Anulom Vilom is a specific type of pranayama, or controlled breathing, in yoga. It involves holding one nostril closed while inhaling, then holding the other nostril closed while exhaling. The process is then reversed and repeated.
It’s a form of alternate nostril breathing.
Alternate nostril breathing is said to have many physical and psychological benefits, including:
- improved breathing
- improved cardiovascular function
- stress reduction
There’s scientific evidence that supports some of these claims.
Most people can practice Anulom Vilom breathing safely and without risk. Read on as we look at a step-by-step guide to getting started and the potential benefits of Anulom Vilom breathing.
Anulom Vilom should be done on an empty stomach, preferably 4 hours after you’ve eaten. You should also find a cool, comfortable environment.
Follow these instructions:
- Choose a meditation sitting pose. Keep your spine and neck straight and close your eyes.
- Clear your mind of everything outside of this moment.
- Start with your outer wrists resting on your knees.
- Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
- Place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril.
- Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril, slowly and deeply, until your lungs are full. Focus on your breathing.
- Next, release your thumb and close your left nostril with your ring finger.
- Exhale slowly through the right nostril.
- Now practice it in reverse, this time inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.
Throughout the process, be conscious of your breathing and how it affects both body and mind.
Try this for 1 to 2 minutes to start. It may feel a little strange the first time you attempt it, so only do it as long as you’re comfortable.
There’s no need to go outside your comfort zone — you can always try again another time. It’s important to feel in control and relaxed. Increase your time at your own pace.
It might help to work with a trained yoga teacher who can instruct you on proper technique.
On chronic conditions
If you have a chronic respiratory or cardiovascular condition, speak with a doctor before attempting Anulom Vilom breathing.
As you gain more awareness and control over your breathing, you may find that it has an immediate calming effect.
There are many potential benefits. Some specific claims are backed by research, but some have not been fully studied.
Practicing Anulom Vilom breathing first thing in the morning may help you start your day in a better place. In the evening, it can also serve as a relaxation method to promote better sleep.
There’s also evidence that alternate nostril breathing can benefit your brain as well as your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It’s shown to reduce stress, too. These are changes that can affect every aspect of your health and well-being.
Your respiratory system
Yoga breathing practices may improve lung function and endurance, according to a small 2017 study.
This research involved competitive swimmers who used alternate nostril breathing along with two other breathing practices. Participants did 30 minutes worth of breathing exercises 5 days a week for 1 month.
A 2019 literature review of 68 studies found that yogic breathing is an effective way to enhance lung function.
Other research from 2013 showed that Anulom Vilom breathing for 30 minutes a day can improve rhinosinusitis, or sinus inflammation. This condition interferes with your ability to drain mucus from your nose and sinuses.
Both groups improved their general well-being, but only the pranayama group saw significant improvements in cognition and anxiety.
A 2019 literature review suggested that various types of yogic breathing could benefit neurocognitive, psychophysiological, biochemical, and metabolic functions in healthy people.
Your cardiovascular system
There are many anecdotal claims that Anulom Vilom breathing is good for the skin. Skin is the largest organ of the body and — like your respiratory and cardiovascular systems — it can also be affected by stress.
It’s possible that your skin will reap some reward from breathing exercises, though there’s a lack of research to support this specific claim.
There’s little in the way of research on Anulom Vilom breathing and eyesight. It is known, however, that eye health depends on a good supply of oxygen.
Alternate nostril breathing can improve respiratory and cardiovascular health, so it may provide some benefit for your eyes too.
Anulom Vilom breathing should be safe and risk-free for most people who don’t have health issues. According to the 2019 literature review mentioned earlier, yogic breathing is safe when guided by a trained teacher.
It’s a good idea to start with just 1 to 2 minutes or so and slowly increase as your confidence grows. Stop if you feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing.
Alternate nostril breathing such as Anulom Vilom is noted for its physical and mental health benefits, including:
- improved patience, focus, and control
- relief from stress and anxiety
- improvements to brain, respiratory, and cardiovascular health
- a better overall sense of well-being
Try it on your own or learn from an experienced yoga instructor.
Anulom Vilom is safe for most people, but those with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular problems should speak with a doctor first.