For on-the-spot stress relief, try Nadi Shodhana (meaning “flow” and “purification” in Sanskrit), or alternate nostril breathing.
The practice activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system by forcing you to take slow, deep, mindful breaths, says Michael Gervais, yoga instructor, creator of Equinox’s HeadStrong meditations, and director of group fitness talent and development in New York City. In yogic circles, the breathing method is said to balance the lunar (calm, nurturing) and solar (intense, enthusiastic) energies of the body, he adds.
To do it, close the right nostril with your left ring finger—or vice versa—and inhale through the left nostril for five seconds. At the top of the breath, release the ring finger, shut the left nostril with the thumb on the same hand, and exhale through the right nostril for five seconds. On the next full breath, breathe in on the right and out on the left. Continue, alternating sides, for at least one minute.
The bottom line:
Wind down with Nadi Shodhana before bed or any time you feel stressed during the day. “Make each breath in and out longer as your capacity increases,” Gervais says. There’s no upper limit, as long as your inhales and exhales are the same length.