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Psychophysiological Effects of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Yoga Teacher Training in the Finger Lakes

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.