We all know that our nostrils help us to breath and to smell. Why do we have 2 nostrils? Is it simply so that our faces look symmetrical or is there another reason behind it?
Actually, our 2 nostrils have distinct functions. When you smell something, your right nostril sends information to the right side of your brain, where reside the processing of our emotions. That right side will dictate how we emotionally respond to that smell (joy, disgust,…)
The left nostril will send that smell to the left side of our brain, which is the analytical side. That side will identify the odor.
Interestingly, just like some people are right handed and others are left handed, we tend to favor one nostril over the other. Some people breathe or smell using more one nostril than the other. Now the question is, does that asymmetry in breathing affect the brain? It can have its importance since it has been well established that many brain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia or ADHD are linked with asymmetry of the brain.

Does asymmetrical brain activity cause asymmetrical nasal airflow?

The nasal airflow is regulated by the dilation or constriction of the blood vessels in the nasal mucosa, which is regulated by the brain, more specifically the autonomic nervous system. The reason why a brain can develop asymmetry is yet to be fully understood, however some studies have shown some correlation between brain asymmetry and nasal airflow asymmetry.

Does asymmetrical nasal airflow cause asymmetrical brain activity?

Asymmetrical breathing has been used for centuries in yoga breathing techniques. Studies showed that asymmetrical breathing could actually change the activity of the autonomic nervous system as well as causing shifts in the hemisphere activity.


Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood yet, breathing exercise favoring on nostril or the other like it’s been practicing in some form of yoga seems to play a role on the brain activity. It is therefore not meaningless to add asymmetrical breathing exercises as a treatment therapy to improve any imbalance in the brain hemispheres.

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