Kevala kumbhaka and nadi shodhana

One of the great good fortunes I had in my life was to get the association of Swami Veda Bharati. Two things he taught me come to mind this morning:  
  • The actual meditation takes place on the outward breath. So lengthen the outward breath."
  • And, "It is one thing to meditate in a secluded place, but can you maintain that same meditative state at the main crossroads of the Rishikesh bazaar?"
What fortune that I have a place in the Dham where I can sit in silence and contemplate the name of the Lord. At the same time, I do have occasional contretemps which challenge my equilibrium and pretensions to saintliness. May love and peace rule our hearts and minds. Jai Radhe.


For those wishing more information about breathing and meditation, you can look here for more information). In short, the sequence of learning goes through the following steps:

(1) abdominal breathing through the nose; put an end to mouth and chest breathing; even when chanting japa, mouth breathing should be avoided.

(2) Sushumna breathing, i.e., observe the breath passing through the septum, i.e,. balancing the breath between the nostrils; More below.

(3) breathing smoothly, without breaks, without jerks, without pauses, the exhalation merging into the inhalation and vice versa. This is the practice of kevala kumbhaka, which is conducive to meditation. Kumbhaka as an element of pranayama is okay isolated from actual meditation, but only as a training for the lungs and breath awareness. Meditation should be undisturbed by irregular breathing, such as holding the breath.

(4) Associate the breath with thought stream of the mantra.

(5) Once you have mastered the above, you should slow down the breath, especially the exhalation.

Although the benefits will be noticeable, immediately with each step, the real effects will continue to be attained throughout all your years of practice.


I have a rather nasty strep throat and lung congestion today. So I spent my whole morning on sinus, nasal, throat and lung exercises. As much as I could do.

When Swami Veda was nearing the end of his life, he suffered a heart attack and was in a very delicate situation. During that period, he would come down into the meditation hall with a couple of close disciples and spend two hours doing just nadi-shodhana up until the regular meditation hour when he would sit with everyone.

The balancing of the opposites is a kind of Holy Grail in Hatha Yoga. That quest starts with nadi shodhana. And nadi shodhana should be internalized, i.e., one should be able to conduct the practice without the aid of the Vishnu mudra, simply by focusing the mind on the flow of breath through one nostril at a time.

This should then be carried over into all asana practices, especially those that require left/right side alternation.

For instance, in maha mudra, you stretch one leg out to one side with your other heel embedded in the yoni sthana (the spot between the muladhara and svadhisthana). Then you hold your outstretched foot, or your big toe, with both hands. The pressure on the yoni sthan gently activates the root shakti. The stretching of the leg activates the principal nadi from the big toe through the inside of the leg. The breath should accompany awareness of the nadi pathway from top to bottom, bottom to top.

Now there are various ways to breathe in this position. When the physical aspects are in place and reasonably comfortable (sthiram sukham asanam) one can turn one's attention to the breath. In this position you generally breathe in through the nostril that is on the same side as the outstretched leg. Right leg out, breathe in through the right nostril, out through the left.

But the alternative is also okay and you can even do an entire nadi shodhana routine in this position, on each side. The Goraksha Shataka says "until both sides are equal." So clearly this posture was envisioned as something that should be carried out for more than a few minutes.

Maha mudra is designed to give relief to the legs after long sitting in siddhasana or padmasana.

But the same goes for other positions, like twists or gomukha asana. By doing the alternate nostril breathing in each of these postures, one can follow the specific energy paths that are activated on each side.

Once this has been mastered, it is not a problem to associate the mantra with the process. As the breath slows, mantra concentration becomes more sublime.


Anonymous said…
No, no, no; verse 59 clearly states that one must first "hold the breath" in Mahamudra before expelling it slowly!

शोधनं नाडिजालस्य चालनं चन्द्रसूर्ययोः ।
रसानां शोषणं चैव महामुद्राभिधीयते ॥ ५८ ॥

śodhanaṁ nāḍijālasya cālanaṁ candrasūryayoḥ |
rasānāṁ śoṣaṇaṁ caiva mahāmudrābhidhīyate || 58 ||

वक्षोन्यस्तहनुः प्रपीड्य सुचिरं योनिं च वामाङ्घ्रिणा
हस्ताभ्यामवधारयेत् प्रसरितं पादं तथा दक्षिणम् ।
आपूर्य श्वसनेन कुक्षियुगलं बद्ध्वा शनैरेचयेद्
एषा व्याधिविनाशिनी सुमहती मुद्रा नृणां कथ्यते ॥ ५९ ॥

vakṣonyastahanuḥ prapīḍya suciraṁ yoniṁ ca vāmāṅghriṇā
hastābhyāmavadhārayet prasaritaṁ pādaṁ tathā dakṣiṇam |
āpūrya śvasanena kukṣiyugalaṁ baddhvā śanairecayed
eṣā vyādhivināśinī sumahatī mudrā nṛṇāṁ kathyate || 59 ||

चन्द्राङ्गेन समभ्यस्य सूर्याङ्गेनाभ्यसेत् पुनः ।
यावत्तुल्या भवेत् सङ्ख्या ततो मुद्रां विसर्जयेत् ॥ ६० ॥

candrāṅgena samabhyasya sūryāṅgenābhyaset punaḥ |
yāvattulyā bhavet saṅkhyā tato mudrāṁ visarjayet || 60 ||

नहि पथ्यमपथ्यं वा रसाः सर्वेऽपि नीरसाः।
अपि भुक्तं विषं घोरं पीयूषमिव जीर्यते॥ ६१॥

nahi pathyamapathyaṁ vā rasāḥ sarve'pi nīrasāḥ |
api bhuktaṁ viṣaṁ ghoraṁ pīyūṣamiva jīryate || 61 ||

क्षयकुष्ठ गुदावर्त गुल्मा जीर्णपुरोगमाः ।
रोगास्तस्य क्षयं यान्ति महामुद्रां च योऽभ्यसेत् ॥ ६२ ॥

kṣayakuṣṭha gudāvarta gulmā jīrṇapurogamāḥ |
rogāstasya kṣayaṁ yānti mahāmudrāṁ ca yo'bhyaset || 62 ||

कथितेयं महामुद्रा सर्वसिद्धिकरी नृणाम् ।
गोपनीया प्रयत्नेन न देया यस्य कस्यचित् ॥ ६३ ॥

kathiteyaṁ mahāmudrā sarvasiddhikarī nṛṇām |
gopanīyā prayatnena na deyā yasya kasyacit || 63 ||
Anonymous said…

Jagadananda Das said: Maha mudra is designed to give relief to the legs after long sitting in siddhasana or padmasana.

M. N. Replied: No, mahāmudrā is a prerequisite to Khecarī Mudrā (hence verses 64 to 69 describing Khecarī Mudrā follow on from the description of mahāmudrā in the previous verses 58 to 630, mahāmudrā is used to open up the flow of the sublimated procreative life-force (Angirasa – light [illuminating] – essence); once the subtle energy has been opened up (and flows readily) over-time-and-practice - mahāmudrā is then subsequently used by the Yogin to get the energy up quickly (it is a very quick way of getting the energy up to the skull [and beyond - depending on ability]).

Anonymous said…
Always remember (which should take about three months of earnest regular practice):

शुद्धिमेति यदा सर्वं नाडीचक्रं मलाकुलम्।
तदैव जायते योगी प्राणसङ्ग्रहणे क्षमः॥ ९५॥

śuddhimeti yadā sarvaṁ nāḍīcakraṁ malākulam |
tadaiva jāyate yogī prāṇasaṅgrahaṇe kṣamaḥ || 95 ||

When doing Anuloma-Viloma:

बद्धपद्मासनो योगी प्राणं चन्द्रेण पूरयेत् ।
धारयित्वा यथाशक्ति भूयः सूर्येण रेचयेत् ॥ ९६ ॥

baddhapadmāsano yogī prāṇaṁ candreṇa pūrayet |
dhārayitvā yathāśakti bhūyaḥ sūryeṇa recayet || 96 ||

For those hungry minds out there, here are verses 64 - 69 describing Khecarī Mudrā.

कपालकुहरे जिह्वा प्रविष्टा विपरीतगा।
भ्रुवोरन्तर्गता दृष्टिर्मुद्रा भवति खेचरी॥ ६४॥

kapālakuhare jihvā praviṣṭā viparītagā |
bhruvorantargatā dṛṣṭirmudrā bhavati khecarī || 64 ||

न रोगो मरणं तन्द्रा न निद्रा न क्षुधा तृषा ।
न च मूर्च्चा भवेत्तस्य यो मुद्रां वेत्ति खेचरीम् ॥ ६५ ॥

na rogo maraṇaṁ tandrā na nidrā na kṣudhā tṛṣā |
na ca mūrccā bhavettasya yo mudrāṁ vetti khecarīm ||65 ||

पीड्यते न स रोगेण लिप्यते न च कर्मणा ।
बाध्यते न स कालेन यो मुद्रां वेत्ति खेचरीम् ॥ ६६ ॥

pīḍyate na sa rogeṇa lipyate na ca karmaṇā |
bādhyate na sa kālena yo mudrāṁ vetti khecarīm || 66 ||

चित्तं चरति खे यस्माज्जिह्वा चरति खे गता ।
तेनैव खेचरी मुद्रा सर्वसिद्धैर्नमस्कृता ॥ ६७ ॥

cittaṁ carati khe yasmājjihvā carati khe gatā |
tenaiva khecarī mudrā sarvasiddhairnamaskṛtā || 67 ||

बिन्दुमूलं शरीरं तु शिरास्तत्र प्रतिष्ठिताः ।
भावयन्ति शरीरं या आपादतलमस्तकम् ॥ ६८ ॥

bindumūlaṁ śarīraṁ tu śirāstatra pratiṣṭhitāḥ |
bhāvayanti śarīraṁ yā āpādatalamastakam || 68 ||

खेचर्या मुद्रितं येन विवरं लम्बिकोर्ध्वतः ।
न तस्य क्षरते बिन्दुः कामिन्यालिङ्गितस्य च ॥ ६९ ॥

khecaryā mudritaṁ yena vivaraṁ lambikordhvataḥ |
na tasya kṣarate binduḥ kāminyāliṅgitasya ca || 69 ||
Jagadananda Das said…
Of course you are correct, MN. I did not wish to reduce mahamudra to a mere stretching exercise. But it works in harmony with the other sitting poses, in which the bandhas are practiced. Khechari, in my view, is a constant.
Anonymous said…

Yes, mahāmudrā and all other preliminary practice is eventually abandoned by the true yogin whom is always above the skull.

Constantly perceiving the inner sound one then goes on to perceive the true light of man.

The fearless (Nathā) then crosses over the threshold of life and death in the vehicle of the light-body to become as one with the great light (the one before all others).

Anonymous said…
Some further help for those willing to look:


Monier-Williams (MW) Sanskrit Dictionary, see searchable index:

ma - MW page 771
t(a) - MW page 429
sy - athematic optative of PIE "to be"
en(a) & en(dh) - MW page 232
d(he) - MW page 520
ra - MW page 859
nā - MW page 523
tha - MW page 464

The compound 'matsy' is also a play on words, this word calls to mind the rebus (use of a picture to represent a word) of the fish, the fish further represents a hidden meaning - that of the Dravidian "vata-meen" (the pole star [or great mooring post] seen in mediation which one must fix the gaze to [or moor {or fasten} ones vessel to]).


Anonymous said…
Is the light beginning to dawn on you dear reader (especially Buddhist readers)?

If not, please further research Vata-min and the peepal tree (fig).
Anonymous said…
The disembodied consciousness in the vehicle of the light body crosses over the threshold of light and death... Yes, that's right, "we are not this body".
Anonymous said…

In further reply to comment (Wednesday, 16 November, 2016) regarding

ma - MW page 771
t(a) - MW page 429
sy - athematic optative of PIE "to be"
en(a) & en(dh) - MW page 232
d(he) - MW page 520
ra - MW page 859
nā - MW page 523
tha - MW page 464

Do not forget to add "ha" to this list; the word "ha" is important, "ha" alerts the Yogin to more 'key' yogic 'practical' knowledge.

See page 1286 of Monier-Williams:

When broken down to the sum of its parts, the name "Matsyendranātha" is a 'key' which unlocks real practical Yogic knowledge.
Anonymous said…

In regard to the name "Matsyendranātha"; following "tha", do not forget to also add the word "ha" to your list.

See page 1286 of Monier-Williams:

Ha and all the other Sanskrit words which form the compound name Matsyendranātha provide a 'key' to real yogic knowledge.
Anonymous said…
One was re-reading your post again this today, especially your dialogue:

• The actual meditation takes place on the outward breath. So lengthen the outward breath.

In regard to this, one would like to draw your attention to a natural phenomenon, a natural law if you like, which one may observe in everyday life; what is this one may ask?

"When a nature is forced to act one way, it will compensate in to restore 'balance' in another way."

What does this have to do with lengthening the outward breath?

Kevala Kumbhaka (when performed correctly) makes use of pulling the breath in and holding it (drawing back the bow of the breath and steadily holding it whilst aiming at the target). This practice effectively (over time) causes the lengthening of the exhaled breath (remember, when you push one way, nature pushes back to restore 'balance').

Think about it...

And, of course, above all else, practice!

Anonymous said…
Why would the ancients use the analogy of the bow to describe yogic breath control?

Go and spend a few hours with an old fashioned bow and arrow... Observe how you breath when drawing back the bow, holding it at tension whilst aiming at a target and after letting the arrow fly.

One will quickly realise that when drawing back a bow the natural reaction is to inhale at the same time, when aiming one will hold the breath to keep the bow steady, and upon letting the arrow fly - one will also naturally exhale.

Hence this analogy.

Now add this analogy to that of an archer on a chariot...

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