A Breathing Practice to Calm, Soothe, & Relax

December 20, 2018

For the last 35 years, the Art of Living has taught over 30 million people how to use breathing exercises to quiet the mind, reduce stress and make meditation easier – and Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of our favorites.

In Sanskrit, Alternate Nostril Breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”, and it has many benefits. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. It also relaxes the mind in preparation for meditation, which can be helpful for those struggling to settle down before meditating. When performed for just a few minutes, Alternate Nostril Breathing can instantly reduce stress and fatigue, and is a quick and efficient practice to do before high-stress situations such as job interviews and public speaking engagements.

How To Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit in a comfortable position with the spine long and the hips relaxed. Release any tension from your jaw. Close your eyes.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee with the palm face upward, or in the Chin Mudra by pressing the index finger and thumb together.
  • Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows with the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open and close the left nostril and use the thumb for the right nostril.
  • On an exhalation, close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the left nostril.
  • Breathe in through the left nostril and then close with the ring finger.
  • Release the thumb on the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close with the thumb, release the ring finger from the left side and exhale through the left nostril.
  • These two full breaths are called one round of Alternate Nostril Breath.
  • Perform 5 to 9 rounds of this alternating breath between the nostrils. Remember to always inhale through the same nostril you just exhaled through.

The Nadi Shodhana Pranayama will relax the mind and prepare it for meditation, making it a great technique to perform before meditating.

The Benefits

  • Calms and centers the mind
  • Brings the mind to the present moment and out of the past (releasing old fears, regret, and worry)
  • Therapeutic for the circulatory and respiratory systems
  • Stress relieving and relaxing for the body and mind
  • Helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
  • Helps purify and balance the nadis, the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
  • Maintains body temperature.

3 Things to Remember

  • The breathing pattern is breath out, breathe in, switch sides.
  • Do not force the breath – keep it gentle and natural. Allow the breath to be smooth and even without creating force or pressure. Do not breathe through the mouth or make any sound such as in Ujjayi breath.
  • Place the fingers very lightly on the forehead and nose. There is no need to apply any pressure.

Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Watch Art of Living faculty member, Jim Larsen, guide Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


Interested in learning more about yoga and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!


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TAGS: art of living , breathing , experiences , health , meditation , pranayama , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training
Addiction - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: The Role of Yoga in Addiction Recovery

By Tommy Rosen
June 10, 2018

Addiction - Art of Living Retreat Center


By definition, addiction is disconnection. T.S. Elliot once wrote that “Hell is the place where nothing connects.” That’s addiction. Nothing is connected. One feels separate from everything. There is no cohesion between mind, body, spirit; between self, other, and the relationship with the Divine. All of this is skewed and confused and difficult and muddled.


From disconnection to connection

The classical philosophy of yoga is union, oneness, wholeness, and coherence. The path from disconnection to connection, is, by definition, the path of yoga. Yoga is the antidote to addiction. The asana practice of yoga helps to move energy, cultivate Prana, create vitality, and rebalance the nervous system and the endocrine system. It helps heal the tissues and the cells in the brain.


How yoga works to heal addiction

Yoga helps you get the issues out of your tissues. It helps you squeeze and process emotional residue from the past out of the tissues of the body, so that you can be more comfortable, more present, more free. Energetically speaking, yoga allows us to develop a greater sensitivity to the subtle.


Addiction is the very grossest of experiences. It’s a physical anxiety, a deep and overwhelming craving. When we practice yoga, we’re moving towards the subtle, the experience of quieter things. That is what spirituality is. Yoga is the study of moving towards spirit, towards essence. It’s sensitivity training.


Reconnecting with mind, body, and spirit

From the pranayama standpoint, control of the breath allows us to move beyond some of our confusion to develop an even deeper sense of presence and remove some of our blockages. The state of yoga allows us to be in the state of absorption, of meditation, where we have the ability to master the mind.


Addiction hits us at the level of mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is about calming the mind, healing the body, and reconnecting us with spirit. It’s the perfect practice as an antidote to addiction.


Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in recovery and wellness. He holds certifications in both kundalini and hatha yoga and has 25 years of continuous recovery from drug addiction.Tommy is one of the pioneers in the field of yoga and recovery assisting others to holistically transcend addictions of all kinds. Tommy is the founder of the Recovery 2.0 Global Community, the Recovery 2.0 Online Conference series and the Recovery 2.0 Group Coaching Program. He leads Recovery 2.0 retreats and workshops internationally and presents regularly at yoga conferences and festivals. His first book, Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life, was published by Hay House in 2014.


Join Tommy Rosen for his Recovery 2.0 Immersion workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center from June 29th – July 6th, 2018, and change your life from the inside out.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!


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TAGS: addiction , meditation , pranayama , recovery , tommy rosen , yoga

Ayurvedic Weight Loss (Part 2): Stress Reduction

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
September 20, 2016


In our last blog we discovered how Ayurveda has given us the tools for losing weight and keeping it off.  We learned what to eat and when and the reason why fad diets don’t work. Right lifestyle is the key to successful weight management. That lifestyle includes not only right foods but also right stress reduction.
In this blog we’ll look at the reasons why  stress = weight gain. You will also discover the #1 way to destress —  the stress-busting practice of conscious breathing, or pranayama.

Is Stress Causing Your Weight Gain?
For many of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, stress is also a fact of fat. “Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women.

The Cortisol Connection
Few of us reach for carrots in stressful situations. Instead we go for the cupcake or the Krispy Kreme. Why? According to Elissa Epel, PhD, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco, ”We crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension.” This soothing effect becomes addictive. When you become anxious, you start to crave fattening foods.


Krispy Kreme

Whenever you are having a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to pump out more cortisol, that damaging stress hormone. When cortisol skyrockets, food cravings appear.
Cortisol also drives up the blood pressure and the blood sugar. It encourages the body to store fat. It tells the body to replenish energy, even if few calories have been used up.
Unfortunately, the body will keep on producing cortisol as long as the stress continues. For that reason,  stress reduction is a critical component of weight management.

Ayurvedic Stress Management
Obviously, getting completely rid of all stress isn’t an option. But by taking steps to beat stress, you can get your cortisol levels and your weight under control—and improve your health. Let’s look at one of the most effective tools for managing stress and lowering cortisol: conscious breathing, or pranayama.
Breathing with a Purpose: Pranayama
Both Yoga and Ayurveda, the healing branch of yogic science, have given us the tools to reduce the effects of life stress. Perhaps the most effective (and fastest) stress reduction practice is conscious breathing, breathing with a purpose.
The yogic science of breath (pranayama) links body, breath, mind and spirit. Just as a kite string links the kite-flier to his kite, the breath links the mind with the universal life force, cosmic prana. In Yoga, conscious breathing is a unique way to soothe the nervous system and influencing stress-related disorders.

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY)
One of the most powerful pranayamas in Yoga is the Sudarshan Kriya, taught at Art of Living centers around the world. Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a special breath technique that calms the mind and energizes the body.  Sudarshan means “proper vision” and kriya is a Sanskrit term for “purifying action.” Here purifying means to make sattvic —  balanced, centered and calm.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has been taught to more than 6 million people in 152 countries worldwide. SKY has been reported to be effective not only for treating stress and anxiety, but also for PTSD, depression, stress-related medical illness and substance abuse.
A recent article in the International Journal of Yoga, “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga: Breathing for Health,” highlighted the benefits of this powerful technique on the body-mind. The article states, “rather than allowing the emotions to alter the breath (and cause physiological changes which may prove unhealthy), one can skillfully use the breath to transform one’s emotional state.”
Besides reducing stress, SKY helps the body burn more fat. It boosts oxygen and stokes the digestive fire. In this respect, pranayama (regulating the flow of breath and energy through working with the breath) is instrumental in natural weight loss.
For those interested in learning the The Sudarshan Kriya, it is taught at AOLRC each month in the Happiness Program weekend workshops.

In this blog we learned how stress is a major contributing factor for weight gain.  For optimal weight management, we must learn how to manage life stress. Yoga and Ayurveda have given us the tools for stress reduction. One of the most effective tools for stress management is conscious breathing, or pranayama, like the Sudarshan Kriya. The Sudarshan Kriya is taught in the AOLRC Happiness Program each month.

Question:  What is the fastest way to reduce the effects of stress on the body-mind?

Comments? Please share your favorite way to de-stress, using the comment box below.


And to learn more about Ayurveda’s holistic approach to weight management, please check out the ebook: Weight Loss with Ayurveda.


weight loss guide from retreat center


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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Ayurvedic Cleanse: The Natural Way to Detox (Part 2)

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
May 22, 2016

Ayurveda, the holistic medicine from India, has given us a treasure trove of methods to minimize the toxins that come into our lives and maximize the toxins that go out. In our last blog, we learned the best place to start an Ayurvedic cleanse is with an organic vegetarian diet, packed with all six tastes of Ayurveda — sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. We also covered some of the basic healing herbs used in Ayurveda, from Triphala to Ashwagandha.

In this blog (# 2 of series), we’ll explore two more methods for cleansing the physical body — tongue scraping and svedana (sweating) — and one method for cleansing the mind: pranayama (conscious breathing).

Tongue Scraping

In Ayurveda, ama refers to any accumulation of toxic residue in the body. This can result from improper eating, poor digestion, or a reflection of an imbalance somewhere in the gastrointestinal system. Perhaps the most direct way of removing ama from the body is by tongue scraping. This oral hygiene practice has been used for thousands of years to remove toxins from the tongue better than a toothbrush. If your taste buds are covered with ama (bacteria and plaque), it makes it harder to taste foods. A lack of satisfying taste can lead to going overboard with salt and sweets, with the end result being overeating and weight gain.

ayurvedic cleanse tongue scraper
Tongue scrapers can be made of copper, plastic, or even silver, as shown above.

How To Use A Tongue Scraper

Place the tongue scraper as far back on your tongue as is comfortable. Using firm but gentle pressure, slide the scraper from the back of your tongue to the tip 5-10 times. Rinse and clean off the scraper and repeat until there’s no chalky residue left. Takes about 1 to 2 minutes. If you don’t have a tongue scraper, get into the habit of brushing your tongue with the toothbrush.

In Ayurveda, a good tongue examination is a useful way of evaluating the health of the entire body. Looking closely at your tongue each morning is also an opportunity for self-awareness, where you can reflect on your food choices of the last several days.


Svedana (Sweating)

Svedana is another Ayurvedic cleanse technique for removing physical toxins. When the body is heated up in a sauna or steam bath, the blood vessels dilate, increasing circulation to the tissues. Sweating then moves toxins out of the tissues so that they can more easily be eliminated from the body. Daily sauna/steam therapy is ideal — at home or at the gym or health club. If a daily sauna is not available to you, you can run a very hot bath or shower to create a sauna effect, or even sit in a warm tub of water.

Let your body guide you as far as the proper amount of time for heat exposure. Because there are different mind-body types, some may feel ready to step out of the sauna or shower after 5 to 10 minutes, while others can remain for 15 to 20 minutes. Placing a cool, moist cloth on your head reduces the chance of lightheadedness and allows the head to stay cool while the body heats up. In addition, some people may prefer a moist sauna, while others prefer dry heat. Experiment a little to see what serves you best.

Sit quietly and imagine toxins being mobilized and eliminated by your Ayurvedic cleanse.  When showering afterwords, visualize the released toxins flowing off of your body. Drink plenty of water before and after the sauna.


Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)

In both Yoga and Ayurveda, conscious breathing — breathing with a purpose, breathing with awareness — is an important part of daily cleansing. The yogic breath is a special form of long deep breathing that clears the lungs of carbon dioxide and increases oxygen intake. Long deep breathing massages the internal organs, stimulates metabolism and provides the body with more vital energy. The yogic breath is the first line treatment for panic attack.

Another practice that is profoundly relaxing and cleansing is nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing — an ancient yogic technique for restoring balance to the body-mind. One of the more vigorous breathing exercises in yoga is bhastrika, or “bellows breath,” a breathing technique used to energize the body’s life force (prana) and clear the mind. The next time you feel sluggish, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, try an energetic breathing practice, instead.


Contraindications: Do not practice bhastrika if you’re pregnant, have uncontrolled hypertension, seizures, or panic attacks. You should also avoid practicing bellows breath on a full stomach. Wait at least two hours after eating.

In our next blog, part 3 of the series, we’ll explore Panchakarma, the ultimate Ayurvedic cleanse experience for detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system and restoring balance and wellbeing.


Interested in learning more about how Ayurveda can improve your health? To find out more, schedule a free consultation with our Ayurveda specialist.

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Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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TAGS: art of living , ayurvedic cleanse , ayurvedic detox , Detox , harrison graves md , Panchakarma , pranayama , svedana , tongue scraper
happiness program patricia pranayama

Happiness Program: Recovering From Illness & Sustaining Happiness

By Andrew
May 21, 2016

For this blog, we were fortunate to join Patricia as she explains some ways the Happiness Program transformed her experience of illness.


Being comfortable in the present moment brings me happiness and I just think we’re supposed to feel good. This breathing works very well for me. Also, just paying attention to what’s happening and appreciating that. Lots of appreciation and gratitude help me with that. And meditation.


From Illness to Happiness

I was very, very ill and my father passed away in the early part of that illness. And so I was grieving while being very ill. The only thing that seems to help me other than allopathic medicine was pranayama (yogic breath-work). So I had been praying for more and more pranayama.

the happiness program patricia pranayama

After my dad passed my children agreed that a silent retreat was a good thing for me to do. With their help, I was fortunate enough to take what I thought was a week-long silent meditation retreat up in Boone with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, but it turned out to include the Art of Happiness Program first. And then, Christmas day, the silent retreat part began. I didn’t know I was going to get more pranayama. I got so much pranayama! I was so blessed by it and immediately felt the health benefits. It was a complete change; when I got back people looked at me and said things like “Well, you’re back in the saddle again.” I was much healthier right away.

It was a complete change; when I got back people looked at me and said things like “Well, you’re back in the saddle again.” I was much healthier right away.

Health Benefits

The medication and the actual illness were very disturbing to the mind. Yet my mind became clear and I became more comfortable in my body. Another health benefit I’ve noticed is that even though I had this one thing, I never caught anything else. Whereas other people would get the cold and stuff, but I was not ever ill with anything else besides this one thing which troubled me. So it interesting to watch people get sinus infections and things, but not me. Also, people commented on my skin all the time so I think it’s helped with anti-aging. That’s a benefit!

I just want to say that the SKY breathing, for me, makes whatever circumstances going on in my life that are not so great seem really unimportant.

I would say let’s focus on the good; let’s quiet the mind. Let’s save our souls and our bodies. And let’s breathe.


Editor’s Note: Thanks for joining us. If you’d like to learn more about approaches to happiness and try out some techniques and guided meditations online, get the Happiness Program Starter Kit Series.

the starter kit


Patricia is a retired English as a Second Language teacher who resides in Winston-Salem.


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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TAGS: art of living , breathwork , experience , happiness , pranayama
pursuit of happiness with Jeff Houk

Happiness Program: the “Pursuit” of Happiness

By Jeff Houk
May 21, 2016

This week, we caught up with Jeff Houk, who has been actively promoting happiness and a happier quality of life through spiritual practice for over 20 years. Jeff came to the retreat center for to lead a Silent Retreat and otherwise stays very active as president of the International Association for Human Values.

pursuit of happiness with Jeff Houk
Jeff Houk, president of the International Association for Human Values (IAHV)

The Pursuit of Happiness Is a Universal Search

Everybody wants to be happy. And we really want everyone else around us to be happy too. If you’re happy and everyone else is not so happy, it impacts your happiness. The pursuit of happiness is not alien to anyone.


Search for Happiness

Often our search for happiness involves:

  • new experiences,
  • different people & cultures
  • situations and/or events

All these thing are great for a short period of time, be it an hour, a few days, maybe six months. Then they fade.


Like you, I remember that while at work, I was always looking forward to the weekend. When the weekend came, then I could relax; then I could let go because I wasn’t tied to the clock; my schedule was free. I felt the same way when on holiday or vacation. I enjoyed traveling because everything was new; it was fresh and exciting. I was discovering new things.


Always, towards the end of my vacation, this feeling rose up of “Oh gosh, it’s almost over,” and I’d just sort of shrink, knowing that it’s back to that day to day routine. When I was at work, at home, everything became routine and I lost that zest, that enthusiasm.


Discovering Happiness Within

I learned Surdarshan Kriya – a breathing technique that in ten minutes a day, doing that practice, keeps that happiness, that freedom, that energy alive. And what I’ve started to discover is that happiness is just there as my very nature. When I’ve reconnected with that, then no matter what I do, I’m experiencing happiness with those people, with those situations, with those experiences that I’m having and it again just enhances freedom and feeling connected.


I remember that when I was young, there was so much interest in everything and so much energy to do everything. But I felt that fading over the years. Day after day, week after week, I felt I was losing that enthusiasm. Yet here I am in my sixties feeling even more energetic and more excited about life than ever. I just hope that everybody has the same opportunity, just by learning these simple breathing practices. It’s a gift to yourself, like it was a gift to me.


Inner Happiness and the Pursuit of Happiness

To have both is living 200% a life. And that really is the American dream.

It’s okay to have a nice home, nice places to travel, good friends, nice entertainment. But that’s never enough.
So to have outer comfort and also have this inner peace, joy, freedom, happiness is living 200% of life. And that really is the American dream.


If you’d like to learn more about approaches to happiness and try out some techniques and guided meditations online, just sign up for our Happiness Starter Series online: Join the series

the starter kit


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , breath-work , happiness , meditation , pranayama , sudarshan kriya , yoga

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