4 Pranayama Exercises to Prepare You for Meditation

Pranayama Exercises to Prepare You for Meditation
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The fundamental life force is “prana” and “ayama” means control, extension, or depth. They’re one of the best ways to get your body and mind ready for a more in-depth meditation.

The prana is intimately related to our intellect and emotions. Our mind experiences an emotional roller coaster when our prana, or life force, varies.

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    If you have noticed, your emotions play an important role in your breathing pattern.

    When you are sad or stressed, you involuntarily exhale longer, and in times of anger or frustration, your breathing pattern becomes short and forced. On the other hand, when you go to a place of worship, your breathing pattern automatically becomes calm and serene.


    When you practise pranayama, you can train your mind to control these changes.

    When we learn to become aware of our breath, we can access a range of possibilities within us that are infused with calm and joy.

    In its most fundamental form, pranayama equips you with meditation. Meditation is the mindful skill of doing nothing, which many of us find difficult because we are naturally anxious to accomplish something. 

    You’ll never be able to meditate if your mind is racing. Pranayama helps to rid the mind of delusion, craving, and ignorance.


    Concentration is possible only when the mind is free from ignorance and turbulence. Meditation is possible only when you concentrate.

    Pranayama make things easier and more natural for us to meditate. You will be more concentrated, meditate better, and meditate deeper if the prana flows freely through the body-mind complex without obstruction. 

    Scientific Evidence of Pranayama for Calming the Mind

    Pranayama has time and again proved to be beneficial in calming down the mind by reducing stress. It helps improve sleep quality and increase mindfulness. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system is also one of the major benefits of practicing pranayamas, which ultimately leads to a peaceful and rested mind.

    These claims have also been proven by science through various research.

    In a 2013 study, regular practice of pranayama was found to calm the nervous system and improve stress response in healthy young adults.

    In the same year, another study also noted the fact that due to increased oxygen flow towards the brain, MA students experienced less anxiety before taking a test.

    A paper published in 2017 documented that students who practiced pranayama showed higher levels of mindfulness and also had better levels of emotional regulation.

    Again in 2017, there was another paper published that provided evidence that diaphragmic breathing was effective in reducing cortisol levels and increasing attention in the volunteers.

    A study published in 2010 has shown that even 5 minutes of practicing slow breathing exercises, such as Bhramari Pranayama, can activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

    4 Pranayama Exercises that Can Help Before Meditation

    Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breathing)

    sama vritti pranayama cycle
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    The word Sama means equal and Vritti means mental fluctuations. 

    You can encourage equal mental changes through breath by practicing sama vritti. In this method, you inhale, hold, and exhale your breath for the same amount of time.

    As a result, equal breathing, square breathing, and box breathing are some other names for this pranayama.

    The pranayama is generally practiced to relieve mental tension and anxiety by soothing and harmonizing the mind and body. It promotes healthy circulation of prana energy and boosts oxygen flow to the brain, both of which help to relax the mind.

    It is an effective pranayama technique to control the state of mind before meditation

    Steps to perform

    • Sit in a comfortable upright meditative position.
    • Bring your hands in a mudra, preferably Gyan mudra. Place then on your knees with palms up.
    • Take a few stable breaths to become aware of your breathing.
    • On the next inhale, breath in slowly to the count of 4 till your lungs are filled.
    • Hold your breath for 4 counts.
    • Slowly exhale the breath with a count of 4 so that your lungs are empty.
    • Repeat the cycle for 2-5 rounds.
    • You can gradually increase the count, making sure the inhale, hold, and exhale are of equal lengths.

    Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

    Nadi Shodhan Pranayama

    This pranayama, also known as alternate breathing, is extremely useful for purifying the two nadis – ida and pingala. It also stimulates the central energy channel, the sushumna nadi, which helps keep the mind aware and calm, which in turn helps with meditation practice.

    Practicing Nadi Shodhana can relieve anger, frustration, stress and anxiety. It calms your nervous system and gives you a restful sleep. All of this is one way to increase concentration.

    Steps to perform

    • Sit in a meditative position of your choice with your back straight.
    • Your left hand can be placed on your thigh in Gyan mudra.
    • Bring your right hand towards your face. Place the thumb on the right nostril, the index finger will touch the middle of your eyebrows. The ring and little finger will be placed next to the left nostril. Fold your middle finger.
    • The thumb, ring, and little finger will act as lids to open and close the nostrils.
    • After stabilizing your breath, close your left nostril with your ring finger and breathe in from the right nostril. 
    • Once you have finished inhaling, close the right nostril with the thumb and retain the breath for a few seconds.
    • Open the left nostril and breathe out completely.
    • Now breathe in from the left nostril, while keeping the right nostril closed. Close the left nostril to hold the breath for a few seconds and release the right nostril to breathe out.
    • This completes one round of nadi shodhana. The breathing ratio between inhaling, retention, and exhaling is 1:4:2.
    • Practice at least 10 rounds before your sit for meditation.

    Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious, Oceans or Warriors Breath)

    ujjayi breathing steps

    Ujjayi pranayama is a challenging pranayama because it requires you to intentionally constrict your throat. Although it may seem that you are unable to breathe properly, with enough practice you will be able to perform it with ease.

    By slowing your mind and focusing on your breath, this pranayama can help you relax and de-stress. It keeps the body temperature in check by warming the core. It helps improve focus and concentration.

    Some other well-known benefits of ujjayi pranayama are:

    • Balances the nervous and cardiorespiratory systems.
    • Stress and anger are released and replaced by calmness and tranquillity.
    • Detoxifies Internal organs which improves immunity.
    • Provides clarity of mind
    • Boosts sleep quality

    Steps to perform

    • In a quiet and ventilated place, sit on the ground in a meditative position of your choice.
    • Keep your back straight, your head aligned with the spine, and close your eyes.
    • Take a deep inhalation so that your chest and belly visibly expand.
    • Inhale through the nose and constrict your throat so that you can feel the air while breathing in.
    • Your inhaling should make a rushing noise, just as if you were snoring. This sound is what gives the pranayama its name.
    • While exhaling, keep your throat constricted. Empty your belly and chest on exhale.
    • Once you can set a rhythm, inhale with your nose and exhale with the mouth open. The throat remains constricted at all times. 
    • Repeat the process for 5-10 rounds and finish by taking deep breaths for 1-2 minutes.

    Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath)

    humming bee breath weight loss
    © Fitsri

    What makes this pranayama special is the sound it makes when you exhale, which is similar to the buzzing of a bee. It can be practiced even by beginners, as it protects against distraction and helps calm the mind and nervous system. It can be performed before meditation as it can increase the ability to concentrate. It helps to get rid of anxiety, agitation and worries, which in turn can improve concentration and memory.

    If you suffer from migraines, you can practice Bhramari Pranayama to relieve the symptoms.

    Steps to perform

    • In a quiet and ventilated place, sit on the ground in a meditative position of your choice.
    • Keep your back straight, your head aligned with the spine, and close your eyes.
    • Place the thumb on the cartilage and the index fingers just above the eyebrows. The middle, ring, and little fingers will be placed across the eyes so that the tip of the fingers touches the bridge of the nose.
    • Take a deep inhale through the nose, filling up your chest and belly.
    • Slightly tuck in your chin and exhale while making a ‘hmmmmm’ sound at the back of your throat. Close your ears by pushing the cartilage through the thumb during exhalation.
    • Repeat the process 5-7 times.
    • After finishing the pranayama, take the time for your breath to return to normal while observing the effects.

    Whenever your feel ready, you can start with your meditation practice.

    How to Breathe During Meditation

    How to Breathe During Meditation
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    Meditation is about calming the mind and freeing yourself from daily chaos and stress. It is a way to take time for yourself and calm your mind.

    You may have often seen or heard meditation teachers emphasize breathing during meditation. Sometimes the focus is on the breath throughout the meditation.

    This is because breathing helps calm our nervous system. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system to slow our heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve oxygen circulation, and increase energy flow.

    It is said that controlling the breath can help control the mind.

    So is there a specific way to breathe properly during meditation?

    The most common breathing technique is mindful breathing.

    After settling into your meditative posture, slowly focus your attention on your breathing. Feel your breath going in and out of your nose.

    Focus on the transition from inhalation to exhalation, and follow your breath as you exhale through your nose and inhale through your mouth. Keep track of how your stomach rises and lowers with each breath and expiration.

    Just stay with the breath and enjoy it to the fullest, experiencing more peaceful and calm feelings with each breath.

    Allow your body, breath and mind to be as they are during meditation and remain mindful.


    Practicing pranayama before meditation can serve as a tool to naturally put you in a calm state of mind. You do not have to force yourself to focus on awareness and mindfulness. Conscious control over the way you breathe paves the way for harmonizing your body, mind and spirit to dive deep within yourself.

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