The nose—much maligned and the object of endless jokes—is remarkably versatile. It’s handy for breathing and smelling and sneezing and holding up our sunglasses. The studious keep it pressed to the grindstone, the arrogant carry it in the air, and the confrontive are fond of standing nose-to-nose.
We pay through the nose when we run up our credit cards; if we’re easily offended, our noses are often out of joint. And the yogis have yet another way to press the proboscis into service: as a barometer for when to eat and when not to. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you’ve probably discovered that sometimes the breath flows more freely in the right nostril while at other times the left nostril seems clearer. The breath flows equally through both nostrils only when we are perfectly tranquil.
The free-flowing nostril is called the dominant nostril. Observing this phenomenon in themselves, the yogis noticed that when the breath flows more freely in the left nostril the effect is cooling, predisposing them to receptive pursuits such as studying, or some other quiet form of sustained effort; they found right-nostril dominance heating, predisposing them to active pursuits like playing sports, giving a lecture, or eating.
Do what the yogis did: conduct your own experiments.
According to their experience, appetite is best and food tastier if meals are taken when the right nostril is dominant; but when the left nostril is dominant, digestive fire tends to be low and it’s best not to eat. Sound far-fetched? Do what the yogis did: conduct your own experiments. When you have a hearty appetite, notice which nostril is dominant.
If you sit down to a meal when the left nostril is more open, how does the food taste? When you’re really enjoying what you’re eating, pause for a moment and see which nostril is flowing more freely. When you sit down to a meal but aren’t really interested in eating, which nostril is open? Pay attention and you may find the solution to mild indigestion right under your nose!
You’ve just eaten and now you’re feeling stuporous? Unless you’ve stuffed yourself beyond reason, it’s likely that the left nostril is dominant. The solution is simple: lie down on your left side and relax. In a few minutes, your right nostril will open and your digestive fire will kick in. Stay put for 10 or 15 minutes before going about your business and all will be well.