I found this claim a bit... suspicious, and Googled, and didn't find much scientific evidence for this claim. I found a bunch of blog posts by yoga-affiliated people, and the like.
I asked about this on Biology Stack Exchange, unfortunately with no answer.
I would be very curious if any HN reader knows more about this. That said, my impression of Nestor (who is a journalist, and not a scientist) was that he was perhaps a bit too eager to jump to conclusions.
I can’t personally attest to any of the deeper claims of the theory, but I have used the alternate nostril breathing as part of meditation practice and I can say that focusing on the breath in this way at the very least helps one enter a meditative state, like many other pranayama techniques.
I’ve never dug into the science attempting to prove the proclaimed effects since experientially it helps me enter meditation, which is what I value it for—I’m not so sure its a good use of time trying to validate the overarching theoretical claims of ancient sources—the practices can still be highly beneficial even if the claims aren’t correct, and I think the main benefit of controlled breathing practices relate to meditation. (that said the body is an interconnected system so its totally plausible that regulating the breath, thus the heartbeat, thus the flow of blood throughout the system could have system wide effects).
If nothing else, hopefully these terms help you in your research.
(Hedgehog is the hero if many slightly absurdist jokes).
However they mention their test subjects were not very uniform, and I'm not really in a position to evaluate their methods so...
I don't understand how anyone can make that statement with a straight face. Unless one nostril is blocked, we use both simultaneously. There's no balance to be gamed.
There is a little bit of airflow in the constricted nostril, but nowhere near comparable to the other. You can test this by covering up your nostrils individually and comparing how easy it is to breathe through them. Then wait a half hour and try it again. (Note that a minority of people do not have this.)
However, this is not something you can consciously control or override, any more than you can override contractions in your intestine.
One of my yoga teachers has us find the one that is currently dominant in the cycle before we practice nadi shodhana pranayama, and then select the starting nostril based on that.
I wonder if I'm unusual in that I can consciously control which nostril is open or closed. Most of the time the switching from side to side is unconscious but if I concentrate, I can cause it to happen consciously. This is really useful when I have a cold and a blocked nostril and I want to get some relief when blowing my nose doesn't help - I just focus on allowing that side of my sinuses to open and after a few minutes it will happen.
I'm probably one of them then, because I've tested this on and off for years whenever someone makes the claim, and it's never true for me.
It's just really annoying how many people say with absolute certainty that everyone does it.
If you do not have this behaviour (which can disappear with certain neurological diseases or just idiopathically not exist) you also likely have a reduced sense of smell.
It never even occurred to me that people would experience something like that _all the time_!
That's my point - you probably never thought it was any other way, and I never thought it was any other way, and we're both just like "wait, what? you LIVE like that?" That fascinates me! I think the last time I experienced this was the blue/black white/gold dress thing or when I first found out some people wipe standing up and some people wipe sitting down and everyone is shocked when they find this out for the first time.
"The Ultradian Rhythm of Alternating Cerebral Hemispheric Activity" https://doi.org/10.3109/00207459309000583
"Effect of uninostril yoga breathing on brain hemodynamics: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study"
"Selective Unilateral Autonomic Activation: Implications for Psychiatry"
My takeaway: The nervous system is super complicated and has various rhythms. For example the circadian rhythm makes you sleepy at night and alert during the day. There are a bunch of other rhythms that are not yet well studied. The nervous system alternates activity in left and right sides of the body on a rhythm of about 1.5 hours. The nasal cycle is part of this rhythm. One can influence this rhythm by forcing the body to breathe through one nostril.
"Klein, Pilon, Prosser, and Shannahoff-Khalsa (1986) assessed cognitive perfor- mance during different phases of the nasal cycle. They observed significant rela- tionships between the pattern of nasal airflow and spatial and verbal performance. Right nostril dominance correlated with enhanced verbal performance, or left brain activity, and left nostril dominance correlated with enhanced spatial performance, again indicating that the hemispheres alternate with the phases of the nasal cycle."
"Leconte and Lambert (1988) demonstrated that subjects who undergo a test of immediate memory every 25 min with two modalities (semantic and graphic) present a fluctuation in performance with a periodicity of about 100min. The two modalities were in opposite phase."
If breathing can reduce emotional problems for some people, then we could possibly predict this effect by measuring peoples' nasal cycles and hemisphere EEG rhythms. I imagine a typical doctors visit would start out with: 1) filling out the questionnaire, 2) measuring weight, temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and then 3) wearing the EEG helmet with nostril sensors for a minute.
What solved it? A trick that an old doctor told
me to do. With one hand hold with thumb on the soft palate and another finger (index or ring) on the forehead where the nose meets the forehead in a grip. Then jiggle the grip. The skull is made out of bones that are not fully connected so a jiggle does move the bones around and releases differential pressure in sinuses. That fixed me
We want to try this thing but want to make sure we’re trying it correctly. Have you encountered a more thorough explanation of this technique, preferably in a video?
I need to clarify that i did not have a sinus infection though, i had a persisting rhinitis for which doctors could not provide anything else but prescribe over the nose drops or flonaise
The key part is your sinus cavity slightly closes one nostril creating a differential air flow. This difference allows us to figure out the direction the smell via the difference in intensity between nostrils which our brain uses to sense direction.
I believe the reason your body does this is to allow your olfactory system to pick up a greater range of smells: Some chemicals are easier to pick up when the air is traveling slower.
What is totally confusing is what causes the flip from one nostril to another. I have no idea what the mechanism is.
It's actually very easy to switch it. You can lean to towards the side (think yoga triangle pose) that has the open nostril.
You can place pressure in the corresponding armpit for the same effect.
Medidation, concentration, certain ways of breathing will all also affect the flow.
I'm sure you can determnine the various other physical ways, based on these, to swap nostrils.
It's very obvious when I have a cold. I often have one fully-plugged nostril and one not, which also shifts back and forth seemingly randomly.
I think what I'm describing is actually the norm but I haven't exactly surveyed the population.
As far as personal experience, I find breathing exercises should be slow and deep, generally with breath retention that is extended over time, as opposed to just deep breathing in and out at a 'regular' speed. Traditional yoga usually emphasizes this (as opposed to the new-age westernized yoga). I think many people who find no results just breathe deep but dont slow it down. You should feel like your breath has been 'stretched' by the time you're done. Id also find a good teacher if you're serious because you can definitely overdo it/do it wrong.
Heh, you're doing better than me: every yoga class I've been in (more than a few) I've lost track of the breathing in the first few minutes, but whenever I do manage to tune back into it I always find it way slower than what feels natural.
Maybe I should make more of an effort, rather than being like "welp, I can't breathe like that, back to just my body do what it wants".
This even after going multiple times a week for 6 months.
Why not just try it? This is such a simple and safe experiment. You can do it and generate your own conclusions.
Or try this -
Take breath with right nostril only - you'll feel warm or more energetic.
Later take breath with left nostril only - you'll feel cold or more relaxed.
You can gamify this system when you certain type of tasks.
Or ask any old-school Yoga/Meditation teacher, preferably someone with roots in India.
Ananda Bhavanani Bhavanani, Meena Ramanathan,1 R Balaji,2 and D Pushpa2
I know that doesn't provide the evidence you were looking for, but hopefully it provides some context on where this might have originated from.
As to your comments about the author's claims, I too am weary about a few.
You have a dominant eye. Focusing on the other eye will also affect your experience.
Why not a dominant nostril?
I started yoga before it became mainstream and with a lot of the practices I tried them for myself. For example I noticed that some pranayama practices work for me and others don't. Back then pretty much every "serious" scientist or doctor would have told you that all this is nonsense. Same for meditation.
Try it. there is not much to lose. It doesn't cost anything and won't harm you. Worst case it doesn't work.
You can't easily measure if something is beneficial. Which is precisely why a bunch of plants that people were taking before for different ailments were found to have absolutely no medical value when tried through a scientific method.
And in the age of social media, individual confirmation bias and a megaphone is the best way to promote non-science to hordes of people.
But you are quite right, individuals with strong confirmation bias and a large social media following are harmfull.
Still, that does not mean individuals should not perform harmless experiments. Individuals should experiment. But they should not claim their findings as universal truths.
It depends what you refer to when you talk about a placebo. What people call the "placebo effect" is in practice "regression to the mean" in most cases, which is the fact that you would get better over time even if you did absolutely nothing. You will notice that placebo 'effect' works best in contexts where the illness has a psychological component (mental illnesses and the like), but absolutely fail to show any effect at all in other contexts like viral infections.
> Individuals should experiment. But they should not claim their findings as universal truths.
I agree, but how can you prevent people from claiming that something worked for them if they are absolutely convinced of it. It's an unsolvable problem.
Do I understand correctly that you oppose people searching holistic remedies to their ills because they might accidentally get better, and a percentage of these might accidentally turn into snake oil salespeople?
Nope, I am for individual freedoms as long as it happens in their private sphere.
> a percentage of these might accidentally turn into snake oil salespeople
the problem is that bullshit takes a lot more time to debunk that it takes to spread. So you end up with hoaxes, false claims, rumors, confirmation bias spreading through other people's minds with extreme speed because of how we communicate right now. And my point is that as long as you can't make people understand that "anecdotal evidence" means absolutely nothing, you can't stop this from happening: it means you will end up with bullshit spreading everywhere and good Science being ignored or simply drowned in a torrent of unfounded claims.
So no, I believe that we must actively fight false information. Not "we" in an individual sense, but "we" as a society, and that means regulation.
Yes it's beneficial if something works, but I want to know why it works too and not just believe in random pseudoscience. Also, determining if something really works is hard.
I want to understand the mechanism. If there's something true there then you may be able to use that directly, you can also avoid untrue things that are harmful (history is full of these harmful 'treatments'). 
Without this people just end up wearing energy crystals, while dismissing real medicine for homeopathic nonsense that can lead to death .
Humanity has used the scientific method to barely rise above the collection of hocus pocus explanations. It's worth the effort not to fall back into that. 
Pseudoscience is if you do not test it scientifically if it works.
Just because you don’t know how something works doesn’t mean it’s pseudoscience. You just might not understand the mechanism.
There’s a greater risk that something you think works actually doesn’t though if you don’t test it.
There’s also a greater risk that claims people make about things in this untested space are more likely to be false.
Part of the reason it’s important to test and understand the mechanism is that people are good at deluding themselves with all sorts of biases and made up false explanations.
If one can't confirm changes in their own mental state, especially profound changes, I'd suggest that's a far bigger and more pressing problem than anything you've listed.
We can delude ourselves into believing anything. That's why we need to test things empirically in order to find out the truth.
Not sure about you, but if someone tells me "I've been exercising lately and mentally I feel much better" I don't say "but does homeopathy really work" and wink at them.
The point is if someone says they're getting a benefit from something that doesn't have a ton of evidence around it - my first instinct would be to be skeptical but curious.
When someone takes that skepticism and implies that the "far bigger and more pressing problem" is that I can't determine the obvious benefits it makes me more skeptical, not less.
How skeptical I am comes from how far it is from my priors. Breathing exercises being helpful seems likely, choosing energetic or restful based on which nostril you're breathing out of sounds like bullshit so I'm more skeptical by default.
If someone tells me they're breathing out of their right nostril to become more energized - I'd probably tell them that sounds made up.
The only reason I choose to exercise anyway is because of the people online and the scientific evidence saying that exercise is better for you in the long term. I certainly don't feel like it in the moment, and in fact sometimes worry if my heart is going to give out as I exercise. But if I am going to believe that exercise is beneficial overall, but that you can't experience the benefits it brings until it's too late to change things, I don't really know what else to do except listen to them and keep exercising, while getting over the unpleasantness and complete draining of energy and motivation to do things I'd rather do that it causes.
Maybe that's what some things in life come down to. It either comes down to eating diets like ones with plants prioritized and getting over the fact that they don't taste as pleasant as foods with refined sugars, or accepting the impact on your health by choosing the latter. Maybe some people just make their own peace with the taste of such foods, somehow.
It might be wiser to take a progressive approach - i.e. start with a five minute walk, the next day/week/month increase it to a ten minute walk or increase the pace.
There's actually a lot of research out there. Did you try to search for any? It's not scepticism to compare something you cannot believe because you haven't bothered to investigate, with well known falsities such as crystal healing.
Not only does the research support the existence of a nasal cycle where one nostril is dominant at different times, it also supports a different pathway to the brain and a different neurological response. On top of that, psychological research shows links between breathing patterns and emotional response, in both directions, and then there's the wealth of meditative research. This stuff isn't controversial.
From [Taste and Smell]:
> The FN model may also explain the observation by Sobel et al.  that, when performing an odor threshold test, humans sniff longer when using the nostril with the lower flow rate. (Subjects usually have different flow rates in their two nostrils because of cyclic changes in the size of their nasal cavities.)
> The flow of air is greater into one nostril than into the other because there is a slight turbinate swelling in one. The nostril that takes in more air switches from the left to the right one and back again every few hours
From [Stanford News]:
> Michael Leon, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California at Irvine said… [the] data suggest, that the olfactory system maximizes the ability of its distributed receptor neurons to encode differentially absorbing odors.
From [Measuring and Characterizing the Human Nasal Cycle]:
> Nasal airflow is greater in one nostril than in the other because of transient asymmetric nasal passage obstruction by erectile tissue. The extent of obstruction alternates across nostrils with periodicity referred to as the nasal cycle. The nasal cycle is related to autonomic arousal and is indicative of asymmetry in brain function. Moreover, alterations in nasal cycle periodicity have been linked to various diseases.
From [Hemispheric lateralization in the processing of odor pleasantness versus odor names]:
> These findings are consistent with previously demonstrated neural laterality in the processing of olfaction, emotion and language, and suggest that a local and functional convergence may exist between olfaction and emotional processing.
From [Respiratory feedback in the generation of emotion]:
> This article reports two studies investigating the relationship between emotional feelings and respiration. In the first study, participants were asked to produce an emotion of either joy, anger, fear or sadness and to describe the breathing pattern that fit best with the generated emotion. Results revealed that breathing patterns reported during voluntary production of emotion were (a) comparable to those objectively recorded in psychophysiological experiments on emotion arousal, (b) consistently similar across individuals, and (c) clearly differentiated among joy, anger, fear, and sadness. A second study used breathing instructions based on Study 1’s results to investigate the impact of the manipulation of respiration on emotional feeling state. A cover story was used so that participants could not guess the actual purpose of the study. This manipulation produced significant emotional feeling states that were differentiated according to the type of breathing pattern. The implications of these findings for emotion theories based on peripheral feedback and for emotion regulation are discussed.
I could go on.
As to meditative practices, there's been extensive research for nigh on 50 years now, and for the past 20 (at least, as far as I'm aware) they've been using fMRI scanners to provide objective results[Oser] on the link between meditation as a practice and mental state.
You just have to look.
[Taste and Smell] https://books.google.com/books?id=fuxS-p6bpuwC&pg=PA12
[Measuring and Characterizing the Human Nasal Cycle] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5053491/
[Stanford News] https://news.stanford.edu/news/1999/november10/smell-1110.ht...
[Hemispheric lateralization in the processing of odor pleasantness versus odor names] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12712833_Hemispheri...
[Respiratory feedback in the generation of emotion] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0269993014300039...
[Oser] https://www.lionsroar.com/the-lama-in-the-lab/ I include this as it's a personal favourite of mine and covered more extensively in Daniel Golman's book, Destructive Emotions.
I think this is actually a good example of the point I'm trying to make.
There appears to be an underlying mechanism here that's worth understanding that may have real effects. None of this suggests that left nostril 'relaxation' and right nostril 'energy' is a real thing. The closest may be that last link which I don't have access to.
The reason understanding the underlying mechanism is important is because it allows you to differentiate what could be real (potentially switching airflow in nostrils because "the olfactory system maximizes the ability of its distributed receptor neurons to encode differentially absorbing odors.") and what is pseudoscience "you could choose to be either energetic or restful by picking one nostril to breathe out of for awhile.".
The latter sounds suspicious to me and these links don't seem to really support it. I'm extra suspicious when there's a strong interest in motivated reasoning (yoga-affiliated people being bought into it) to find it correct. It doesn't mean it isn't true, but it's less likely to be so.
The cycle can still be a real thing, there may still be real effects, and the left/right relax/energy thing can still be nonsense. That's why understanding what's going on is useful.
It's ugly, but it's how we usually lumber along. And yes, many mistakes and pseudoscience take place along the way.
I was recently reading how jet engines were developed even though no one really knew exactly how they worked (there were theories, of course).
This is the closest thing I could find on the topic online:
Predictions have to start somewhere.
What bothers me about the comment I replied to was the hostility to trying to understanding the underlying mechanism. "As long as it does something beneficial who cares after all what the bias is?" is not a good position. That kind of thing leads to people doubling down when it turns out their pet hypothesis is actually shown to be wrong (not saying that's the case here).
It can also lead to people thinking they see benefits where none exist (or where the activity is even harmful), it can lead to people making up explanations (most of human history).
It's good to be willing to try new things, but also to have a healthy skepticism.
I'm bothered when something that is still uncertain is put forward as true, I think people are generally over confident where they should be less certain. Even this can be harmful in ways people don't expect .
It becomes really harmful though when stuff known to be false is pushed as true (conspiracy theories like not getting cancer treatment). This leads people to not pursue treatment they desperately need. In their case they won't have the opportunity to become more skeptical afterwards.
There's also the risk of political influence pushing certain things as true that aren't and real knowledge can be lost (though I think that's less likely to happen today).
In this specific breathing case, it's benefit being real or not is probably not that big of a deal - but the underlying value of wanting to understand why something is really true or not I think is important.
In older times yes, but you can easily demonstrate that scientific progress was WAY faster once we developed actual methods to test things in a reliable way.
The dramatic advances you refer to happened after a time we developed reliable scientific methods.
I do. I hate being wrong about stuff.
If someone observes measurable benefits after (e.g.) breathing through one nostril for a while, I'd consider it important to know exactly why. Maybe there are important things about the mechanics of respiration that we haven't understood yet. Dismissing such phenomena with "If it feels good, who cares why?" seems counterproductive in the long run.
OTOH, if no one sees measurable benefits, then the various anecdotes from practitioners really are just bias in action, and (IMO) are not worth expending further thought on.
I strongly disagree with this line of thinking. If something is potent enough to deliver benefit, it can also be potent enough to deliver harm. You can't have it both ways.
Turns out breathing is rather psychoactive, and without proper educational context one can indeed induce or activate latent issues, anxiety or otherwise.
Just like with McMindfulness, I wish some of this kind of instruction required licensing.
See my reply to comment below which cites studies when these sort of practices backfire in a non-trivial fashion. Like I said, it is either too trivial as sit, breathe and relax which won't do much good, or it is potent enough to do some good in which case it also has the potential of doing some harm.
Second, breathing has multi-thousand year old legacy spanning multiple cultures and eras touting it's benefits. Why would you obtain your perspective from a click-driven Vice article referring to a study of 73 people instead of the infinitely more robust source of truth?
> If you suffer from PTSD and get an episode at the grocery store, do you want to regulate grocery store visits also?
I am not talking about triggering based on some external stimulus. I am talking about a nilly-willy prescription of a pscyhoactive exercise that has a non-trivial chance of interacting/activating pre-existing conditions.
> Why would you obtain your perspective from a click-driven Vice article referring to a study of 73 people instead of the infinitely more robust source of truth?
My perspective doesn't come from the article, I merely put it there as it gives a readable summary to the otherwise terse scientific papers.
Regarding the particular study, that study has tons of citations to other studies and meta studies, a good chunk of which complains about *adverse effects are not sufficiently mentioned", which I'm doing here. I'm not claiming that the score is settled on this matter, but the fact that there is no talk on adverse affects deserves attention.
> Second, breathing has multi-thousand year old legacy spanning multiple cultures and eras touting it's benefits
So does psychedelic mushrooms or circumcision. The good thing about science is we can systemically study traditional practices instead of taking their word for it. I don't think tradition is an infinitely robust source of truth, especially in comparison to scientific knowledge. Nonetheless, I value traditional knowledge too, but you can't claim traditional information and its context have propagated to our day sufficiently well (e.g. is circumcision a rite-of-passage anymore?), including the knowledge/caution on what to do with adverse reactions.
Contrasting merits of scientific processes with traditional knowledge is not scientism. If anything claiming tradition is an infinitely robust source of knowledge is some sort of dogmatism.
I don't agree with that statement, I think there are cases where the lab doesn't translate into real world and suggesting that scientific experiments are always the best representation of the real world is just naive, I-M-H-O.
Ergo, I don't see us agreeing on the topic and it is best left there.
Regarding the straw man spam - it would help if your claims were correct and not removed from context. I didn't suggest that all tradition is infinitely robust, I suggested tradition concerning breathing is more robust than the limited scope paper you referred to. Context matters.
No, that is not what I said. I said knowledge transmission through tradition is lossy and as such it is not systematic, it doesn't carry context and it doesn't cover the fine print. In that, the content of a memetic proposition that made it to our day might as well have truth value, but it doesn't mean it is readily applicable by anyone who reads about it on the internet. Or we might have memetic behavior that is divorced from context (e.g. circumcision) and is questionable as to why we should follow it. That's why rigorous scientific study is important.
> I think there are cases where the lab doesn't translate into real world and suggesting that scientific experiments are always the best representation of the real world is just naive, I-M-H-O.
I have not suggested any of these things (and this will be 3rd time in a row I'll be bringing up you strawmanning.)
Lab science is not the only science, experimentation is not the only component of scientific method. Yes science can't explain a lot of things yet but science has the best methodology in working for an objective truth. So ignoring evidence science can produce, especially if it's conflicting with tradition, is going to be naive at best.
> I didn't suggest that all tradition is infinitely robust, I suggested tradition concerning breathing is more robust than the limited scope paper you referred to. Context matters.
I didn't suggest you said all tradition. I still stand by my argument that you are defending dogmatism of tradition, even in the limited context of breathing exercises. Besides, that paper is not the only source I've cited, breathing is studied in a multitude of psychological domains as I mentioned, so indeed context matters.
> Regarding the straw man spam
Please refrain from inflammatory language. You made your point that you don't think you're committing straw man, and I still think you do and that disagreement is fine. No need to retort underhanded attacks, let's keep it civil and intellectually honest.
The problem with this line of thinking is to assume that inaction is not also a choice that affect you.
Inaction argument is a strawman, I'm not arguing for doing nothing at all, I am just against informal prescription of rather potent, psychoactive exercises without due respect, especially in the form of "just try it, can't do any harm". If you want to get serious with it, find people/sangha/teachers/therapists who know their stuff and train in that context. But assuming no harm can come while assuming benefits can come is a contradiction and wishful thinking.
And people often harm themselves immensely through inaction in the same areas.
People also change their breathing patterns all the time, or don't, without knowing what they're doing or not doing.
You're advocating a line of thinking that simply is not how most people live their lives, and never will be, because it would paralyse us.
You can also die from drinking too much water.
I'll list just the titles of select deep dive citations from the first study to give an idea, you can find detailed citations in the paper itself;
- "Meditation-induced psychosis" (several with this title)
- "Mania precipitated by meditation: a case report and literature review."
- "Adverse effects of meditation: a preliminary investigation of long-term meditators."
- "The unveling of traumatic memories and emotions through mindfulness and concentration meditation: clinical implications and three case reports."
- "Meditation in association with psychosis"
- "Precipitation of acute psychotic episodes by intensive meditation in individuals with a history of schizophrenia"
- "Psychiatric complications of meditation practice."
This is a citation tree from just one study on meditation.
To be clear, I know the term meditation is not strictly equivalent to breathing exercises but definitely a good chunk covers & includes them; e.g most frequently practiced meditation style (vipassana), breathing sensation is the most common object of focus.
If you're interested in non-meditation studies, the term "relaxation induced anxiety" will bring a wider selection of papers. If you are interested in studies about psychoactivity of breathing, search for "panic disorder breathing" which has again tons of studies that investigate the link (contents of which doesn't necessarily limit to panic disordered populations).
And to be clear, I am not saying meditation or breathing exercises are bad. But they are potent. They can create altered states. And as such I am against bold claims like "they can do no harm, just do on your own". As studies above demonstrate, even with a proper educational context they can backfire. Especially considering the fact that the population segment that would be most interested in trying these exercises would likely to be the people already suffering from stress, anxiety or mental health problems.
- "hiking is dangerous"
- "swimming is dangerous"
- "running is dangerous"
- "cycling complications"
- "running complications"
...all day long - just append certain keywords and you'll find many articles and studies to feed your subjective belief and win arguments.
I did and talked with a lot of people doing mindfulness meditation and none of them warned me against it. I don't doubt your claims but I think they are exceptions and just about any activity can be found to be dangerous when looking at the exceptions.
The difference is all of those are physical activities, and a reasonable person can easily infer the risks.
That's not the case with these prescriptions of rather potent, psychoactive exercises. A better comparison would be psychedelic mushrooms; it certainly wouldn't kill you but any reasonable prescription would have also cautioned about the importance of set & setting and to stay away from it if you have certain preconditions/proclivities.
The research I cited claims otherwise. If you have citations to back your claim, I'm happy to revise my position. And sure, it will be OK for a good majority of the population but it is not universally true to the extent of easily claiming "just try it, no harm can come" on a public forum. To give more context, 30% of US population will be clinically anxiety disordered at least once in their lifetime . 17% to 53% of people will experience relaxation-induced anxiety .
The paper is about the correlation between two separate manic episodes after meditation with two different methods. It further cites other papers - but in common for them is episodes occurring after meditation in patients with severe mental illnesses who in several cases are off their medication.
The paper goes on to give a case study of the patient, who had a manic episode the first time after a full weekend yoga retreat, and secondly again two months after entering a Zen retreat that she had been associated with for two years.
Notably there's no evidence of causation at all, of course, but more importantly there is also no reliable pattern of repetition despite her persistent involvement with meditation:
She was involved in meditation extensively over a long period before the second episode, she recovered without medication and re-entered the retreat. Of course we don't know if she further episodes, but that the case study only mentions two is a strong indication.
There's no discussion in the case study about other causes other than suggesting insomnia as a result of the practice as a possible cause. But the paper does not present any information to suggest any data on sleep deprivation was collected from the patient.
Maybe the other papers are more convincing, but this paper basically boils down to:
* Some reports of correlation have been made.
* Here's another example of correlation... Where the second incidents happened months into intensive practice, and with patient going back into intensive practice, yet no suggestion it happened more.
If anything, the low number of incidents the author uncovered has further convinced me of the safety of meditation. Maybe people with serious mental illnesses should be a bit careful.
 Mania precipitated by meditation: a case report and literature review, Graeme A. Yorston.
And since you can't really measure things well with n=1 you end up with confirmation bias at the end of the day.
I don’t see what is so controversial about this. Lots of people take up exercising as a lifestyle and say they are much better for it. I don’t see what saying ‘yes but there is only one you, maybe you would have felt better without the exercise in this span if time...’ - which means statistics 101 really is not blindly applicable to all venues life. Also why bayesian statistics are sometimes much better in real life situations...
And you would not be able to actually figure out which one it is.
Please learn it from professionals or friends who are already well versed in the practice if you are new to it.
Anecdotal, but I tried anulum vilom ten years back as a remedy for general anxiety, went overboard with no proper guidance, and my BP shot up. It took me a while to understand that the key is to go slow and increase your practice slowly.
It's funny, because I just realised that πνεύμα(pneuma)/spirit in Greek has the same root as πνεύμων(pneumon)/lung: the verb πνέω(pnéo), which means I breathe.
This is not Mr Portokalos talking from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, people: πνέω is traced to the older Indo-European stem pnew- , and the whole point of my comment is that there is a lot of heritage in language through the eons from older cultures and civilizations.
Trivia: the suffix -μα (like in the words pragma, dogma, trauma etc) generally means “the result or the carrier of the verb's actions”, so like pragma (“thing”, what is/has been made/done), dogma (what one believes in; the firmness of the belief is irrelevant to the ancient word), trauma (“wound”; the result of being wounded), pneuma would be what is being breathed; and there's another connection to old roots: alcohol is «οινόπνευμα» (spirit/fumes of the wine), and alcoholic drinks are called “spirits”.
Fun stuff :)
Fun stuff indeed!
An inflatable rubber pneumatic tire is a subclass of tire, and truncation or abbreviation to pnue is as good as any.
Locomotive wheels on trains have steel tyres.
Before, I can do about 40 seconds held on an out breath, after, about 2:40. That’s kinda interesting.
I’d also recommend trying it if you’re a meditator. Do a WH session first, then sit. It’s really great for finding mind space: a bit buzzy, a bit like a natural high, but for me it meshes pretty well with a breath following meditation.
It’s actually an old technique to increase the ability to hold the breath. The hyperventilation clears carbon dioxide from the system (hypocapnia). That’s what the buzz is.
Never ever ever ever ever do this underwater or you have a serious risk of death: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freediving_blackout#Shallow_wa...
Hof did not warn of this at the time, though I believe he does now after someone died using the technique while swimming.
As for the cold resistance, Hof’s twin brother Andre displayed the same physiological traits that Hof has, despite not having undergone the same training: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal...
The one interesting thing I have seen related to Hof is that he apparently was able to suppress the immune response to an endotoxin. Though it would be interesting to see that same study done on his twin.
This is a reasonably good article: https://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/2016/01/wim-hof-method/#andre
I think Hof is well intentioned, sincere, a poor communicator, and prone to both mystical thinking but also interested in scientific verification.
Pranayama is at least a thousand years old and encompasses all of this. And many of the foundational texts refer to even older practices.
Edit: The PDF is actually a bit out of date, the more recent studies are summarized here: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/science
The breathing technique which is closest to Wim How is that of Tummo. You can find videos of this on YouTube:
If he’s not teaching the bandhas then the technique really is just bhastrika with retentions. It’s a totally great practice, but I’d say it’s just the beginning step in the path of pranayama practice.
I'm reading an English translation of Ramana Maharshi's Upadesa Sara with commentary and verses 11-14 talk about controlling the breath (pranayama). A few relevant points made in those verses:
* Controlling your breath can help quieten the mind.
* There are such things as harmful breathing patterns so it's important to seek the guidance of experts to avoid them.
* The simplest breathing exercise that's easy to do right without an instructor is to observe the breath as it is.
I've made a conscious effort to observe the breath randomly throughout the day and it has a calming effect. These past few days have felt good. Observing the breath before sleep has made it easier to fall asleep.
FWIW, the verses also mention that, as far as being serene is concerned, pranayama is a short term solution to a long term problem (and the gist of Upadesa Sara is on the long term solution but I digress).
I've tried the "box breathing" with little luck, but have adapted a version where the exhale is 2-3x longer than the inhale. (inhale for 2 seconds, hold it a couple seconds, exhale slowly for 4-6 second, hold again).
I've also found better luck at inhaling into my belly, instead of letting my rib cage expand. It seems to release the tension/anxiety that I'm holding in my chest better.
I meant "practicing breathing exercises incorrectly" (and I see now that's what I should've written in the first place, thanks for pointing that out). Upadesa Sara doesn't expand upon what it means to practice breathing exercises incorrectly or mention what the side effects are. Much of Upadesa Sara is concise so much is left up to the reader to reason or learn about.
After I read your comment, I spent too much time thinking about how I breath (whether thru the belly or chest) and started breathing weird haha. After a few hours, I figured out that I mostly breathe through the belly. I think. Anyways, genuinely happy to hear you found something that works for you.
If and when you’re able to, do attend a free 10-day introductory Vipassana meditation course (see dhamma.org for locations and schedules). The practice starts with observing the breath, and then moves on from that.
This course requires the participants to be silent for the 10 days, and has some other restrictions too. Some people find that impossible to deal with. So do consider that and also any emotional or mental health issues/barriers that may be a deterrent to participation.
Every night when I go to bed, I deliberately slow my breathing.... I find that it immediately gets me into a meditative state and more likely fall into a hypnagogic state
How is one conditioned to breathe too much? We eat too much because there is so much available to us and it's engineered (by trial and error) to be as delicious as possible. That has not been done to air.
> you can over breathe when people at a gym or when people are jogging you see them really going to get the maximum amount of oxygen in that's not what is happening to your body so you are offloading the co2 by offloading too much co2 you're causing constriction in your circulation
While running I breathed exclusively through my nose. My expectation was that I wouldn't be able to sustain it for the entire duration of the run. Surprisingly I was able to.
Overall I felt less winded that I typically do when breathing through my mouth. I thought my overall pace and/or avg heartbeat might be slower when breathing nasally but, according to my activity tracker, that's not the case. The other thing I noticed is that the 'runner's high' I typically get after a run was somewhat muted when breathing nasally.
I'd love to see more research in this area. I wonder if I'm depriving my brain of needed oxygen or if there are benefits to getting more CO2 than usual.
(This also factors in to how hard it is for some people to figure out why they are stressed; the part of the brain trying to work that out isn't necessarily as connected to the stressor as you might intuitively think.)
I've been having some low-level morning sleep paralysis lately (it has come and gone my entire life, & it has never been remotely as bad as I've heard some people describe); recently I've discovered an easy way out of it is to just hold my breath (or really, just stop inhaling), which triggers just enough stress to break through the paralysis. YMMV.
It may or may not apply to you, but my friends that have sleep paralysis say this anecdote holds true for them as well.
This was all brought on by my breathing wrong. Not out of stress. Simply because the snorkel messed with my normal rhythm, and caused accidental hyperventilation.
You can measure it with HRV and skin conductance sensors.
People's reasons for consuming more calories than they expend are orders of magnitude more complex than that.
When breathing (normal) it's important to use the nose to both inhale and exhale. It helps regulate the amount of oxygen you take in (keeps your mouth from getting dry).
You should also try to breath from your abdomen/stomach instead of your chest. Abdominal breathing creates a stronger respiratory system and core where chest breathing creates a weaker one (my observations).
To me, breathing is a highly personal thing, I doubt there is any outside force able to change how we breathe for the worse. I just don't see the attack vector. We breathe how we feel we need to breathe.
"We breathe how we feel we need to breathe". The key word is feel. Change your breathe change the way you feel
bad posture, overweight, too little exercise, too much stress. Not much of a stretch to think that the behaviour that gives countless of people snoring, backpain, or high BP may also negatively effect how we breathe.
While lying there and breathing up or holding my breath, my mind is completely clear. No thoughts, just staying as relaxed as possible focusing on my diaphragm. No scrolling on my phone thinking about my day, nothing. Just relaxing. Except the last minutes when the body screams at you to breathe because of the co2 buildup, heh.
But not sure if there's anything more to it than that? I don't do it as often anymore, but get the same focus from working out.
I wonder if this kind of conventional exercise might provide more "bang for your buck" than just controlled breathing in isolation.
This is what allows the diaphragm to expand more and thus facilitates deeper breathing. More oxygen per breath, and fewer heartbeats required to circulate it through the bloodstream.
Could be total rubbish, but I'd be interested to see a study either way.
I remember watching this amazing TEDx talk which gives an on state demonstration of how breathing directly affects blood flow / pulse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xc3XdOiGGI
There is another interesting video I've watched years ago with some hints that breathing directly influence mitochondrial activity, but it's in Russian, so not sure if it's worth sharing. Another thing indirectly mentioned was that breathing is the only "low-level" body function that we control conciously to some extent, so its effect on health is a neat byproduct and can be used for "hacking" metabolism and low-level body functions.
Anyway, I'm wondering if there is something more than "conscious breathing can do amazing things to your health" in this book?
Also similar to OP here  I was super curious about his claim that you can influence a lot of stuff in your body by picking one nostril you breath with. I googled for confirmation and wasn't satisfied with the results. Later he also recommends oxygen deprivation (breathing very shallowly while running and warns about blackouts)
He doesn't cite studies in a usual science like way. So I decided I won't read the book in full.
Hope this helps.
I like how this sentence is true in two very different ways...
I really the breathwork will become the new fad, but for good reason. It’s amazingly powerful.
For example, he developed a way to measure the health of someone's respiration through a simple test called the "control pause." To measure your control pause, bring your attention to your breath and without changing your breath, stop breathing at the end of your next natural exhalation. Start a timer, and see how long it takes before your body generates any minor uncomfortable signal in an urge to breathe (an urge to swallow, any kind of muscle contraction, anything subtle expressing a demand to breathe). As soon as you reach such a signal, stop the timer. People who breath healthily (according to Buteyko's research) have at least 40 seconds on the timer. (This is NOT a breath holding test, and if your regular respiration gets faster or deeper after you complete it, you did it wrong.) Most people certainly are not even close to 40 sec. And that, according to Buteyko, is because most people severely overbreathe. The consequence of this dysfunction, of being in a constant state of chronic hyperventillation, is that the blood vessels contract, and surprisingly, less oxygen is transferred to the cells because CO2 is a necessary catalyst for the transfer of oxygen to the cells, and hyperventillation drains the blood of CO2. Healthy breathing, according to Buteyko, is minute and nearly visually imperceptible.
The breathing practices/exercises are, for the most part, useful and interesting. I have to let go of a lot of the metaphysics in these traditions though, there is a certain amount of "woo" to wade through.
This guy, Michael Bijker, also has a lot of good videos on breathing exercises. Here's an example - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBZInO0-ZHk&list=PLxdtWIiZAU...
I once had a friend who was out of sync with her inner rythm ... so to speak.
After identifying the problem, we've sat down for an hour and I've taught her how to breathe properly, especially - but not only - slowly.
It changed her life ... with a catch.
People noticed she was calmer and happier. People liked her more. She got promoted. She started earning more. Her life improved significantly, for months.
And then it hit her. Her ego inflated so much, she started overworking herself. She lost her sense for her limits. Her ego couldn't handle the relative increase in energy, which got even worse due to the relative increase in self-confidence.
Burnt herself out. At least one month hospital.
Breathing techniques are no joke. When you're doing it "wrong" all your life, the sudden increase in energy when you begin doing it "right" can be both quite massive and very lasting.
Dr Artour Rakhimov claims that breath starvation (breathing slowly and less) is key to higher oxygen absorption; and definitely not deep breathing! "Take a deep breath" makes sense if you have been hyper-ventilating, but not ALL the time.
I found his site via his "How to unblock a blocked nose in 1 minute" video, a technique which works even when both nostrils are clogged:
I'm also curious about finding references for the studies he mentions.
if you want to learn more: https://yogananda.org/practice
I was taught this as a way to control some very acute anxiety from hypochondria that took over my life for ~6 months before I could get treatment. Apparently it worked, since I haven’t suffered from that type of anxiety since.
I've noticed I yawn ALOT. Furthremore when I yawning I feel like only 1 out 5 yawns are "proper complete" yawns that actually get enough air in (that's the best way I can explain).
I was thinking this might be a sign my nose is too stuffed normally and I'm not getting enough oxygen, but reading this thread I might be over oxygenating?
Some extra information, I've noticed this a while but I have been exercising a lot lately, and lost about 20 pounds, so I do feel relatively healthy and active.
This is easy for anyone to test empirically -- just YouTube "relaxation exercises".
I happen to like this one from the University Health Network in Toronto, which helps me fall asleep (I've never gotten to the end awake)
There’s a lot of qualifications for this number and freedivers explore most of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aXxXCXptYA&t=12m10s
6 seconds in and 12 out is my ideal breath-up. Shallower breathes for meditation. The video above has a good exercise for finding your ideal breath-up.
I’m not saying it is wrong. Just to be aware.
A lot of the stuff on Google search and even the so called 'experts' know nothing at all about this science. When you get deep into it you can even unlock psychic abilities (seriously).
If, for example, we change our breathing, we change the
rhythm of our lungs; but since everything is connected, other
rhythms also gradually begin to change. If we go on with this
breathing for a long time it may change the rhythm of all the
organs. For instance, the rhythm of the stomach will change.
And the stomach has its own habits, it needs a certain time to
digest food; say, for example, the food must lie there an hour.
If the rhythm of the stomach changes, food may pass through
more quickly and the stomach will not have time to take from
it all it needs. In another place the reverse may occur.
It is a thousand times better not to interfere with our machine,
to leave it in bad condition rather than correct it without knowledge.
To work on oneself one must know every screw, every nail
of one's machine—then you will know what to do. But if you
know a little and try, you may lose a great deal. The risk is
great, for the machine is very complicated. It has very small
screws which can be easily damaged, and if you push harder
you may break them. And these screws cannot be bought in a
One must be very careful. When you know, it is another
thing. If anyone here is experimenting with breathing, it is
better to stop while there is still time.
Gurdjieff G. I. - Views from the Real World (Experiments with breathing talk)
TL:DR; I'm skeptical, and don't think adding a quote in this manner with no other context/insight is of any value to the overall discussion of this thread.
But there are experts out there and breathing disorders are a thing, so it does pay off to learn more about it especially if you have some complaints that could be derived from breathing wrong. Problem is that few, even GPs are not often well versed in the matter.
That said simply focussing on calm and being relaxed (breathing) carries little harm.
Stop experimenting or stop breathing?
Why do they go to you? (Your profile suggests you're a web developer, rather than a doctor).
In Zen they even warn of it.
Unfortunately meditation and spirituality is a very sharp and two edged sword. You need to find the correct people alongside the correct path.
In our way, there's no Spiritual Experience (TM). You just become aware of the issues in your life and with yourself, then you try to solve them. We say that "something is useless if it doesn't improve your real life in a perceivable way".
See for example the later chapters of "The Mind Illuminated", or the excellent "Science of Enlightenment" audio talk by Shinzen Young.
I've also got my fair share (of experiences) but, I don't remember any of them except one or two odd ones. I remember them because they've proved to be some pivotal moments which my life became better afterwards.
whenever annoyed or waiting, several deep breaths and then continued breath awareness for as long as i remember.
EDIT: rereading this - yes, it is meditation. Why is it being rebranded and written about as if it is some new discovery?
Also, "slow breathing" is very descriptive, just reading it I know what to do (even if I might not know how slow), whereas if I wanted to meditate I would have to read up first what I'm supposed to do and which of the many different practices I want to try out.
"The voice instructed us to inhale slowly through our noses, then to exhale slowly. To focus on our breath. [...] The next day I felt even better. As advertised, there was a feeling of calm and quiet that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I"
So does one need the more advanced techniques or do you get like 80% there by just explicitly taking some time out of your day to slow down?
Meditation doesn't depend on mindful breathing, even though it's often used. It's possible to meditate without mindfulness on the breath, and it's possible to breathe mindfully without meditating.
In India, Breathing exercises are called as Pranayama.
Meditation is called as Dhyana.
It's is a eight step process for spirituality called Ashtanga yoga.
Pranayama is 4th step.
Dhyana is 7th step.
Refer Patanjali Yoga Sutras for clarification.
Go on Joe Rogan, sell your book of old ideas with new marketing, cash in. Your average millennial would never buy a "self help" book, but Tim Ferriss or Ryan Holiday? Absolutely.
The first paragraph has absolutely 0 value to me as a reader. It's almost like the goal of the writer is to take up as much of your time as possible.
I made a note to read it after I saw the post but forgot about it until now.
This is an excerpt from chapter-3 of Raja yoga by Swami Vivekananda.
Pranayama is not as may think, something about breath. Breath indeed has very little to do with it if anything. Breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real Pranayama. Pranayama means the control of Prana. According to the philosophers of India the whole universe is composed of two materials, one of which they call Akasha, It is the omnipresent, all-penetrating existence. Everything that has form, everything that is the result of combination, is evolved out of this Akasha. It is the Akasha that becomes the air, that becomes the liquids, that becomes the solids; it is the Akasha that becomes the sun, the earth, the moon, the stars, the comets; it is the Akasha that becomes the human body, the animal body, the plants every form that we see, everything that can be sensed, everything that exists. It cannot be perceived; it is so subtle that it is beyond all ordinary perception; it can only be seen when it has become gross, has taken form. At the beginning of creation there is only this Ākāsha. At the end of the cycle the solids, the liquids, and the gases all melt into the Akasha again, and the next creation similarly proceeds out of this Akāsha.
By what power is this Akasha manufactured into this universe? By the power of Prāna. Just as Akasha is the infinite, omnipresent material of this universe, so is this Prāna the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe. At the beginning and at the end of a cycle everything becomes Akāsha, and all the forces that are in the universe resolve back into the Prāna; in the next cycle, out of this Prāna is evolved everything that we call energy, everything that we call force. It is the Prāna that is manifesting as motion; it is the Prāna that is manifesting as gravitation, as magnetism. It is the Prāna that is manifesting as the actions of the body, as the nerve currents, as thought force. From thought down to the lowest force, everything is but the manifestation of Prāna. The sum total of all forces in the universe, mental or physical, when resolved back to their original state, is called Prana.
"When there was neither aught nor naught when darkness was covering darkness, what existed then? That Akäsha existed without motion." The physical motion of the Präna was stopped, but it existed all the same.
At the end of a cycle the energies now displayed in the universe quiet down and become potential. At the beginning of the next to cycle they start up, strike upon the Akäsha, and out of the Akāsha evolve these various forms, and as the Ākāsha changes, this Prana changes also into all these manifestations of energy. The knowledge and control of this Prāna is really what is meant by Pranayama.
I wonder how far the American Medical Association/physicians have set back medical discoveries.
The traditional solution is Drugs. Some recommend exercise (although a friend recently couldn't get a prescription for Physical Therapy until after trying steroids for 2 weeks). Even fewer recommend diet changes.
Could this breathing method be a drug free solution to various psychological disorders? (Don't get me wrong, people may need drugs, but it's something to consider before a Physician gets someone addicted to Drugs for the rest of their life.)
It just seems like every industry has made huge strides in technological progress and scientific knowledge, then you have medical which is still unknown. Engineering and Medicine are both applied sciences, it seems either bizarre or corrupt that medical is far behind and has low quality outcomes, despite high costs.
It’s not bizarre. It’s simply very difficult to conduct experiments with a complex subject such as human beings that can produce clean results linking actions to results.
I have had excellent results with reverse back extensions  and inversion table stretches and crunches.
Physical Therapy is really what I need most the time, but when I was a kid I was taught to go see a PCP.
As for physical therapy, I have also experienced a degree of reluctance in prescribing it. But in my case my doctor has always been even more averse to drugs (aside from things like tylenol). I think I had to go through a couple doctors visits worth of suggesting alternative exercises or other lifestyle changes first. Maybe physical therapy is just expensive and they were trying to protect me from the out-of-pocket costs.