Breathing through a particular nostril can alter metabolism and autonomic activities
The Indian Journal Physiology Pharmacology.
Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR.
Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, Chamarajpet, Bangalore.
There is increasing interest in the fact that breathing exclusively through one nostril may alter the autonomic functions. The present study aimed at checking whether such changes actually do occur, and whether breathing is consciously regulated. 48 male subjects, with ages ranging from 25 to 48 years were randomly assigned to different groups. Each group was asked to practice one out of three pranayamas (viz. right nostril breathing, left nostril breathing or alternate nostril breathing). These practices were carried out as 27 respiratory cycles, repeated 4 times a day for one month. Parameters were assessed at the beginning and end of the month, but not during the practice. The ‘right nostril pranayama’ group showed a significant increase, of 37% in baseline oxygen consumption. The ‘alternate nostril’ pranayama group showed an 18% increase, and the left nostril pranayama group also showed an increase, of 24%. This increase in metabolism could be due to increased sympathetic discharge to the adrenal medulla. The ‘left nostril Pranayama’ group showed an increase in volar galvanic skin resistance, interpreted as a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity supplying the sweat glands. These results suggest that breathing selectively through either nostril could have a marked activating effect or a relaxing effect on the sympathetic nervous system. The therapeutic implications of being able to alter metabolism by changing the breathing pattern have been mentioned.