Anulom vilom is a specific type of controlled breathing (pranayama) in the practice of yoga. It involves holding one nostril closed while inhaling, then holding the other nostril closed while exhaling. The process is then reversed and repeated.

Alternate nostril breathing is said to have many physical and psychological benefits, including stress reduction and improved breathing and circulation. There’s scientific evidence that supports some of these claims.

Most people can practice anulom vilom breathing safely and without side effects. Read on as we look at the potential benefits of anulom vilom breathing and a step-by-step guide to get started.

As you gain more awareness and control over your breathing, you may find that it has an immediate calming effect.

Practicing anulom vilom breathing first thing in the morning may help start your day from a better place. It can also serve as a relaxation method in the evening to promote better sleep.

There are many potential benefits. Some claims are backed by research, but some specific claims haven’t been fully studied.

There is evidence that alternate nostril breathing can benefit your brain, as well as your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It is also shown to reduce stress.

These are changes that can impact every aspect of your health and well-being.

Your respiratory system

Yoga breathing practices may improve lung function and endurance, according to one small study.

This research involved competitive swimmers who used alternate nasal breathing plus two other breathing practices. Participants did breathing exercises for 30 minutes, 5 days a week for a month.

A 2019 review article found that yogic breathing is an effective way to enhance lung function.

Other research shows that anulom vilom breathing for 30 minutes a day can improve sinus inflammation (rhinosinusitis). This condition interferes with your ability to drain mucus from your nose and sinuses.

Your brain

In a randomized controlled trial, 96 medical students were divided into two groups. One group performed bhastrika and anulom vilom pranayama for 6 weeks. The other performed surya namaskar, a set of yoga sun salutations.

Both groups showed improved general well-being. But only the pranayama group showed significant improvement of cognition and anxiety.

A 2018 review suggests that various types of yogic breathing can benefit neurocognitive, psychophysiological, biochemical, and metabolic functions in healthy people.

Your cardiovascular system

Studies in 2011 and 2013 found that alternate nostril breathing had a positive impact on cardiovascular function, lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

Your skin

There are many claims that anulom vilom breathing is good for the skin. Skin is the largest organ of the body, and it can be affected by stress, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular health.

Though there’s a lack of research on this specific claim, it’s possible that your skin will reap some reward from breathing exercises.

Your eyes

You might have heard that anulom vilom breathing can improve eyesight, but there’s little in the way of research. 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.

Anulom vilom breathing should be safe for most healthy people, with no known risks. A 2019 review of 68 studies found that yogic breathing is safe when guided by a trained teacher.

It’s a good idea to start with just a minute or two and slowly increase as your confidence grows. Stop if you feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing.

Before starting anulom vilom breathing, talk to a doctor if you have a chronic respiratory or cardiovascular condition.

Anulom vilom should be done on an empty stomach, preferably 4 hours after you’ve eaten. You should also find a cool, comfortable environment.

  • 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 the 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 do 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 a minute or so to start. The first time you try, it may feel a little strange, so only do it as long as you’re comfortable.

Don’t force yourself beyond 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.

Anulom vilom is a type of alternate nostril breathing used in the practice of yoga. It’s noted for promoting physical and mental health benefits such as:

  • patience, focus, and control
  • relieving stress and anxiety
  • improvements to brain, respiratory, and cardiovascular health
  • better overall sense of well-being

You can try it on your own or you can learn from an experienced yoga instructor.

Talk to a doctor if you have chronic respiratory or cardiovascular problems, but anulom vilom breathing is safe for most people.