Unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton had to deal with an extra load of stress since last year’s election.
The former presidential candidate explained how she worked through the aftermath of her loss in her new book, What Happened. She also detailed her preferred coping tactics during an event at New York City’s Riverside Church last week.
“I did some yoga,” Clinton told attendees. “Tried alternate nostril breathing; I highly recommend it. It kind of calms you down. And yes, I had my fair share of chardonnay.”
The chardonnay is self-explanatory. But what exactly is this breathing technique?
“Alternate nostril breathing” has roots in yoga culture, and experts advise practicing at least twice a day. The routine is fairly simple: A typical ANB session involves gently pinching one nostril closed with your fingers and taking three long inhales and exhales. Then plug the other nostril, and repeat the process. Do the entire rotation three times.
After the session, you should feel calmer, less stressed and more relaxed in the chest and abdomen, according to the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. ANB is also said to balance the nervous system and reset your mind after a stressful day. Additionally, there’s clinical evidence of ANB’s benefits: A 2013 study found that ANB can alter brainwaves and help the brain perform better on tasks that require undivided attention.
Experts swear by the technique, as well: ANB can give the mind and body a boost, said Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist who teaches breathing techniques based on practical research.
“[ANB] does calm your brain. You can see it in the waves,” she told HuffPost. “When you practice breathing, it neurologically calms your whole system.”
The simple routine also can energize you, according to Leonard Perlmutter, a yoga expert and founder of the American Meditation Institute.
“[ANB] gives you more energy and more focus … much better than coffee. It’s better than two to three cups, but with no negative effect,” he told HuffPost. Plus, “you’ll see results immediately,” he said.
A breathing trick that’s relaxing, better than coffee and works instantly? I had to see for myself.
When I felt sluggish around 3 p.m. yesterday, I found a quiet spot in my office and assumed a tall, seated position, as experts advise before beginning ABT. I pinched one nostril closed and took three deep breaths, making sure to inhale deeply and use my diaphragm (both Vranich and Perlmutter stressed this, as it’s critical in order to get the benefits). I did the same on the other side, envisioning my breath running along my spine. I completed three cycles through each nostril, though I used my mouth a couple of times because my left nostril felt too stuffy to use on its own.
I felt noticeably calmer both during and after the exercise, like I do when I successfully meditate (which doesn’t happen very often). I found it easier to get into a relaxed state with ANB because I had a very specific breathing activity to focus on, instead of more generally “trying to let go of thoughts” like in meditation.
That’s fairly common feedback, Vranich told me later. Meditation is tough for many people because it involves disciplining the mind, she said. ANB, however, works through the breath, which directly affects the body.
“A lot of people, when they meditate, aren’t actually getting to the meditative state. They just stop texting for a few minutes,” Vranich said. However, “when your body feels you breathing in a more expansive way by using your diaphragm, it calms you down.”
Want to try ANB for yourself? Here’s a quick guide for your first session. If it can ease stress after an election, it’s certainly worth a try.