Try something with me. Take a compact mirror or your index finger and place it underneath your nose. Breathe normally. Hold the mirror or your finger under your nose for at least ten seconds. Do you feel your breath predominantly exits from one nostril? Does one side of the mirror retain more condensation? Which nostril is predominantly involved in your breathing right now?
The yogis of yore were greatly interested in which nostril the breath enters and exits from. The Sufi yogis inherited this interest and took particular pains to preserve yogic knowledge of how to use and manipulate nostril breathing to improve health and happiness.
Today, I’m going to share some of this knowledge with you.
The left nostril is the moon nostril in Sufi yoga (Arabic: qamar, Sanskrit: ida). It is associated with coolness, the feminine, darkness and other yin qualities. The right nostril is the sun nostril (Arabic: shams, Sanskrit: pingala). It is associated with warmth, the masculine, light and other yang qualities.
Monitering which nostril predominantly controls your breath throughout the day helps you recognize what state your body and mind are in. If your breath is from the moon nostril, then you are in a more intuitive, restful, cool state. If your breath comes from the sun nostril, then you are in a more energetic, outgoing, warm state (and your digestion is good!). Depending on the time of day and your activities, you can either use your breath as a guide for what you should be doing right now (i.e. resting or working), or as a warning sign that you are out of balance and need to use alternate nostril breathing or other pranayam practices to get you to a more balanced place.
The Sufi yogis consider the ideal to be when your breath is predominantly from the left nostril in the daytime and the right nostril in the nighttime.
For some Hindu yogis, the ideal was to have your breath exit and enter equally through both nostrils.
In other words, both groups consider balance to be the mark of good physical, mental and spiritual health.
How can you use all this knowledge to your benefit?
Here’s a handy chart I made for you to experiment with! This is just a guide based on my own practice and readings in yoga, Sufism and Ayurveda. Hopefully it helps you establish your own guide to balance.
(If you right-click on the image below and open it in a new tab, it should be bigger. If not, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the original image. Also, don’t hesitate to email me if you need some guidance on the different pranayam breathing practices mentioned below.)
The more you observe your breath through your nostrils, the more you will come to know yourself and the better you will be able to direct your efforts and energy to creating balance and happiness in your life.
May you be filled with peace,