Nadi Shodhana Pranayama – Stage 4: Practice

Pranayama is an essential part of kriya yoga. That is, to do many of the practices of kriya yoga it is necessary to exhale and inhale with control and to retain the breath for prolonged periods of time. It is for this reason that we are spending so much time developing the practice of nadi shodhana pranayama.


Current practice

In the previous two lessons we suggested that you practise a ratio of 1:8:6:2:1:8:6:2 for inhalation: inner retention: exhalation: outer retention: inhalation: inner retention: exhalation and outer retention respectively. We also suggested that you perform Jalandhara bandha with each inner retention. If you have mastered this practice then you should proceed to the next practice.

New practice

Retain the same ratio but now try to perform jalandhara bandha with both outer and inner retention. This is not an easy practice and we emphasize that you should not strain. In fact we prefer that you reduce the ratio rather than hold your breath beyond its capacity.

Combination with ashwini mudra

This is an extra practice that you can combine with nadi shodhana pranayama. It is not essential. If you want to integrate the practice, we suggest you do so in the following manner:

1. Until you develop control over the muscles of the anus, practise stage 1 of ashwini mudra. This should be practised during the periods of jalandhara bandha in conjunction with breath retention. During the breath retention you have to mentally count the duration so that you can maintain the fixed ratio. We suggest that you synchronize the mental counting with the rhythmical contraction and relaxation of the anus. This will improve the intensity of your awareness and greatly improve the pranayama practice.

2. When you have developed sufficient control over the anal muscles then you can retain the muscular action for the entire duration of each breath retention. If you wish you can integrate your mental counting with the blood pulse that you will detect at the region of the contracted anus.

This is a very useful combination of practices, but please don’t strain.

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