertensive patients (IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences), increased respiratory efficiency (Journal of Population Therapeutics & Clinical Pharmacology) as well as promoted well-being in engineering students (School of Doctoral Studies (European Union).
The mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens to the mental universe, must leave tracks to the physical one. Deepak Chopra
In a coaching session, the client brings forth topics triggered by certain events or circumstances, affecting the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the client (CBT Triangle). Thoughts give birth to vibration (The Mind-Body). Vibration gives birth to energy (The Energy-Body) which encompasses feelings and emotions. Energy gives birth to the physical reality (The Physical-Body) in terms of behaviors. Breath is the vehicle for the Energy body and the connection between Mind and Body.
Energy Flows Where Awareness Goes:
Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics. Albert Einstein
The mind gets scattered and the energy starts to flow towards that scattered thinking patterns resulting in a certain skewed perspective. The breath takes different forms, for example, if you are angry, the breath will be short and fast. Bringing the awareness to the breath, the client takes charge of their mind again (Thich Nhat Hahn).
Some clients say “I feel” and they can spot the area in their body that is affected by the issue at hand. While others say “I think” and show a conflicting non-verbal clue to what they say. The coach’s role is to bring the clients’ awareness back to that affected spot and breath in and out of that spot or to provide observation and allow the client to express their thoughts openly. Comfort, empathy, curiosity, non-judgmental space, trust, and safety are fundamental for the coaching session.
Respond vs. React
When you react, you are giving away your power. When you respond you are staying in control of yourself. Bob Proctor
Studies are now emerging on emotions and linkages to breathwork, for example, in some cancer patients (MOJ Anatomy and Physiology). Once trapped emotions are acknowledged and addressed, the fight-flight-freeze gets neutralized resulting in clarity of thought. Embracing the calmness, helps the client view their rivers of life through different lenses. Clients can then behave in a better version of themselves to respond to what has happened and move forward in a transformative way. Clients triumph from the state of reacting as victims of their circumstances.
Alignment to the Present Moment
The only thing you need to be present here and now is your breathing. When you feel your breath, your mind is with your body. Ilchi Lee
Awareness of the breath stops the chatter of the future and past. Clients begin to live in the NOW and realize the potential of what actions can be taken today to create the future that they so desire. Once you are in alignment, conflict ceases and you begin to live by your true values and purpose. The impact of ANB is profound in balancing the clients and gearing them to take responsibility for their actions, get the support that they need regain strength from the learnings that they have obtained.
A Catalyst for the Inner Journey
Mindfulness is awareness without criticism and judgment. Jan Chozen Bays
ANB is a tool to deep dive into the inner being where all the answers and joy live. ANB is the gateway to meditation and other mindfulness practices. Practiced over some time, the client consciously breaths with awareness and looks at everything from a non-judgmental space. The client maintains an objective view of the triggering events and chooses to see from a myriad of possibilities instead. The client continues to grow, heal, learn and break the limitations.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB) Method:
ANB is a rhythmic, conscious breath practice through alternate nostrils, one side at a time. Below are the steps:
- Sit upright, spine is straight, placing your left palm on your left thigh, facing upwards.
- Close your right nostril by pressing your right thumb against the right nostril.
- Inhale for 4 seconds through your left nostril.
- Use your right ring finger to close the left nostril (your index and middle fingers can be placed on your forehead)
- Release the right thumb and exhale through the right nostril for 4 seconds.
- Since you exhaled from the right nostril, now inhale back through the same nostril (right nostril) for 4 seconds, then close the right nostril with the right thumb
- Release the left nostril and exhale out of the left nostril.
- Repeat the process (start from 3 minutes and slowly increase to 10 or 15 minutes overtime)
You can also accompany yourself with a four-beat mantra to help you go deeper. Both the inhale and exhale should be through the nose and not the mouth as it is important to breathe from the diaphragm instead of the chest. It’s optional to burn some incense or essential oils, use scented candles, light a lamp or practice outdoors.
The health and well-being benefits of the ANB technique were studied and used. A true case study of a Mindfulness and Well-being Coach with a client that came with anxiousness and fear is discussed below. Books, journals, websites, and self-reflections were used during the research.
3 minutes of ANB was initially suggested to her.
(Name changed to protect client’s identity)
A 35 years old woman named Sher was approached by a Mindfulness and Well-being Coach. Sher was a successful IT consultant, who was wanting to invest in a home but felt fearful that she will not have the means to pay up the housing loan.
The coach observed Sher’s breathing pattern as Sher narrated her topic for her coaching session. Sher responded that she was feeling anxious. The coach subsequently enquired if Sher could pinpoint the area in her body where she was feeling her anxiousness. Sher confirmed that she felt constricted in her chest area.
The coach used scaling as a tool to measure Sher’s anxiousness, from 1to10, where 1 is the least anxious and 10 is the most anxious. Sher was at 8.
The coach sought permission from the Sherif the Sher was willing to participate in a breath exercise. Upon getting Sher’s permission, the coach engaged Sher in the ANBexercise with her awareness on her chest, inhaling while expanding her chest and, exhaling while contracting her chess for a couple of minutes.
The coach then enquired as to where Sherwas on the anxiousness scale and Sher stated it was 5.
Subsequently, the coach used other techniques to shift Sher’s perspective, for example, powerful questioning, visualization, connecting Sher to her gut feeling, a lot of silence, kept bringing Sher’s awareness to her breath from time to time until Sher’s anxiety scale dropped to 2.
In the end, the question was asked “What are your thoughts on your financial situation now?”Sher replied that “I am sufficient. I have always been fed and I will continue to have abundance.” Her breathing pattern normalized and she felt so light in her chest. Sher’s anxiety scale then further dropped to 1. She was so empowered to buy her house and the coach was privy to her purchase thereafter. Sher has ever since practiced the ANB technique as a daily practice and she has noticed that she is a lot calmer and more focused throughout the day.
- What is the overall impact of the Alternative Nostril Breathing when practiced regularly in the coaching sessions, and in between coaching sessions:
- Helps to regulate emotions by balancing the mind and body
- Brings clarity as the fog of underlying beliefs disappear
- Experience and appreciation of the present moment
- A burst of energy, creating alertness, productivity, and motivation
- Creates many insights and learnings
- Takes you deeper during meditation
- Helps with bodily and mental diseases for example over-whelming feelings and stress
- Role of a Coach based on the given case study:
The coach enhanced the coaching session with ANB, by firstly connecting the client to her body and then shifting the client from an overwhelmed space of anxiousness. Once the client was more centered, the coach proceeded with the session and brought in the awareness of the breath to her body from time to time. This helped the client eventually break through her financial fears.
- Once the client is practicing ANB, the client can get connected to the body and can recognize the area that is impacted in the body.
- When the awareness shifts to the body, ANB helps to respond to the emotions instead of reacting.
- The client can then calmly see the topic objectively and reframe their perspective
- Enabling the client to release and let go of the emotion, thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives that do not serve the client
- The client can practice ANB to retrain themselves by making this practice a conscious habit
Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB) Can Be Used in Coaching
The coach can incorporate the ANB as part of their daily ritual and use it as a pre-preparation before any coaching sessions as it helps with the coach’s presence.
The coach uses the gift of ANB as a mindfulness tool to connect the client to the present moment during the session or as a takeaway to practice between coaching sessions and eventually as a lifelong tool for the client’s well-being.
The coach helps bring the client to a more relaxed and balanced state that enables the client to focus on the real issue rather than the overwhelming feeling that clouds the client. The perspective shifts can then be obtained at a much faster rate.
The coach helps clients to connect to their inner world and their inner strengths and builds self-trust in clients, increasing awareness, and cementing long-lasting changes as clients obtain a deeper understanding of themselves and their limitations. Thus, empowering the clients to move forward by overcoming their fears and roadblocks.
Simple Breathwork Technique, Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB)
The research shows the study of one simple breathwork technique, ANB, that plays a huge part in the mind-body connection, helps tame the turbulent mind, giving rise to lesser thoughts, bringing an impactful balance that promotes the clients’ well-being.
With the inclusion of breathwork in coaching sessions, profound paradigm shifts take place as the client becomes more self-aware, honoring their experiences, learning each lesson, applying those lessons in different areas of life, and embarking on the forward movement toward a fulfilling wholesome life. From here on joy, creativity and innovation is the new way of life.
Sacred Vibes Apothecary: Breath-The Bridge between Body and Mind
Guiding Light by Sadhguru: Breath-Bond
Lions Roar: Thich Nhat Hanh on the Practise of Mindfulness
Breathwork: How to Tap into The Incredible Power of Breath, Gwen Dittmar
Amber Sayer, Feeling Stressed or Frazzled? This easy breathwork technique can help
The Art of Living: What is Pranayama and Yoga?
WebMD: What to Know about Alternate Nostril Breathing
Journal of Population Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology: Effects of alternate nostril breathing exercise on respiratory functions in healthy young adults leading stressful lifestyle Iffat Jahan, Momtaz Begum, Shahin Akhter, Md. Zakirul Islam, Nusrat Jahan and Mainul Haque
International Journal of Science Inventions Today: Effects of Alternate Nostril Breathing on Quitting Smoking Raghwendra Kumar Jha and Prof. Dr. Hui Ping Li
Egyptian Journal of Healthcare: Effect of Application of an Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise on Fatigue and Quality of Sleep Pattern among Nursing Students Sohier Waheda, Heba Elsayed Khatab, and Heba Abdel Mowla Ahmed Abdel Mowla
School of Doctoral Studies (European Union) Journal: Enhanced Wellbeing Amongst Engineering Students Through Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) Training: An Analysis Anurag Joshi
Journal of Critical Diagnostic Research: Effect of Left, Right and Alternate Nostril Breathing on Verbal and Spatial Memory Rinku Garg, Varun Malhotra, Yogesh Tripathi, and Ritu Agarawal
CBT Triangle: https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/cbt-triangle.pdf
Sarkar AA. Functional correlation between breathing and emotional states. MOJ Anat Physiol. 2017;3(5):157‒158
Nepal Medical College: Effect of alternate nostril breathing exercise on cardiorespiratory functions Varun Malhotra and Kshitiz U Dhungel