I tried this breathing technique before an interview and this is what happened

Preparing for an interview can be an anxious time. Worrying about what you’ll say, what they might ask, and if you picked out the right clothes can all take a toll. Even if you think you’re likely a good fit for the position, it’s still natural to be a little nervous.

Enter nadi shodhana prānāyāma, or alternate nostril breathing. This ancient breathing technique dates back to one of the early yoga texts, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Yogis have practiced alternate nostril breathing for generations, teaching that it balances the energies of the body.

This ancient breathing technique was also tested by scientists who affirmed that it’s clinically proven to lower stress. Other benefits can include a lowered heart rate, lower respiratory rates, and lower blood pressure.

How does alternate nostril breathing work?

Yogis teach that breathing through the left nostril only is meant to calm and center the body while breathing through the right nostril stimulates and energizes. Alternating between the two purposefully in steady cycles was believed to bring the body’s prana, or vital force, into alignment.

In recent studies, scientists have quantified the benefits of alternate nostril breathing. Alternate nostril breathing is thought to work by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the right side of the brain, which is responsible for governing our emotions and creativity. Breathing through the right nostril spurs blood flow to the left brain, which handles our logic and language abilities.

How to do alternate nostril breathing

Nadi shodhana can be read as “clearing the channels of circulation.” When you go to practice alternate nostril breathing, it’s traditional to sit comfortably with your back straight.

If you’re headed into an interview though, this technique can also be done standing – just make sure your hands are clean, as you’ll be touching your face.

To practice alternate nostril breathing, follow these steps:

  • Get comfortable in a seated (or standing) position. Try to release any tension from your face and jaw before you begin. You may also want to close your eyes.
  • Lift one hand (traditionally your right) up to your face.
  • Using your thumb, gently press your right nostril closed.
  • With your right nostril closed, inhale through your left nostril.
  • Press your left nostril closed, and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, then press it closed to exhale through the left nostril.
  • Two full breaths are one round of alternate nostril breathing. Try to work your way up to around 5 to 9 rounds, breathing as naturally and smoothly as possible.

Alternate nostril breathing before an interview

Scientists in 2011 demonstrated that using alternate nostril breathing regularly can improve academic performance. In 2017, it was shown that alternate nostril breathing positively impacts the lung performance of competitive swimmers. And Hillary Clinton revealed that she used the practice after her presidential loss in 2016 in order to cope.

I figured that if alternate nostril breathing could help with academics, athletics, and politics, it could probably help soothe job interview jitters as well.

Trying it out

The first and most obvious takeaway was that it takes time to be able to work up to a full 5 to 9 rounds of alternate nostril breathing. Also, it’s not something you can do if you’re congested, sick, or short of breath.

The process wasn’t hard to keep track of once I began – it’s definitely easier than it seems. If you get lost, just think that the pattern is to inhale, switch, exhale, inhale, switch. Take time to sink into a flow state of steady, even breath. I chose to start my inhale with the left nostril open, initiating a calming process.

Alternatively, leading with a right nostril inhale is meant to energize the body, so you can also practice nadi shodhana as a pick-me-up at the end of a long day, or before a big presentation.

The takeaway

Practicing alternate nostril breathing before an interview helped me feel calmer, more collected, and more aware of what I wanted to communicate. Taking stock of your body before plunging into a stressful situation can be a gamechanger – this ancient technique can make all the difference in your modern life!