Ultimately, we would like the energy in our central channel (the sushumna nadi or governor vessel) to flow freely, unobstructed. Before this happens, we need the meridians flowing beside the central nadi to be open – the ida and pingala nadis. Nadi shodana is one way to open up both channels. Another way is to mentally circulate energy through these three channels, as we breathe and while we hold our postures. There are several ways to achieve this orbiting of our energy.

A Simple Orbit

A simple orbiting of energy begins by feeling the heart center. Sit comfortably and close your eyes – exhale. Start when the lungs are empty; as you inhale, feel or imagine energy flowing down your spine to the tip of the sacrum. As you exhale, reverse this, and follow the energy as it flows back to the heart space. Repeat this a few times. Slow the breath down to at least four counts for each inhale and exhale.

At first, there will be no sensation of anything flowing anywhere. That’s okay. Don’t be discouraged – this type of sensing takes practice. For now, just pretend you can feel it; if you could feel it, imagine what it would feel like. Maybe it would be helpful to imagine someone is running a finger along your spine – down from the heart on inhalations and back up to the heart on exhalations.

The direction the energy flows is the same direction that the diaphragm moves; if you get confused, just remember that. The diaphragm moves down as you inhale, so follow the flow in that direction. As the diaphragm rises, watch the energy rise too.

Once you can follow this flow, even if only in your imagination, add a short pause at the end of the inhalation. The energy now is in the muladhara chakra, at the base of the spine. Leave it there for a couple of seconds, but bring your awareness to the ajna chakra between the eyebrows. Just feel, or pretend to feel, energy there. After two seconds or so, exhale, following the energy back up to the heart.

Try this for a few cycles. If you can follow the energy without distraction for a few cycles, without losing the flow, add this final variation: continue to pause at the end of the inhalation, but add a short pause at the end of the exhalation as well. By the end of the exhalation, the energy will have returned to the heart space. Leave it there, but bring your awareness back to the muladhara chakra. Feel the perineum – notice the energetic lift there. Hold for just a couple of seconds, and begin the next inhalation by returning your awareness back to the heart.

When we allow energy to descend on the inhalation, we are joining the prana from the in breath to the apana in the lower belly. When we reverse this, we are joining the apana from the out breath to the prana in the upper body. Shakti and Shiva coming together is the objective of this practice. This simple work with the breath moves us toward this ultimate goal. We can do this while we hold the pose in a Yin Yoga practice, but we can also do this even in the most dynamic yang practice. All it takes is intention and attention.