Pranayama Before Meditation

In yogic meditations, one would traditionally perform two types of pranayama (one being a kriya) prior to settling into their meditation practice.

Below is one of them. Perform for a minimum of 5-10 minutes.

Nadi Shodhana ….

…… one of the most commonly practiced pranayama techniques in yoga. The word “nadi” means “nerve channels”. In fact, in yoga the term nadi is applied to channels associated with the flow of prana (vital life force). According to some ancient texts, there are 72,000 such nadis in a human system. The word “shodhana”  means “cleansing” or “purification”. So the term “nadi shodhana” literally means cleansing of the subtle nervous system.

Level 1

  1. Sit in any comfortable sitting posture with the spine erect, eyes closed and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Make the Vishnu Mudra with the right hand – make a soft fist, lift the thumb and the last two fingers up, keeping the middle two fingers at the base of the thumb. During the practice using this mudra, the thumb is used to close the right nostril whereas the ring finger is used to close the left nostril.
  3. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril. To get started, exhale through the left.
  4. Begin the first round by inhaling through the left nostril.
  5. At the end of inhalation, close the left nostril with ring finger and open the right. Then exhale through right nostril.
  6. Inhale now through the right. At the end of inhalation, close the right nostril with the thumb again and exhale through the left.
  7. This completes one cycle of breathing. Continue for about 15 similar cycles. Make sure to use natural breath in and double or triple the exhale out.

Level 2 (once you are comfortable with Level 1 – the “real” breath format is as follows:

Same as the above, but using a retention of the breath of between the inhale and exhale for a COMFORTABLE 5-20 seconds. You would work your way to longest comfortable retention. You should never have to gasp for breath. As with anything – it becomes second nature and once the process/practice feels natural and not awkward…..the magic of it comes.


  1. Long, slow breathing brings in increased supply of fresh oxygen into the system. More oxygen means more pure, oxygenated blood going to every cell of the body. This also means that more of carbon dioxide and toxins are eliminated from the body.
  2. This breath helps calm the nerves which can help with the management of anxiety and stress.
  3. Alternate breathing brings about a balance in the system – balancing the dualities like hot/cold, good/bad, honor/dishonor etc. This also helps balance the two sides of the brain – the analytical and the emotional, thus developing a more balanced personality.


Balancing the breath between the two nostrils implies balancing the Ida and Pingala nadis. When these two nadis are balanced, then the prana (vital energy) can flow through the central channel of energy called “sushumna nadi” thus clearing the passage for the rising of kundalini energy.

Psychophysiological Effects of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Yoga Research Foundation

Psychophysiological Effects of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Nadi shodhana pranayama, with its various stages and combinations, is a unique practice that covers the full spectrum of applications, starting from the basic application of purification to preparing pranamaya kosha, the pranic body, for higher spiritual progress. We present here some thoughts on its basic application, suggested by its name, purification of the nadis.

Purification and nadi shodhana pranayama

It is essential to prepare the body-prana-mind complex to an optimum level before embarking upon higher yogic sadhanas or trying to realize one’s potential. The preparation includes purifying the body of various dietary and metabolic waste products and the mind of impurities such as mala, the six enemies of passion, anger, pride, delusion, jealousy and greed. Then one has to control vikshepa, the oscillating nature of the mind, and remove avarana, wrong understanding. Wrong understanding is due to the kleshas, the five afflictions: ignorance, I-ness, attachment, repulsion and fear of loss.

There are many important purification practices in yoga, including the shatkarmas and the yamas and niyamas, as well as pranayamas. These practices work variously on the physical, mental and pranic dimensions of the human being, but the effects are experienced at all levels. Nadi shodhana pranayama, alternate nostril breathing, is the most commonly practiced pranayama. It is an importantpurification practice because it clears obstructions in the flow of prana in the nadis.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2:5) and Gheranda Samhita (5:32), the yogi is ready to practice kumbhaka, breath retention, only after the nadis and chakras are purified. In raja yoga and hatha yoga, pranayama practices always precede meditation practices. This implies that every hatha and raja yoga aspirant has to practice and perfect nadi shodhana pranayama on the yogic journey.

Cultivating Prana

Grounded By Yoga Breathwork

Whoever you may be, and wherever you may live, you live your life well when you live it at the right rate. Plow your way through life and life will wear you out; poke your way along and your life will grind to a halt. Find a pace that suits you, though, and amble along it accordingly, and your world will spontaneously level a path for you.

Life requires of each of us a judicious stride, a step that causes every particle of our being to reverberate with rapport. Some of us find our stride without much effort; a few of us are even born ready to canter. But lots of us stumble along from day to day like we had two left feet, trying in vain to intellectualize our way through life when what all that life asks of us is that we let our prana do our walking for us.

Prana is the energy that drives life, the power that animates the body, enlivens the mind, spurs the soul. Prana is life’s inspiration, its foundation, its tenacity; it is the sure hand on the tiller, the wise voice of good counsel, the urge to health and harmony that craves to turn our bodies into havens where we can take shelter from the storms of the hectic modern world. Prana is at work at every instant in every cell of every living organism, seeking ever to deliver us from disease and confirm us in health, but only in those few people who are genetically fated to be healthy does prana automatically regulate its momentum. The rest of us must learn how to cultivate our prana.

Pranayama, the “control” or “regulation” of prana, is a central principle of many of the varieties of yoga that ancient India produced. Good prana management is essential for those who seek to follow the path of Ashtanga Yoga, the “eight-limbed” yoga of personal development that the ancient seer Patanjali systematized. Patanjali, who taught that “yoga is restraint of the fluctuations of the mind” (yogas chitta vritti nirodhah), sought to restrain those fluctuations by restraining the breath, which can when performed with care cultivate prana admirably. Unfortunately, ever since Patanjali many unwary students and teachers of yoga have equated pranayama with prolonged, forcible holding of the breath, which can actually ruin the body.

Wise pranayama begins with observation. When moving your body, how often do you ponder what causes your body to move? When exercising, do you exercise your muscles alone, or also the force that drives them? Do you limit yourself to the physical posture when you perform an asana, or do you perform it energetically as well? A good first step to effective prana stewardship is to alert yourself to your energy posture, your habits of holding and utilizing your energy.

Understand your natural affinity with prana and you gain insight into which method of prana cultivation will work most efficiently and effortlessly for you. Sound prana handling is methodical, and the rishis, India’s seers who spent their long lives poring over the many facets of the paradox that is life, proposed an variety of methods to encourage prana to adopt an suitable pace. They advised at the outset that we use the principles of Ayurveda, India’s life-science, to balance vata, pitta and kapha, the three energy strategies of embodied beings. These Three Doshas encourage ailments when they are permitted to struggle with one another, and work to support the organism when taught to cooperate. When the Three Doshas strive toward amity they serve to strengthen agni, or tejas, the fire of transformation that permits us to feed and nourish ourselves. Strong fire digests cleanly the prana that we consume through our breath and through our food, and strong agni and prana facilitate the development of ojas, the pure “juice” that makes living worthwhile by cementing together body, mind and spirit and fueling immunity from illness.

Strong tejas and ojas in a body provide prana a good seat (asana) there. Well-seated prana provides us the visceral resolve we need to perform our every action precisely, rightly, with great resolve and enthusiasm. Such a body moves not from obligation but from the joy of movement that is prana’s nature. Well-seated prana enhances immeasurably our ability to perform any yoga posture (asana). As prana becomes carefully settled through the practice of asana our bodies become fit for pranayama, which can promote control of the senses and the mind. Breath, prana and mind are mutually and inherently related; cultivate one well and the other two will fall into line. While many yogis do use breathing exercises to cultivate prana and mind, others use meditation to regulate the breath and prana. Some practice Svara Yoga, control of prana and mind by means of song, and some align breath, prana and mind by means of undiluted devotion to Divinity.

Devotion may be the supreme method for prana control, just as faith is the supreme remedy for disease. Strong faith can turn any placebo into an effective medicine as surely as doubt can render ineffectual the most powerful of remedies. While implicit devotion to Reality can compensate for misalignments in yoga practice, no quantum of technical proficiency in asana will suffice to restrain the mind’s fluctuations when that mind is plagued by doubt. Devote yourself to knowing and cultivating your prana, and your every capillary will soon swell with the exhilaration of genuine vitality. Learn to pace your prana, and your body and mind will automatically fall into step. Dedicate your yoga practice to facilitating and enhancing prana’s glide through your being, and gradually your own prana will start to direct your yoga practice. Treat prana with due respect, and you will find yourself squarely in the center of life’s flow.