The Power of Your Nostrils: The Key to the Mind, Body, and Soul
Air and the ability to breathe are vital for life; humans can only survive for a few minutes without it. But given the high importance of air for human life, why is our nostrils’ health, clarity, and functioning so often overlooked?
Extensive research has shown that when you cannot breathe properly through your nose, this has a profound effect not only on your physical health but also on your mental wellbeing. Throughout the day, it is common for one nostril to be more dominant than the other, commonly known as the nasal cycle. But when this cycle becomes imbalanced, or one nostril becomes more dominant than the other, this can also affect your mind and body and can even lead to disease. These imbalances in the nasal cycle can be associated with mood swings and problem with concentration
Thankfully, there are some simple ways that you can use the power of the breath and single nostril breathing to restore the health of your nostrils and control your nostril dominance. See below to find out more!
Why are Your Nostrils Important?
As you probably know, your nostrils are vital to bringing air into your body and giving you the ability to breathe. Your nose is not just a place for air to enter your body; they also play a crucial role in filtering, warming, and humidifying the air as well. As air moves through your nose, the nostrils are your first line of defense against pathogens, which is why you can usually find small hairs inside the canals to trap dust and other particles. As you inhale, your nostrils also warm the air and add a bit of moisture to it from the mucosa so that it conserves water and heats up once it enters the inside of the body.
But past this simple benefit for your physical health, your nostrils also have a significant effect on your mental health. One study found that participants with poorer nostril functioning also had lower wellbeing and reduced general mental health. Further research has shown that nostril dominance, in particular, may be the key to understanding the link between the breath, the nose, and the mind.
What is Nostril Dominance?
If you’ve ever experienced a nostril blockage when you are sick, then you know how this can seriously affect your physical and mental health. We do not breathe equally through our nostrils, generally one nostril is dominant and is connected to opposite side brain function. But nostril dominance doesn’t just happen when you are sick; it also occurs in cycles throughout the day. In fact, both of your nostrils are hardly ever working simultaneously as they are continually moving through the nasal cycle.
The nasal cycle is essentially the continuous change in the asymmetrical flow of air through your nostrils for specific periods of time. Throughout the day, you will breathe mostly through only one nostril at a time, and whichever nostril is dominant tends to change after a few hours in the average person. The dominance of one nostril can last anywhere between 25 minutes to 4 hours, and it tends to vary from person to person and even from cycle to cycle. This alteration of nostril dominance prevents the nostrils from drying out, crusting, and becoming infected.
Nostril dominance is controlled by the central regulator located in the hypothalamus in the brain. The nerves of the autonomic nervous system, which is associated with the natural “fight or flight” and “rest or digest” responses, run through the nostrils, connect to the hypothalamus, and control nostril dominance. When the sympathetic nerve in one nostril becomes active (leads to vasoconstriction – narrowing of blood vessels with greater airflow), this causes that nostril to open up. This then triggers the parasympathetic nerve in the opposite nostril (restrictive airflow) to become active and close that nostril at the same time, thereby creating nostril dominance. The nasal cycle is not only found in humans but in many animals as well.
Factors Affecting Nostril Dominance
In ancient text, the left nostril is associated with cold (energy conserving, cold conversation) or moon. The right nostril is associated with the sun (heat generating , energy consuming, alertness). There are a number of things that can affect the dominance of one nostril over the other, and they are:
- Environment: During the winter season when it’s cold right nostril is fully open to warm up the body and when the temperature changes the left nostril is activated.
- Mental state: How we are feeling, our moods and emotions affect our mental state. It can cause the cycle to become erratic with emotional disturbances.
- Posture and physical state: When you are sleeping and turning side to side our nostrils shift, as continuous pressure on one side can open up the opposite side of the nostril. Similar different postures of leaning towards one side throughout the day can activate opposite nostrils.
Nostril Dominance and Illness
Your autonomic nervous system is directly associated with survival responses, stress, mental health, the digestive system, and more. So, given the close link between nostril dominance and the autonomic nervous system, it is easy to see how this can affect your mental and physical health. The effects of nostril dominance on the body and mind may also be due to how each nostril activates the opposite hemisphere of the brain as the nostril and can variably impact neurotransmitter and hormone functioning in the body.
Equal airflow through both sides of the nostrils represents the balance. When one side of nostril has more flow of air or dominant it’s decongested due to constriction of blood vessels leading to sympathetic activity on that side and produces vasoconstriction in the same side of the brain which reduces the blood flow and cortical activity on same side of the brain therefore parasympathetic activity happens on other side of the brain to maintain blood flow.
In some cases, one nostril becomes continuously dominant for longer periods than usual, leading to a constant nostril dominance and imbalance of the nasal cycle. Research has shown that this imbalance is associated with a wide variety of mental and physical diseases, depending on if it is the left or right nostril. See below for a summary of the psychological and physical effects associated with the dominance of each nostril.
Right Nostril Dominance:
- Greater verbal abilities in autism
- Mental and nervous disturbances
- Increased blood glucose levels
- Improved metabolism
- Decreased blood pressure
- Enhanced logical thinking
- Bipolar Disorder
- Peptic ulcers
- Eye diseases
- Liver disorder
- Gastrointestinal disorder
- Cardiac diseases
Left Nostril Dominance:
- Enhanced spatial abilities in autism
- Decreased blood glucose levels
- Increased blood pressure
- Stronger spatial task ability
- Unipolar Depression
- Loss of appetite
How to Change Your Nostril Dominance
Ancient yogis have long been manipulating the breath and nostril dominance to control their mental and physical health. But only in recent times has there been growing scientific support to show the effects that uninostril or single nostril breathing and controlling the nasal airflow through various yoga and pranayama practices can have. Research shows that breathing through one nostril can alter the nasal cycle and may even control brain activity.
By practicing single nostril breathing, in which you inhale and exhale through only one nostril while physically closing the opposite nostril with your finger or some other object, you can directly impact your mind, body, and soul.
But what if you need to activate your sympathetic nervous system to enable you to concentrate? Some situations, such as work meetings, college lectures or job interviews are hard to manage if your left nostril is dominant at the time. To activate your right nostril, you could lean slightly to your left. If the situation allows for it, you could also place your right hand in your left armpit. This action stimulates energy points located in your armpit that can help you clear your right nostril and improve your concentration levels.
In conclusion, by learning about your body’s nasal cycles and practising alternate nostril breathing, you could become very efficient at manipulating your daily routine to yield the most productive result.
So, if you have right nostril dominance, you can balance your nostrils by closing your right nostril and breathing only through the left nostril, or vice versa. Over time, your nasal cycle will begin to shift, and you could potentially eliminate many of the diseases and imbalances associated with a particular nostril dominance.
Breathing does not only keep your body running normally; it also has a direct effect on your mental health. Depending on which of your nostrils is dominant, this can lead to particular diseases associated with that nostril imbalance. But by utilizing single nostril breathing, you can bring your body and mind back into balance and potentially cure yourself of disease.
Throughout the rest of your day, try to tune into your body and notice which of your nostrils may be dominant at any given time. Once you determine your nostril dominance, you can practice breathing more through the opposite nostril. This simple switch has the potential to radically transform your health and life today!