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Chapter 3. Breathing > Breathing and Ultradian Rhythms

Breathing and Ultradian Rhythms

You may be wondering, what possible relevance could breathing in and out of different nostrils have in terms of affecting your ability to relax or concentrate? Well, believe it or not, there is a growing body of research verifying the existence of ultradian rhythms. Ultradian rhythms are shifts in various body processes that occur approximately every ninety minutes. For our purposes, we are interested in how brain functioning is affected. As it turns out, our brain shifts from being dominated by left-hemispheric activity to right-hemispheric activity every ninety minutes. That is, we shift from a very logical, deductive, sequential, focused, externally oriented (left brain) way of being in the world, to a more intuitive, creative, dreamy, internally focused (right brain) way of being in the world. You have probably noticed that there are times during the day when you have been reading or concentrating very well, and then suddenly you find your mind drifting. You keep reading the same paragraph over and over, but it remains incomprehensible. Or you simply feel like closing your eyes and daydreaming. This is the feeling of the ultradian shift into a brain state dominated by right-hemisphere activity. In this state, you are particularly predisposed to relax and rest deeply. Any relaxation exercise is more easily accomplished.

So, what about your nostrils? Take a moment and notice which nostril is more open. That is, which nostril is moving more air through it? You can do this by simply feeling the comparative air flow when you close one nostril or the other. Or you can listen to the sound of the air as you close off one nostril. The higher-pitched sound is the more closed nostril, and the lower-pitched sound is the more open one. Your left brain controls the right side of your body and your right nostril; your right brain controls your left side and nostril. If the right nostril is the open one, then your left brain is more dominant now. If the left nostril is more open, then your right hemisphere is dominant. If they are equally open, your brain activity is relatively balanced.


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