Nāḍī-śodhana – Cleansing the Nāḍīs:Textual delineation of an Important Prāṇāyāma Technique Beneficial for all


कायस्य कृशता कान्तिः तदा जायेत निश्चितम्॥

kāyasya kṛśtā kāntiḥ tadā jāyet niścitam.

(Haṭhayogapradīpikā 2.19)

The body becomes lean and attains glow. This is certain.

Who would not want a lean and glowing frame, which is also an indication of good health. The practice of Nāḍī-śodhana or Nāḍī-śuddhi is stated to bestow the above benefit. As the very name indicates, it is a Prāṇāyāma practice that cleanses the Nāḍīs and by that bestows the above benefits. And Nāḍīs are the carriers of Prāṇa.

Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā (HYP), the 15th century Haṭha-yoga text by Yogin Svātmārāma, gives a lot of details about this practice. The 19th century Saṃskṛta commentary on HYP called Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā-Jyotsnā(HYP-J), written by Yogin Brahmānanda sheds light on intricate details of Nāḍī-śodhana practice. It is to be noted that, though some passing references to the inputs from HYP are made in most Yoga teachers training programs, a systematic textual study of the verses with inputs from Jyotsnā commentary of Brahmānanda is seldom done. Hence this attempt.

Span of verses

Chapter 2 of HYP discusses various types of Prāṇāyāmas. It is very interesting to note that, before elaborating upon any of the 8 kumbhakas (Prāṇāyāmas), right at the outset, 16 verses – (verses 4-19) are dedicated to discussing the practice of Nāḍī-śodhana. The split up of the inputs on this practice from the text and the commentary is given below  -

I. Verse 4 & 5 – Four reasons to cleanse the Nāḍīs

II. Verse 6 - Prerequisite for Nāḍī-śodhana: Sāttvika State of Mind

III. Verses 7 – 10 – The technique of practice of Nāḍī-śodhana

IV. Verse 11 – The number times of practice in a day

V. Verse 12, 13 – Stages of progress in the practice

VI. Verse 14 – Diet for the practitioner

VII. Verses 15- 18 – Precautions during the practice

VIII. Verse 19 – Indicators of cleansed Nāḍīs

The detailed nature of inputs on Nāḍī-śodhana is evident from the break-up of content of the verses above. This also emphasizes the importance of this practice.  Let us get into the details in the same sequence of enumeration above.

I. Four reasons to cleanse the Nāḍīs

Other than the health benefits mentioned above - four reasons are stated right at the outset, as to why the Nāḍīs are to be cleansed (verses 4 and 5, Chapter 2, HYP) -

मलाकुलासु नाडीषु मारुतो नैव मध्यगः ।

कथं स्यादुन्मनीभावः कार्यसिद्धिः कथं भवेत् ॥ ४ ॥

शुद्धिमेति यदा सर्वं नाडीचक्रं मलाकुलम् ।

तदैव जायते योगी प्राणसङ्ग्रहणे क्षमः ॥ ५ ॥

malākulāsu nāḍīṣu māruto naiv madhyagaḥ ।
kathaṃ syādunmanībhāvaḥ kāryasiddhiḥ kathaṃ bhavet ॥ 4 ॥
śuddhimeti yadā sarvaṃ nāḍīcakraṃ malākulam।
tadaiva jāyte yogī prāṇasaṅgrahṇe kṣamaḥ ॥ 5 ॥

Purport: If the Nāḍīs are clogged with impurities how can the the Prāṇa travel in the middle path? How can the state of Unmanī be attained? How will success in the task (Kārya-siddhi) be achieved? Only when the Nāḍīs are cleansed Prāṇa can be collected (Prāṇa-saṅgraha) by the Yogin.

The above verses yield four purposes for the practice of Nāḍī-śodhana. They are explained below with inputs from the commentary -

1. Entry of Prāṇa in the middle path - The middle path here refers to the Suṣumnā-Nāḍī. Brahmānanda, the commentator clarifies that when the Nāḍīs are clogged with impurities Prāṇa cannot reach the Suṣumnā-Nāḍī. Prāṇa entering Suṣumnā is out of question at this stage. It is to be noted that the very meaning of the term Haṭhayoga is explained by Brahmānanda as the joining (Yoga) of Prāṇa(ha) and Apana(tha) (HYP-J 1.1). Brahmānanda later explains that, these two (prāṇa & apāna) then enter Suṣumnā towards attainment of the goal of Yoga -  (HYP-J 3.64). If the Nāḍīs are not cleansed, the very objective of Hatha cannot be achieved.

2. Attainment of Unmanī – Unmanī is a synonym of the state of Samādhi (Refer HYP[1] 4.3). It has been clarified later in the 2nd chapter of HYP (text and commentary) that only when the Prāṇa enters Suṣumnā, mind becomes steady. When the mind becomes steady and is able to reflect the object of meditation without any distraction then the state of Samādhi is attained (Refer verse & commentary 2.41,42). Hence without the previous step of Prāṇa entering into Suṣumnā, attainment of state of Unmanī  is ruled out. And for that cleansing of the Nāḍīs is a fundamental, first step.

3. Kāryasiddhi success (Siddhi) in the task (Kārya) here refers to the attainment of Kaivalya. This has been clarified by Brahmānanda - कार्यस्य कैवल्यरूपस्य सिद्धिः निष्पत्तिः कथं भवेत् ?- kāryasya kaivalyarūpasya siddhiḥ niṣpattiḥ kathaṃ bhavet?  Kārya is Kaivalya, Siddhi refers to attainment. How will the attainment of Kaivalya happen (without Unmanī – the previous step)?

4. Prāṇa-saṅgraha-  Collection of Prāṇa also happens only by the cleansing of the Nāḍīs. Commentator Brahmānanda does not elaborate this point given in HYP. But we have pointers from the Yoga-yājñavalkya-saṃhitā to understand the concept of Prāṇa-saṅgraha. In the fourth Chapter of Yoga-yājñavalkya-saṃhitā (YYS 4.6-10) – we see a reference where it is stated that the Prāṇa (due to the impurities in the Nāḍīs), dissipates outside the body to the extent of 12 finger breadths (aṅgulas). By the practice of Yoga/Prāṇāyāma the body Prāṇa thus dissipated has to be collected within the body. The collection of the Prāṇa thus dissipated can be understood as Prāṇa-saṅgraha. The implication of Prāṇa dissipating outside is - denying of the much needed Prāṇic energy for the limbs of the body. Insufficient supply of Prāṇa leads to various illnesses.

Hence Prāṇa-saṅgraha (gathering of Prāṇa within) has to be done and that happens by cleansing the Nāḍīs.

II. Prerequisite for Nāḍī-śodhana - Sāttvika State of Mind

Verse 6 of chapter 2 of HYP states the following with regard to the state of mind required for the practice of Nāḍī-śodhana -

प्राणयामं ततः कुर्यान्नित्यं सात्विकया धिया ।

यथा सुषुम्नानाडीस्था मलाः शुद्धिं प्रयान्ति च ॥ ६ ॥

prāṇyām tataḥ kuryānnityaṃ sātvikyā dhiyā .
yathā Suṣumnānāḍīsthā malāḥ śuddhiṃ prayānti ca ॥ 6

Purport: So as to cleanse Suṣumnā-nāḍī of its impurities one should practice Prāṇāyāma with a Sāttvika state of mind.

At the outset, it is interesting to note from the verse that, along with the impurities of other nāḍīs, the impurities of Suṣumnā-nāḍī will also be cleansed by this practice.

Further, Brahmānanda, in his commentary to the verse clarifies how that Sāttvika state mind which is a prerequisite for Nāḍī-śodhana practice is attained. He states –

ईश्वरप्रणिधान-उत्साह- साहसादि- प्रयत्नाभिभूत-विक्षेप-आलस्यादि-राजस-तामस-धर्मया सात्विकया प्रकाश-प्रसादशीलया धिया बुद्ध्या नित्यं प्राणायामं कुर्यात्

Īśvara-praṇidhāna-utsāh- sāhsādi- prayatnābhibhūt-vikṣep-ālasyādi-rājas-tāmas-dharmayā sātvikyā prakāś-prasādaśīlyā dhiyā buddhyā nityaṃ prāṇāyāmaṃ kuryāt

Meaning: By an effort that is supported by Īśvara-praṇidhāna(devotion to Īśvara), Utsāha (enthusiasm) and Sāhasa (boldness in  approach) - distractions, laziness and such other Rājasika and Tāmasika tendencies are overcome. Then the intellect becomes Sāttvika (clarity & calmness). With mind in such a state, Prāṇāyāma has to be practiced.

Three suggestions to get to Sāttvika state of mind that can be gleaned from the above commentary are elaborated below –

  1. Īśvara-praṇidhāna – This means Surrendering the actions and results of the action to īśvara and focusing more on the process. In Prāṇāyāma, multiple components such as inhalation, exhalation, retention of breath are involved. Further, the duration, the number of times of practice etc are also involved which requires a lot of application of mind in the process of practice. If one keeps thinking about the outcome etc without focusing on the process, it is not going to help the practice. Hence Īśvara-praṇidhāna is much needed. There may be more interpretations to the concept of Īśvara-praṇidhāna – but this is one dimension that one and all can easily relate to.
  2. Utsāha –This refers to having effort & enthusiasm to continue the practice. Sometimes in the practice there may not be expected outcomes due to reasons that may not be known to us and beyond us. Hence there is a possibility of getting discouraged and quitting the practice. Utsāha here refers to not quit even in the face of setback. Thus we see perseverance as a factor contributing to Sāttvika state of mind.
  3. Sāhasa – Sāhasa is plunging into action and not worrying too much about whether something is possible or impossible. Brahmānanda himself has defined Sāhasa in the first chapter in this manner. (HYP 1.16) Sāhasa is possible with faith in the teachings and guidance of the teacher. Too much of evaluation and contemplation on pros and cons will not help. Thus, understanding the framework and not hesitating to experiment (Sāhasa) is another contributing factor to Sāttvika state of mind.

These are very important insights with regard to the practice of Nāḍī-śodhana or any Prāṇāyāma for that matter. People generally are misled to believe that by merely inhaling and exhaling for few times a day by holding the nose, all their problems can be solved. Many a time the quality of inhalation and exhalation are not cared for. If the inhalation and exhalation in the practice of Prāṇāyāma should be good, the mind has to cooperate. And the mind that is Sāttvika being endowed with the above aspects will certainly cooperate in the practice and ensure good quality of practice of Prāṇāyāma.

III. Nāḍī-śodhana – The technique of Practice 

After discussing the why of the practice and also the detailing the prerequisites - Verses 7 to 10 – Present the how of the practice – the technique of Nāḍī-śodhana. Let us discuss the meanings of the verses 7 & 8 now -

बद्धपद्मासनो योगी प्राणं चन्द्रेण पूरयेत् ।

धारयित्वा यथाशक्ति भूयः सूर्येण रेचयेत् ॥ ७ ॥

प्राणं सूर्येण चाकृष्य पूरयेदुदरं शनैः ।

विधिवत् कुम्भकं कृत्वा पुनश्चन्द्रेण रेचयेत् ॥ ८ ॥

baddhapadmāsano yogī prāṇaṃ candreṇa pūrayet .
dhārayitvā yathāśakti bhūyaḥ sūryeṇa recayet ॥ 7 ॥
prāṇaṃ sūryeṇa cākṛṣya pūrayedudaraṃ śanaiḥ .
vidhivat kumbhakaṃ kṛtvā punaścandreṇa recayet ॥ 8 ॥

Purport: A Yogi should be seated in Padmāsana and inhale prāṇa through the left nostril. After retaining the breath to the extent of one’s capability, Prāṇa has to be exhaled through the right nostril. Then, one has to inhale through the right nostril and after retaining the breath in the prescribed manner, one should exhale through the left nostril.

The technique has six steps viz.-

In this context, the commentator gives the definition of the three components of Prāṇāyāma viz Pūraka, Recaka and Kumbhaka which is worth noting.[2] The definitions are as follows

  1. बाह्यवायोः प्रयत्नादुपादानं पूरकः- bāhyavāyoḥ prayatnādupādānaṃ pūrakaḥ - the intake of air from outside with effort is pūraka
  2. जालन्धरादिबन्धपूर्वकं प्राणनिरोधः कुम्भकः - jālandharādibandhapūrvakaṃ prāṇanirodhaḥ kumbhakaḥ - the retention of breath (within) with jālandhara and other Bandhas is Kumbhaka.
  3. कुम्भितस्य वायोः प्रयत्नविशेषाद्वमनं रेचकः - kumbhitasya vāyoḥ prayatnaviśeṣādvamanaṃ recakaḥ - Exhalation of the air that was retained within, with effort, is called as recaka.

From the definitions above, we can see that Pūraka refers to inhalation with special effort (mindfully, to the extent possible and not shallow) and not mere casual or involuntary inhalation. Kumbhaka is not mere retention of breath – it involves the incorporation of Bandhas while retaining the breath within. Finally, Recaka refers to exhalation of the breath which had been retained earlier, with effort (mindfully, to the extent possible and not shallow). It is not mere exhalation just after inhalation or involuntary exhalation.

Thus, it can be concluded that pūraka, recaka and Kumbhaka are used in a specific sense in the context of the technique of Prāṇāyāma and they do not merely translate as inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath. This understanding of the components should be remembered while practicing Nāḍī-śodhana and the use of Saṃskṛta technical terms Pūraka, recaka and Kumabhaka in place of inhalation etc will be more apt and remind this significance.

Next Verse 9: A thumb rule in the practice of the technique:  As Nāḍī-śodhana has six steps (shown in the image above), one may forget the steps or mix up. To avoid this, this verse presents a thumb rule that helps remember the steps better.  It is as follows –

येन त्यजेत् तेन पीत्वा धारयेदतिरोधतः ।

रेचयेच्च ततोऽन्येन शनैरेव न वेगतः ॥२.९॥

yena tyajet tena pītvā dhārayedatirodhataḥ

recayecca tato'nyena śanaireva na vegataḥ ॥ 2.9 ॥

Purport: One has to inhale through that (the nostril) by which exhalation was done and the breath has to be retained with great effort. Then exhalation has to be done through the other (nostril), slowly and not quickly.

As it is evident – the thumb rule for Nāḍī-śodhana is - inhale through the nostril through which exhalation was done (then, retain the breath) and exhale through the other.

Verse 10: Timeline for attainment of cleansed Nāḍīs:  This verse while repeating the technique that has been stated in verses 7 & 8 adds one additional view. The portion of the verse that conveys the new input alone is given below (the rest of it is avoided) –

…अनेन विधिनाभ्यासं सदा तन्वतां

शुद्धा नाडिगणा भवन्ति यमिनां मासत्रयादूर्ध्वतः ॥२. १०॥

anena vidhinābhyāsaṃ sadā tanvatāṃ
śuddhā nāḍigaṇā bhavanti yamināṃ māsatrayādūrdhvataḥ ॥2.10॥

Purport: … such practice (with the technique elaborated above) by the self-controlled practitioners, will lead to cleansing of the Nāḍīs after three months.

It goes without saying that this three-month timeline is true only for those practitioners who are systematic in their practice following all aspects of practice that are mentioned as part of the discussion in this entire article.

IV.The number of sessions and times the practice in a day

Verse 11 specifies the number of sessions of Prāṇāyāma practice in day. This probably applies to Nāḍī-śodhana and all other subsequent practices that are stated in chapter 2 of HYP. The verse is as follows –

प्रातर्मध्यन्दिने सायमर्धरात्रे च कुम्भकान् ।
शनैरशीतिपर्यन्तं चतुर्वारं समभ्यसेत् ॥ ११ ॥

prātarmadhyandine sāyamardharātre ca kumbhakān.

śanairaśītiparyantaṃ caturvāraṃ samabhyaset ॥ 11 ॥

Purport: The Prāṇāyāma should be done in four sessions – namely morning, midday, evening and midnight. One can slowly raise the number of cycles (of Prāṇāyāma) per session of practice to eighty.

The utility of the commentary comes to the fore fully in this verse. The definition of time of practice of these four sessions are specified in the commentary with great precision. The commentator says -

प्रातः अरुणोदयमारभ्य सूर्योदयाद् घटिकात्रयपर्यन्ते प्रातः काले, मध्यन्दिने मध्याह्ने पञ्चधा विभक्तस्य दिनस्य मध्यभागे, सायं सन्ध्यात्रिणाडीप्रमितार्कास्ताद् अधस्ताद् ऊर्ध्वं चेत्युक्तलक्षणे सन्ध्याकाले, रात्रेः अर्धम् अर्धरात्रः तस्मिन्नर्धरात्रे रात्रेः मध्ये मुहूर्तद्वये च…

prātaḥ aruṇodayamārabhya sūryodayād ghaṭikātrayaparyante prātaḥ kale, madhyandine madhyāhne pañcadhā vibhaktasya dinasya madhyabhāge, sāyaṃ sandhyātriṇāḍīpramitārkāstād adhastād ūrdhvaṃ cetyuktalakṣaṇe sandhyākāle, rātreḥ ardham ardharātraḥ tasminnardharātre rātreḥ madhye muhūrtadvaye ca…

Meaning: ” morning time refers to the three Ghaṭikās (one Ghaṭikā is 24 minutes) from Aruṇodaya (day break) to Sūryodaya (sunrise). With regard to midday – it is called as midday because – it is the middle part of the day which is divided into five units. With regard to the evening – it is a duration of three Nāḍīs (same as Ghaṭikā duration) before and after the sunset. The duration of midnight practice is the two Muhūrtas in the middle of the night.”

To explain –

Morning - the duration for morning practice of Prāṇāyāma is 72 minutes (3 Ghaṭikās) that ends with Sunrise.

Midday – Daytime is approximately 12 hours from the Sunrise to Sunset. This duration is stated to be divided into five parts. Each of those parts is traditionally considered to have six Dandas each (24 minutes)[3]. The duration of one part (among the five) then is 144 minutes (2 hours 24 minutes) Then the five parts of the day will be as follows – if the Sunrise is at 6 am -

  • Part 1 6 am to 8.24 am
  • Part 2 8.25 am to 10. 49 am – Forenoon (pūrvāhṇa)
  • Part 3 10.50 am to 1.14 pm – Midday (madhyāhna)
  • Part 4 1.15 pm to 3.39 pm
  • Part 5 3.40 pm to 5.59 pm – Afternoon (aparāhṇa).

The Madhyāhna duration specified above is conducive for midday practice of Prāṇāyāma.

Evening practice duration is between 5.24 pm and goes till 6.36 pm (three Nāḍikās before and after Sunset- assuming 6 pm as sunset time).

Mid-night – Generally the mid-night duration is around 10.50 to 1.14 pm – similar to that of the Midday calculation. But the commentator specifies (the middle) two Muhūrtas (one Muhūrta = 48 minutes) in that duration. Hence in this duration of totally 144 minutes, the middle 96 minutes (two Muhūrtas) will be 11.15pm to 12.50am approximately.

Thus these are the specifications that emerge from the commentary with regard to the four sessions of the practice.

In each of the sessions, in due course, a maximum of 80 cycles nāḍīśodhana is advised by the text. Then, it would be 320 times per day. The commentator states – if one is not able to practice during the midnight - at least three times per day should be done which would then be 240 cycles of Nāḍīśodhana per day. (अर्धरात्रे कर्तुमशक्तः चेत् त्रिसन्ध्यं कर्तव्या इति सम्प्रदायः - ardharātre kartumaśaktaḥ cet trisandhyaṃ kartavyā iti sampradāyaḥ HYP-J 2.11)

The practice for four times or three times a day for a maximum of 80 cycles indicates the extent of effort that is needed to cleanse the Nāḍīs clogged with impurities.

From the point of view of today’s way of life - guidance on the practice of Prāṇāyāma from Yogāñjalisāra of Yogacharya Krishnamacharya can be considered -

यामे यामे प्राणायामन् दश दश कुर्यादायुर्वृद्ध्यै  (Verse 22)

yāme yāme prāṇāyāman daśa daśa kuryādāyurvṛddhyai

Meaning: Do ten Prāṇayams during each Yāma to enhance lifespan.

It is to be noted that one Yāma is a three-hour duration. From sunrise to set (assuming the sun rises at 6am and sets at 6pm) there will be four yāmas during the day[4]. At the end of each Yāma during the day, 10 Nāḍī-śodhana cycles can be done. If each cycle of Nāḍī-śodhana is done for a duration of one minute, then ten cycles would take just ten minutes. On implementing such a Yoga break for ten minutes every three hours, one can calibrate oneself and attain focus and increase productivity even, apart from attaining various Yogic benefits mentioned initially.

V. Stages of progress

Verse 12 presents the three levels of indicators in progress in Nāḍī-śodhana (and Prāṇāyāma in general). The verse is as follows –

कनीयसि भवेत् स्वेदः कम्पो भवति मध्यमे ।
उत्तमे स्थानमाप्नोति ततो वायुं निबन्धयेत् ॥ १२ ॥

kanīyasi bhavet svedaḥ kampo bhavati madhyame .
uttame sthānamāpnoti tato vāyuṃ nibandhayet ॥ 12 ॥

Purport: In the lower level of practice - sweating, in the middle level of practice - trembling (of limbs), and in the higher level of practice - Prāṇa will enter the place (Suṣumnā).

The commentary to this portion is very elaborate and there is multiplicity of views. Without getting much into details, it can be stated that - with the experience of sweat etc we can infer the level that the practitioner of Prāṇāyāma has reached. It has to be remembered that, sweat etc mentioned here are those that are caused only by Prāṇāyāma and not by any extraneous factors such as sitting in the Sun while doing Prāṇāyāma etc.[5]

And the next verse (Verse 13), which is an extension of views of verse 12, indicates that - the sweat that is generated due to Prāṇāyāma practice has to be rubbed on to the body itself and should not be wiped away. It is stated herein that, by doing so, lightness of limbs and absence of drowsiness can be  experienced. This has not been elaborated separately as this is just an additional note connected to the discussion in the verse 12.

VI. Diet for Prāṇāyāma practitioner

It is important to note that food intake has its influence in the practice of this Prāṇāyāma (and others too). This has been noted by HYP and the dietary prescription is given in verse 14 -

अभ्यासकाले प्रथमे शस्तं क्षीराज्यभोजनम् ।
ततोऽभ्यासे दृढीभूते न तादृङ् नियमग्रहः ॥ १४ ॥

abhyāsakāle prathame śastaṃ kṣīrājyabhojanam।

tato'bhyāse dṛḍhībhūte na tādṛṅ niyamagrahaḥ ॥2.14॥

Purport: During initial stages of practice - food with milk and ghee is recommended. Once when the practice becomes firm, no such regulation is needed. 

It has been discussed earlier in the chapter that Prāṇāyāma has to be done with a Sāttvika state of mind (verse 6). The food mentioned here in this verse, will induce Sattva in the body and the mind – creating conducive mental and physical state for the practice of Prāṇāyāma.  Going by the Gītā verse (17. 8) definition also, milk and ghee fits within in the definition of Sāttvika food. It is also to be noted that in HYP in chapter one (verse 62) ghee and milk have been counted under Sāttvika food.

VII.Precautions during the practice

Four verses (15-18) that describe the precautions during the practice of this Prāṇāyāma (and others also) are as follows –

यथा सिंहो गजो व्याघ्रो भवेद् वश्यः शनैः शनैः ।
तथैव सेवितो वायुः अन्यथा हन्ति साधकम् ॥ १५ ॥

प्राणायामेन युक्तेन सर्वरोगक्षयो भवेत् ।
अयुक्ताभ्यासयोगेन सर्वरोगसमुद्भवः ॥ १६ ॥

हिक्का श्वासश्च कासश्च शिरः कर्णाक्षिवेदनाः ।
भवन्ति विविधा रोगाः पवनस्य प्रकोपतः ॥ १७ ॥

युक्तं युक्तं त्यजेद्वायुं युक्तं युक्तञ्च पूरयेत् ।
युक्तं युक्तञ्च बध्नीयादेवं सिद्धिमवाप्नुयात् ॥ १८ ॥

yathā siṃho gajo vyāghro bhaved vaśyaḥ śanaiḥ śanaiḥ .
tathaiva sevito vāyuḥ anyathā hanti sādhakam ॥ 15 ॥
prāṇāyāmena yuktena sarvarogakṣayo bhavet .
ayuktābhyāsayogena sarvarogasamudbhavaḥ ॥ 16 ॥
hikkā śvāsaśca kāsaśca śiraḥ karṇākṣivedanāḥ .
bhavanti vividhā rogāḥ pavanasya prakopataḥ ॥ 17 ॥
yuktaṃ yuktaṃ tyajedvāyuṃ yuktaṃ yuktañca pūrayet .
yuktaṃ yuktañca badhnīyādevaṃ siddhimavāpnuyāt ॥ 18 ॥

Purport of the verses is given as points (inputs from commentary of the verses are also combined here for compactness and there is a slight reordering of the verses while presenting the purport for a cogent narration) –

  1. The practice of Prāṇāyāma (here Nāḍī-śodhana) has to be approached slowly and cautiously. One should not rush through the practice. As wild animals like lion, elephant and tiger are tamed slowly, so should the practice of Prāṇāyāma be done. As any urgency in taming these animals will lead to death (of the trainer), similarly Prāṇāyāma will be fatal if urgency is shown. (verse 15)
  2. Appropriate practice of Prāṇāyāma leads to healing of all illnesses. Inappropriate practice leads to various illnesses. (Verse 16)
  3. What is appropriateness? It is appropriateness in inhaling, retaining the breath and exhaling. (Verse 18)
  4. [6]Appropriateness in inhaling refers to inhaling only to the extent of one’s capacity (yukta).
  5. Appropriateness in retention of breath refers to holding the breath within with the three Bandhas (jālandhara, mūla  and uḍḍiyāna) (yukta)
  6. Appropriateness in exhaling refers to exhaling slowly and not quickly. (yukta)
  7. Not following the above (points 4.5,6) will lead to problems like hiccups, asthma, cough, pain in head, ears and eyes and various other problems. (verse 17)

VIII. Indications of  Nāḍīs getting cleansed 

The practice of Nāḍī-śodhana with the above guidelines will lead to cleansing of the Nāḍīs. The last verse in this section (19) presents the indicators that a person whose Nāḍīs are cleansed, can observe. IT can be remembered that a portion of this verse has been quoted right at the beginning of the article. The full verse, purport and inputs from the commentary are given now -

यदा तु नाडीशुद्धिः स्यात् तथा चिह्नानि बाह्यतः ।
कायस्य कृशता कान्तिः तदा जायेत निश्चितम् ॥ १९ ॥

yadā tu nāḍīśuddhiḥ syāt tathā cihnāni bāhyataḥ .

kāyasya kṛśatā kāntiḥ tadā jāyeta niścitam ॥ 19 ॥

Purport: When the Nāḍīs are cleansed, there are external indicators. They are – leanness and glow in the body.

 The commentator makes a noteworthy point here –

आन्तराण्यपि चिह्नानि भवन्तीत्यर्थः

āntarāṇyapi cihnāni bhavantītyarthaḥ

Meaning: It should be understood that internal indicators will also be there.

The internal indicators may refer to subjective experiences of practitioner in terms of – lack of distraction and attainment of single pointed focus, calmness and pleasantness etc. Thus it can be seen that on Nāḍīs getting cleansed, both subjective and objective wellbeing will be experienced – which is a very good indicator of health and wellbeing.


It can be seen from the above delineation that –Yoga in general and Prāṇāyāma especially, are not just about hopping on to the mat and starting it. It does not fit into “the plug and play” model where one casually drops into a Yoga studio for a practice.  It is a serious business - concerning our health and wellbeing. It involves - the knowledge of the technique to the micro level (of how to do each of the steps of the practice), the awareness about - the do’s and don’ts, effort and time that needs to be put in to derive the stated benefits, modification of life style in terms of food intake and state of mind required to practice and so on.

The above delineation also underlines the utility of systematic textual study with regard to techniques of Yoga. In the field of Yoga, people are very enthusiastic to  practice, which is of course very important. But at least some time has to be spared to read and learn about the techniques of Yoga from rich textual sources to harvest great rewards of insights for practice. It would also have become evident that these are not mere theory. These are practical inputs arising from experiences of Yogins of the past. These are meticulously created documents by the Yogins of the yore for the benefit of the later generations. Should we not take advantage of this? With regard to importance of study in the Yoga, the quote found in Sage Vyāsa’s commentary to Yogasūtra (1.28) is also worth noting –

स्वाध्यायाद्योगमासीत योगात्स्वाध्यायमामनेत्।

स्वाध्याययोगसंपत्त्या परमात्मा प्रकाशते ॥ इति ॥

svādhyāyādyogamāsīta yogātsvādhyāyamāmanet।
svādhyāyayogasaṃpattyā paramātmā prakāśate ॥

Purport: Svādhyāya (study/japa) and Yoga (practice of Yoga) should go hand in hand. Only by that the supreme being is realized.

Finally, by utilizing the techniques and inputs for Yoga practices suggested in the texts – the foundations of Yoga can be made very sound. This would facilitate moving deeper, towards unearthing finer experiential dimensions of Yoga.


[1] HYP – Hathayogapradeepika - Hence Prāṇa-saṅgraha (gathering of Prāṇa within) has to be done and that happens by cleansing the Nāḍīs.

[2] It is to be noted that the words Inhalation, retention and exhalation were used above in a general sense for easy comprehension. The real technical process of inhalation etc are conveyed by the definitions of Pūraka, Kumbhaka and Recaka below by the commentator.

[3] पञ्चधाविभक्तदिनतृतीयभागः । स तु द्वादश- दण्डात् परषड्दण्डात्मकः ।  - https://kosha.sanskrit.today/word/sa/madhyAhna?q=%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%A7%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%B9%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%A8

[4] It is understandable that sunrise and sunset timings across the globe varies hugely. Hence taking cue from this teaching – one can divide one’s active hours of work into units of three hours each and practice Nāḍīśodhana accordingly.

[6] Points 4-6 are based on inputs from the Commentary of Brahmānanda to the verse 18 - रेचनकाले शनैः शनैः एव रेचयेत् न वेगतः इत्यर्थः । युक्तं युक्तं च न चाल्पं नाधिकं च पूरयेत् । युक्तं युक्तं च जालन्धरबन्धदियुक्तं बध्नीयात् कुम्भयेत्  - recanakāle śanaiḥ śanaiḥ eva recayet na vegataḥ ityarthaḥ . yuktaṃ yuktaṃ ca na cālpaṃ nādhikaṃ ca pūrayet . yuktaṃ yuktaṃ ca jālandharabandhadiyuktaṃ badhnīyāt kumbhayet


  1. Raja, Kunjunni,k, Ed. (2000), Reprint, Haṭhayogapradīpikā of svatmarama with commentary Jyotsnā of Brahmānanda and English Translation, The Adyar Library and Research Centre, Chennai
  2. Krishnamacharya, T (2015) 6th Edition, Yogāñjalisāram, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai
  3. Śāṡtrī GD, (Ed.) (2007) Sāṃga Yogadarśana or Yoga Darśana of Patañjali, with the Scholium of Vyāsa and the Commentaries Tattva-vaiśāradī, Pātañjalarahasya, Yogavārṭīkā and Bhāsvatī of Vācaspati Miṡra, Rāghavānanda Sarasvatī, Vijñānabhikṡu and Hariharānanda Āraṇya Varanasi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Bhavan;pp. 45-46
  4. Yogayājñavalkyasaṃhitā (2015), Revised Edition, Krishnamcharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai,
  5. Haṭhayogapradīpikā - Online Resource (Yoga-vaiśāradī ) https://kymyogavaisharadi.org/display/bhashya/hathayoga-pradipika/devanagari#HYP_C02