Upanishad Mantra Meditation

The Upanishad Mantra Meditation is one of my favourites in Letters from the Yoga Masters on page 165.  It includes four mantras that are intended to help awaken our consciousness to the spirit within. Along with the mantras we visualize the flow of prana. I have slightly modified this version of the meditation for flow. To hear the mantras in this meditation, go to sanskrit, chants and mantras and scroll to the last mantra on the list.

Sit in a meditative posture. Breathing is free. Gradually the mind is absorbed in experiencing the inhalation and exhalation (pranas). As a consequence of concentration, the breath becomes slow.

For several minutes experience the cool air entering inside the upper nostrils and the warm air exhaled along the lower part of the nostrils. Continue to feel the breath and contemplate on the unity of the cosmic prana (inhalation) and individual prana (exhalation). Inhalation represents peace, infinity, fullness, transcendence. Exhalation represents spiritual freedom, expansion of consciousness, diffusion of the individual breath. Contemplate on these qualities for some time, feeling the breath.

Once the mind is absorbed in experiencing the prana inside the nostrils. Mentally and slowly repeat the mantra “Idam prana ayam atma Brahma.” Contemplate on the meaning—consciousness of prana awakens in me the consciousness of my atma, which is one with God—feeling the breath. Continue for several minutes, feeling the breath flow in the upper and lower nostrils while repeating the mantra.

Breathe freely, feeling relaxed for two minutes. Breath is slow and deep again. Inhaling, now move the mind upward and backward along the convex outline of a new moon in the middle of the head, the forward point being the nostrils and the backward point inside the back of the head. Exhaling, move the mind from the back upward and forward along the lower line of the convex moon. Feel the breath thus for several minutes.

Continuing, mentally repeat slowly the mantra “Idam prana sarva bhuteshu gudah,” for several minutes. Contemplate on the meaning—through the experience of prana I experience the spiritual essence, which is in all as it is within me. Continue to visualize the movement of prana along the convex moon.

Relax for a few minutes, breathing freely, with eyes closed. Breath is deep again. Feel only the inhalation, the sensation of prana moving up to the top of the head and the Sahasrara chakra, in the shape of the lower half of the moon. Give no attention to exhalation. Constantly maintain the sensation of the prana flowing up and into the crescent moon bowl at the Sahasrara chakra, renewing it every time by feeling the inhalation.

For the next several minutes mentally repeat the mantra, “Idam prana pragnanam iti Brahma,” feeling the prana inside the top of the head. Contemplate on the meaning —the experience of prana awakens in me the transcendental consciousness of God. Continue to visualize the movement of prana toward the Sahasrara chakra, being deposited into the crescent moon bowl.

Conclude the meditation with the verbal repetition of Om or the Purnamadah shanti mantra if you know it.


Excerpted from Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda, and Others by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Marion (Mugs) McConnell. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.

Om symbol

Pranava Dhvanyatmaka Pranayama

Chanting the Sound of Om

By Mugs McConnell, drawn from her book, Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda and Others. Available online and in bookstores everywhere.

In many yoga classes we open and end the class by chanting “Om,” but for many students they don’t really know much about this powerful, sacred mantra. I hope from this article the next time you chant it the Om sound will be rich and full with meaning for you.

Pranava is the sacred word Om. Dhvan refers to sound. Atma is the individual soul, or God within. This pranayama is about listening to the sacred Om, the movement of the prana, control of the breath and the quietening of the mind.

The Mandukya Upanishad refers to Om as “all”. “OM. This eternal Word is all: what was, what is and what shall be, and what beyond is in eternity. All is OM.”[i]  Om is considered in yoga to be the first manifestation of God, the Creator, the Source of all.

In a letter to my teacher, Dr. Hari Dickman, Paramhansa Yogananda described the fullness of God so beautifully, it really touched my heart.  “God is cosmic sound, cosmic light, cosmic vibration, cosmic love, cosmic ever-new joy, cosmic peace, cosmic wisdom, and cosmic ever-new bliss. These are the different expressions of God felt by the Yogi during ecstasy. The Yogis say that when the ears are closed and one hears the cosmic sound… [and] concentrates deeply upon that sound, he begins to develop omnipresence.”[ii]

Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh explained to Hari, “Om is not only saying ‘Yes’; but Om being a Great Mantra that pervades the three states of Consciousness and passing beyond, too, enables the affirmations to sink into the Subconscious and the Karana Shareera, too. Great Will Power is developed.” [iii] (The karana shareera is the seed or “causal” body, which carries the seeds of your learnings from one life into the next.)

The Mandukya Upanishad speaks of the four conditions of Om. First we envision the Om spelled as A-U-M, representing all sound vibrations encompassed in the one sound of Om. The “A” represents the waking state of outward-moving consciousness. Through the senses we experience our manifested world. The “U” represents the dreaming state of inner-moving consciousness where we enjoy the subtle inner elements. The “M” represents the sleeping state of silent consciousness where we enjoy silent peace. Finally, the silence following the sounds of Om represents Atman, the awakened supreme consciousness.[iv]

Now, to the practice of Pranava Dhvanyatmaka pranayama. I first learned this pranayama without making any oral sound. Sit in vajrasana with hands in chin mudra (tip of the index finger touching the tip of the thumb, palms facing downwards). Breathe in, filling the lower, then middle, then upper lungs. Perform jalandhara and mula bandhas during kumbhaka (breath retention). Release the bandhas when ready to exhale. Hear the inner sound of “A” as you empty the lower lungs, “U” as you empty the middle lungs and “M” as you empty the upper lungs.

The “A” energizes the prana from the toes to the lower abdomen, the “U” from the mid-area to the heart, and the “M” is everything above the heart. Repeat as often as you like, and then savour the deliciousness in the silence of the Om in its fullness. The bliss is indescribable.

Hari and Swami Yogeshwaranand communicated back and forth about another method for this pranayama. Here is a summarized version of this lovely practice:

Sit in a comfortable seated position with a straight back. Very slowly, so as not to disturb the external air too much, breathe in through the nose and silently hear the sound of Om coming into you. Visualize the gross or physical form of the breath going into the lungs, while the subtle prana is being taken all the way down to the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine.

Now parting the lips slightly, make a soft Om sound during a slow, gradual and deep exhalation. Give the “M” a slight nasal sound with it. While exhaling imagine the prana is raising up the front of the spinal column, through the chakras from the base of the spine to the sacral area, navel, heart, throat and third eye.  During the exhalation try to imagine the gross/physical form of the breath going out through the nostrils, while the subtle prana goes into the sushumna (central canal within the spinal column) and rises through the chakras.

The “O” should be twice as long as the “M” during exhalation. To pace this you could say the “O” sound while you visualize the prana rising from the root chakra up to the heart, and the “M” sound while prana moves up from the throat to the third eye. Always inhale and exhale slowly, and let your mind be completely absorbed in the process.

This pranayama helps one to gain control over the breath, making it long and subtle. It draws the mind away from the senses. It quietens the mind and steadies the intellect, improving concentration. With continued practice, the “O” can be extended to 40 seconds, and the “M” for 20 seconds. Swami Satchidananda said that repeating “Om” attunes one to the cosmic vibration of God, like tuning the dial on your radio for the best channel reception. Over time, one may hear the delightful subtle sounds of the anahata chakra, such as bells, conches, music and thunder. May your Oms be forever beautiful!

[i] See The Upanishads, Commentary by Juan Mascaro, Penguin Books, 1965, p. 83.

[ii] Paramhansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles 31, California, USA, Letter to Mr. Harry Dikman in Germany, December 6, 1946.

[iii] Swami Sivananda Saraswati, Ananda Kutir, Rishikesh, Himalayas, India, Letter to Sri Harry Dikman, November 24, 1950.

[iv] See The Upanishads, Commentary by Juan Mascaro, Penguin Books, 1965, p. 83.


Excerpted from Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda, and Others by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Marion (Mugs) McConnell. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.

Village Yan

Learning Forgiveness from First Nations

Bob and I have been travelling this month in some remote areas of Northern BC. Aside from wanting to get out on the lakes with our paddleboards, we feel a deep connection with First Nations people and wanted to learn more of their history and spirituality. What we got was so much more than we expected – a lesson in forgiveness. Forgiveness may not be listed specifically as a yama or niyama, but it comes as a result of practicing truthfulness, non-stealing, contentment, Svadyaya… it is an underlying benefit of practicing yoga ethics.

First we visited “the Hazeltons”, the Ksan Historical Village, and Kispiox. Learning to read the poles outside each longhouse bearing the family crests was an enlightening experience. Each pole records a bit of history and information about that family or village.

wolfWe headed north to the Nisga’a Nation in the Nass Valley, where three villages were buried under volcanic lava around 250 years ago. Four villages remain today: Gitlax̱t’aamiks (New Aiyansh), Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Lax̱g̱alts’ap (Greenville), and Ging̱olx (Kincolith). Each of these villages has a different way of life, from coastal to inland, and the people were warm and eager to speak with us. At Lax̱g̱alts’ap there is the Nisga’a Museum where this young First Nations man was passionate to share the history of these villages, and filled us with stories and deeper understanding of the shamans, gatherings, clans, crests, and the impact of white civilization on their lives. The Lava Bed Park is worth spending some time at, as the lichens and lava tubes are quite beautiful.

YanFrom here we went over to Haida Gwaii.  We met Oliver, a Haida, who took us by boat to the ancient site of the village of Yan. He taught us more about the longhouse, the poles including memorial poles for recording events, mortuary poles that held those who died, house poles that told you who lived there, and even shame poles when a member of the village didn’t pay their debt (these poles were removed when the debt was paid).

There is a memorial pole currently being carved by four Haida carvers (designed by James Hart) to honour the Truth and Reconciliation report and movement forward. The pole records the progression from life before contact with European immigrants and missionaries, through the trauma of residential schools and the loss of their culture and languages, to acknowledgement and reconciliation, into the new future that lies ahead.  The pole will be raised at UBC around mid-October, and all are welcome to participate in this ceremony.

carving pole

This is where forgiveness comes in.  Every First Nations person has been gravely impacted by people misunderstanding their culture and trying to change them. And yet today they welcome our presence in their villages. Many embrace the church for what it continues to give them. The future of relationship is heralded. These people know that resentment, hatred, and anger all lead to illness and there is no possible growth from holding on to these. Without the desire to move forward from the hurt, we will miss the opportunity for growth into a bright future. I am reminded of the book “Oneness” by Jeffrey Moses, where he says:

The Chinese language has a word for “crisis” that is made up of two separate written symbols-one for “danger” and one for “opportunity . … Far too often, we become angry when confronted with something that blocks us from achieving a desire. Anger often flares up during the very moments when clarity and objectivity are needed most. In such instances, anger is the enemy of success…”

Life continuously throws obstacles in our path to success and happiness. How we respond to these challenges is what is important. We may feel angry and frustrated with those around us, however an objective mind can show us that every bit of growth and opportunity we experience comes out of the challenges we face. The manner with which we deal with these events is a choice. We can choose anger, discordance and suffering, which can be a dangerous path for the soul. Or, we can choose to do some soul searching and ask ourselves “What am I supposed to learn from this situation?” This practice is known as “svadhyaya” or self-study, which can lead us away from our resentment and anger. It provides the opportunity to discover new knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our strengths that can move us forward into our future. This practice takes us deeper into connecting with our True self, and guides us to a profound peace that pours over into our relationships.

Erich Schiffmann urges us to ask ourselves, “What is the Truth here, really?” This is a very deep and challenging question, with emphasis on the “really.” Ask it over and over as each answer arises. Meditate in search of the Truth. Really. Then act from a place of Love.

Our travels through First Nations’ lands are not over yet. As we continue, we are in awe of their capacity to be forgiving, welcoming and loving. We can learn so much from this. We are deeply touched by their spirit, creativity, and welcoming hearts. May we all be so blessed with these gifts.  Hawaa. Bob & Mugs


pushpaputa mudra

Pushpaputa Mudra

Pushpaputa mudra is a gesture of offering a handful of flowers to the Divine. You are the offering – you are the flowers, when you are open to what the Divine lays before you.  A great time to try this mudra is after opening yourself up with back-bends. Combine it with pranatasana (child’s pose) and it can help to calm our emotions and bring us back into emotional balance. Note:child’s pose is called pranatasana because it restricts the flow of prana in the legs while increasing the flow of prana in the spine/chakras.

hand mudra

Kneel into pranatasana and open the palms of both hands in front of you. Place your face into the palms of the hands. If your head does not comfortably rest into your hands, then elevate your hands on a blanket or block. Rest. Consider what you would like to offer or release to the Divine. When you feel ready, come back to kneeling in an upright position.

This is a sneak peak into Mug’s book “Letters from the Yoga Masters.” 

00 LettersYogaMastersCover


About Mug’s Book: (order online or at your local bookstore)

Excerpted from Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda, and Others by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Marion (Mugs) McConnell. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.

Shanmukhi Mudra

Sarva Dvara Baddha Pranayama: all doors closed

(another sneak peak from Mug’s book)

Sarva means “all”, dvara means “door”, and baddha means “bound.”  All the doors or gates where prana can escape are closed.

Sit comfortably and apply shanmukhi mudra (cover the ears with the thumbs, eyes with the index fingers, nose with the middle fingers, upper lip with ring fingers and lower lip with the baby fingers.) Keep the finger pressure light the nostrils to allow for breathing.

Breathe in slowly through both nostrils, visualizing the prana flowing all the way down to the muladhara chakra and filling the space up to the throat chakra. During the “pause” at the top of the inhalation, concentrate on the ajna chakra. Then begin a slow, controlled exhalation through both nostrils, releasing the power of the senses with the breath. Repeat several times, if comfortable.

00 LettersYogaMastersCoverA more advanced version of this pranayama is to have intentional breath retentions while visualising the ajna chakra. This pranayama leads one to pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). As we withdraw the senses from the outward-moving consciousness, we awaken the inward-moving consciousness and the divine light of the third eye. Awakening the third eye gives us knowledge of the Self.


Excerpted from Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda, and Others by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Marion (Mugs) McConnell. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.


Yoga Pose

To See or Not to See

To See or Not to See – That is the Question 

 by Mugs McConnell SOYA, ERYT500, IYTA

Back in 1978 I did my initial yoga teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. Swami Vishnudevananda and his disciples worked diligently to train us in the science of yoga philosophy as well as the skills of being a teacher of asana. Every day we practiced the Sivananda sequence, memorizing how to lead someone in the surya namaskar (sun salutation) without doing it with them, observing if a student’s shoulders were up by their ears in bhujangasana (cobra), and if toes and knees were aligned with the hip in janu sirsasana (head to knee pose). I worked hard to sharpen my observation skills and develop the ability to assist a student in finding relaxation within the alignment of a pose.

When I left the ashram I ventured out to attend classes with other teachers from other lineages. One day the teacher was doing the class along with the students. She was a full participant in the class. I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that? All this time I have been watching my students do the asanas when I could have been doing the yoga with them and getting in my personal practice at the same time!” I decided to give this time-saving practice a try!watching as lying down

Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I picked up a Yoga magazine and read an article on this very topic – yoga teachers were becoming too busy to find time to do their own personal practice. Their solution was to participate alongside their students and do the class with them. The concern of course, is who then is watching the students? Who is seeing to their proper alignment and responding to their progress? Who is noticing if they are able to follow the verbal cues correctly? Who is noticing facial expressions to see if someone is injured or in pain? This is the job of the yoga teacher.

The article came just in time! I was just about to change my habit of leading my class to becoming a participant in my class. Saved by the bell! Ever since then I have kept my personal practice completely separate from when I teach so I can focus on giving my time and attention to the students.

This brings to mind a great quote from yoga master Erich Schiffmann that speaks volumes of our task as teachers.

“The purpose of yoga is to facilitate the profound inner relaxation that accompanies fearlessness. The release from fear is what finally precipitates the full flowering of love. In this state you will love what you see in others, and others will love you for having been seen. This is the softened perception of the world that yoga promotes.”[i]

Let’s take a look at some key words in here.


Our job as teachers is to help facilitate, meaning “to make easier or less difficult – to assist the progress of a person”[ii]. How can we do this if we cannot see the students? There are two key ways to facilitate the progress of your students. One is to demonstrate all new and major poses, pointing out the correct alignment and ways to modify the pose to make it easier or more challenging before the students gets into the pose.  The second way to facilitate the progress of your students is to observe them while they are doing the poses. Seeing each and every one of them, and moving around the class if our view is obstructed. This way we can see if they have understood our cues and demonstrations, and if they need assistance to find the safest and most stable alignment in the pose.

This leads me into the next set of key words in the quote from Erich Schiffmann.

“You will love what you see in others…”

How beautiful that is to look at our students and see not only their progress but also our own. It is a gift to notice watching - been seenhow they have responded to our words and learn how skilled we are at helping them to find relaxation in the asana through correct alignment and personal modifications.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of our students, the suggestion to “modify the pose as you need” really has little meaning. A new student may not even consider lowering their hands to their hips in virabhadrasana (warrior) to accommodate their shoulder injury if they have never been shown this modification. Potentially they could simply believe they can’t do the pose at all. However, once taught how to modify to accommodate the shoulders, the student benefits from the strengthening of the core and legs while working on their balance.

Our students show up at class ready to follow our guidance and instructions. Our ability to modify the asanas for them is directly related to their fear – fear of not being able to do yoga well enough, fear of failure, fear of pain. Each time we facilitate a student in finding the place of sthira and sukha or stability with ease, we succeed in removing another layer of their fear and reveal a greater feeling of success. In the words of Mr. Schiffmann, we “facilitate the profound inner relaxation that accompanies fearlessness,which is the purpose of yoga.

And now for the last key words in the quote from Mr. Schiffmann.

“Others will love you for having been seen.

Our students will love us for noticing them, for helping them to relax into their yoga practice, for guiding them to the options they never thought of. When we look at them and really see them, they feel noticed. They know that we care and we know they are there. They begin to trust that we will offer them guidance and assistance if they need it. They will want to show up for us and for themselves. They will feel loved. It may be the only time all day that a student feels noticed, seen, and loved.

Tips for watching your students

Some people are auditory learners and some are visual learners. If we want to reach everyone in the class, then demonstrate new or major poses along with verbal cues and instructions. If you like to teach vinyasas, demonstrate watching bridgethe flow first, then guide students through it verbally.

For all supine poses, ask the students to watch the demonstration first, before they lie down. There is no way students can see our demonstrations if they are lying down, without crooking their necks or straining their backs.

Rule of thumb: If we the teachers are lying on our backs as in setu bandhasana or supta eka padangusthasana, then we are demonstrating the pose. If the students are laying on their backs, then we the teachers are standing up and observing their breathing, comfort level and progress.

After each class, ask yourself what you learned from your students. If we can’t remember seeing the progress or alignment of a student, then be sure to observe them next time. This way we will learn to share our attention and expand our observation skills equally, so all the students have been seen, not just the ones in the front row.

Learn how to guide students through surya namaskar without doing it with them. Start the movements as guidance, mimic the actions to help you follow, but never lose sight of them. If they are in down dog, we can be standing and observing who has a round back and whose wrists are aligned and those who may need guidance to be stable in the pose.

If you like to teach Vinyasa classes, then demonstrate new flows for your visual learners. Then verbally guide the students and watch them as they follow your verbal cues. Offer our assistance and guidance with kindness and care. Ask permission to touch if a physical adjustment is required. If no touch is desired, then use verbal cues and demonstrations to help.

Observe how students breathe in the asanas. If their breath is choppy, suggest modifications so they can soften the pose to a point where their breathing can become smooth. Observe students during pranayama too, to ensure no one is struggling. If your classes are too big to observe everyone, consider making them smaller.

I do actually join the group in meditation – however I often take a little peek just to be sure everyone is okay.

Continue to educate yourself. Sometimes teachers don’t “look” at students because they don’t know what to do if there is a misalignment. Teachers are welcome to come and retreat at the SOYA 300 hour upgrade teacher trainings (as a retreat or the full training) to enhance their ability to observe and modify poses amongst many other things! This is a strength of our teacher trainings!

As a final note, I feel disappointed after class if I realize I missed “seeing” a student. I learn so much from them and they teach me about myself. They are the whole reason I am standing in that class in the first place. They teach me then and there if I need to tone down the class I planned or kick it up a notch. They give me direction about what to plan for the next class by showing me what they are ready for. I would not be the teacher I am today if I hadn’t learned to observe their breath, their struggles, and their victories.

Mugs-listeningMarion (Mugs) McConnell, ERYT500 is a co-owner of SOYA with her husband Robert. She has been practicing yoga for 43 years, teaching yoga for 38 years, and training teachers for 21 years. She is the Canadian representative for the International Yoga Teachers Association, a Board Member for Yoga Alliance, and the author of Letters From the Masters: Teachings Revealed from Paramhansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda and Others.

[i] Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, by Erich Schiffmann

[ii] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/facilitate



How do I know when my Nadis are Purified?

How do I know when my Nadis are Purified? 

By Marion (Mugs) McConnell, ERYT500, SOYA, SYVCA, Canadian Representative for IYTA

During the immersion portion of our Yoga Teacher Trainings, we engage in a steady practice of Nadi Sodhana for two weeks, morning and evening. The purpose of this is to get established in this pranayama practice for the purpose of purifying our nadis.  A very good question came up during a study session in our training, “How do I know when my nadis are purified?”


My first response to the question was, “When the prana is able to go into the sushumna” but of course the next logical question that came back was “How do you know when it does that?” There are certain things that occur, like unmani avastha, a state of deep concentration where the breath stops and the mind becomes still (Hatha Yoga Pradipika Chapter 2 verse 4-10).


Swami Sivananda says in his book “The Science of Pranayama”, when the nadis are purified there is a “lightness of the body, brilliancy in complexion, increase of the gastric fire, leanness of the body, and the absence of restlessness”.  He says in the first stage of purification perspiration arises without effort, the middle stage is the tremor of the body, and the last stage is levitation in the air” (or in a broader sense, siddhis begin to appear).


When you do a cleansing fast, you really notice the difference in how you feel during and after the fast. It is difficult at first, and you may feel rather ill as the toxins are cleaned out.  As time passes, you begin to feel lighter and brighter and terrific!  It is similar when you do yoga practices to cleanse the nadis.  At the start you may not feel too well as blockages begin to release.  Blockages in the nadis often manifest themselves physically, so you may feel symptoms such as headaches, emotionally off balance, or one nasal passage becomes blocked.


Gradually, over time through the cleanse you have more energy and more clarity too. You feel good about yourself and your discipline and the results are generally quite delicious. There is a peacefulness that comes with the cleansing of the nadis because the thoughts are no longer jumping between the right and left brain… the union of “ha” and “tha” has brought this into balance and we experience santosha or contentment.


But nadis can become impure again if you, for example, reinstate junk food into your body, smoke, allow negative thoughts to run untamed, or cultivate ill intentions. So the nadis don’t necessarily stay purified if you don’t keep up your practice on all levels, on and off the mat.


When we do our yoga we are working with more than the physical body. Our sadhana also affects the astral body (which includes the emotional and mental aspects of our being), and the causal body (which involves our spiritual well- being).  Each layer of maya we uncover takes us closer to another vritti or samskara to perhaps deal with. As we change and develop our thought patterns through our yoga practices (ie: how we respond to new circumstances) they reflect the cleanliness of our nadis.  Pure thoughts = pure nadis, and negative thoughts such as fear or anger = not so clean nadis.


In Chapter 2 verse 4-10 in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika we discuss the cleansing of the nadis.


Nadis(4) When the nadis are impure, breath cannot penetrate into the sushumna. Then the yogi achieves nothing, nor can he reach the state of deep concentration [unmani avastha].

If there are blockages in our 72,000 nadis then the prana, or life force, is impeded in its flow.  Nadis are the energy channels for the flow of prana, the life force that brings movement to our bodies and thoughts.  The chakras are transmitters of this energy, and they have the potential to transmit both positive and negative energy depending upon where our thoughts and behaviours are centered.  Therefore, this energy is expressed or manifested in our outward actions through our body.

I often say “I see myself through the reactions of others towards me.”  If I am angry or annoyed, this will create a reaction in others that reflects my state of mind. If I am angry or annoyed, I am distracted (attachment) and I cannot concentrate.  My state of mind is a reflection of how purified my nadis are.  As yogis we are constantly trying to live a higher life and increase the supply of prana through the nadis to the sushumna. Only then will we feel peaceful and therefore be able to reach the state of deep concentration.

(5) Only when all the nadis, which are still impure, become purified can the yogi practice pranayama successfully.

(6) Therefore one should practice pranayama with the mind in sattvic condition until the sushumna is free from impurities.

Here we are back to the basics of the yamas and niyamas.  A sattvic mind is essential for success in ALL practices of yoga, and definitely during the practice of pranayama.  Pranayama is the ability to control the movement of the life force. It establishes intention and focus.  A wandering mind means the prana is being dissipated away from the task at hand – yoga or union with the Self.

A sattvic mind is reflected in our outward expressions through our body.  Kindness, compassion, understanding, patience, a peaceful presence, loving actions; these are all outward expressions of a sattvic mind.  By practicing the positive expression of your True Self regularly, steadily, and catching those negative thoughts before they get a chance to have any power, it will help you to maintain the sattvic state of mind, particularly during pranayama.

Sattva must become established in thought, word and deed. This may seem like far too much of a challenge, but we are given the tools to change our thought-waves from negative to positive in Patanjali’s yoga sutras where we discover the mind is made up of “manas, buddhi and ahamkara”.  Manas is that which records the incoming information from the senses.  Buddhi is that which classifies this information as truth, untruth, etc.  Buddhi is normally clouded by the ego, the ahamkara, and therefore classifies information under the influence of the ego.  This is because we are more in tune with our “ego-personality” than we are with our Spirit.

The Spirit is rich with the qualities of love, peace, compassion, non-judgment, etc. The ego-personality has the potential of both positive and negative qualities because it is in this manifested world.  Therefore, we must establish the habit that each time the mind receives information through the senses, we pause before judgment. We don’t make assumptions, we don’t jump to conclusions, but we filter the information based on the higher principles of yoga beyond the ego, and then classify the information according to the principles of the Spirit.

Let me give you an example.  An older couple lived in my community.  The wife passes away in the fall, and I went to Mexico for the winter.  When I returned, I was walking by the man’s home and saw a woman going in the front door. I immediately assumed he had remarried.

Recognizing my quick assumption, I immediately stopped the thought wave of him being remarried to further assess the situation before I jumped to conclusions.  She could have been his sister, housekeeper, friend… there were numerous options!

Manas had recorded what it had “seen” through the eyes (senses).  My ahamkara “ego-personality” immediately influenced the buddhi to classify this information based on the assumption the man had remarried.  I caught myself by observing my thought waves, and thus stopped the influence from the ego-personality, allowing the buddhi to reclassify the information as based on no truth whatsoever.

Simple example of how we control our thought-waves. Not a very important situation (and really none of my business), but this is how our mind works! So by putting this process of observation into practice on the little things like this will create a new standard of observation for when we encounter the bigger, more important circumstances in life where we really need to see things “clearly”!  No matter how unimportant the circumstances may seem, it is always important to establish yourself in Truth, sattva, a pure mind.

Yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind. To emphasize how important this is for our yoga practice and the purification of the nadis, I quote from Yoga-Age.com, “If we now become aware that every breath we take is in a sense pranayama, we can readily realize how frequently we damage our delicate psyche with an impure or bad thought. In the long run we shorten our lives with every negative gesture in deed, word, or thought by overburdening the conductors of the life stream with these impurities.”

Now, for the last few verses in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika on the process for cleansing the nadis:

(7) Assuming the padmasana posture, the yogi shall guide the prana through the left nostril [chandra = moon] to the ida nadi, and, after having retained the breath as long as possible [in kumbhaka], should exhale it through the right nostril [surya = sun].

(8) Then he should inhale through the right nostril, do kumbhaka according to the rule, and exhale through the left nostril.

(9) Inhalation is [always] through the same nostril as the previous exhalation. After the breath has been retained to the utmost possible limit [until perspiration breaks out or the body begins to trembler, one should exhale slowly–never quickly [since that reduces the energy of the body].

(10) Take in prana through the ida nadi and exhale it through the pingala. Then take in [new prana] through pingala and release it through ida, after having held it [in kumbhaka] as long as possible. The yogi who has perfected himself in the yamas [having thus developed the sattvic mind] will purify his nadis in three months [of practice].

So, how do you know if your nadis are purified?  Watch your thoughts and watch your actions, and they will reflect exactly how purified your nadis are. And remember these wise words from the Katha Upanishad, “When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence, then begins the Path Supreme.  This calm steadiness of the senses is called Yoga.  Then one should become watchful, because Yoga comes and goes.” 


Hatha Yoga Pradipika, commentary by Swami Vishnudevananda

How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

The Science of Pranayama, by Swami Sivananda

The Upanishads, commentary by Juan Mascaro