Pranayama for Calm and Wellbeing

Each new day at Gaia beings with our gentle and restorative morning yoga ritual. This ancient and grounding practice provides us with different tools which we can use to help relieve stress and anxiety, slow the mind and turn off our sympathetic nervous system in times of overwhelm.

The many tools of yoga, which include breathwork, assist us to move our bodies from high alert (operating within our sympathetic nervous system) to a more grounded state of calm, where we can heal and restore (operating in our parasympathetic nervous system).

Pranayama, the conscious deliberate regulation of our breath, which is the source of our Prana, or vital life force, is just one of the many yogic tools you can adopt to help slow your being down… or fire up your vital energy if you so wish!

Breathwork practice keeps your mind focused on the breath, which in turn reduces the fluctuation of your thoughts to help bring your focus inwards. All breathwork should remain comfortable and not forced and can be guided by a gentle count to keep the inhales and exhales consistent. Make sure you are seated comfortably, in an upright position, and use bolsters and pillows for extra comfort, as well as a wall for additional back support if needed.

Below, Georgie shares three different breathwork styles which you can practise at home to help balance your energy and mind.


Nadi Shodhana

(Nadi = channel and Shodhana = cleaning, purifying)

This is our favourite style of breathwork to really focus on moving into your calm, parasympathetic nervous system. It is often referred to as channel-clearing breath.

Place your index and middle finger at your third eye, and gently hold your thumb over your right nostril and ring finger over your left nostril.

To start your practise, gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Open and exhale slowly through your right nostril.

Now keep the right nostril open, inhale slowly, then close it and open and exhale slowly through your left. This is one cycle. You can repeat this for approximately 5 minutes.


Surya Bhedana and Chandra Bhedana – Single Nostril Pranayama

(Surya Bhedana = Sun-piercing breath and Chandra Bhedana = Moon-piercing breath)

Our right nostril is energetically associated with our body’s heating energy, which in ancient Sanskrit is symbolised by the sun. Our left nostril is associated with our body’s cooling energy, symbolised in Sanskrit by the moon. The purpose of these two single nostril breathwork practices is to create balance by ‘warming’ a ‘cool’ body-mind, or alternatively ‘cooling’ a ‘warm’ body-mind.

Place your index and middle finger at your third eye, and gently hold your thumb over your right nostril and ring finger over your left nostril.

For Surya Bhedana (warming practice), block your left nostril with your ring finger and inhale through your right. Then close your right with your thumb and exhale through your left. Continue this series, always inhaling right and exhaling left for 1-3 minutes.

For Chandra Bhedana (cooling practice), simply reverse the above instructions, always inhaling through your left nostril whilst blocking your right, and exhaling through your right whilst blocking your left.


Square / Box Breathing

Square breathing involves breathing in and out for the same count, whilst also holding the breath at each end point for the same amount of time. Square breathing is a technique used to help people breathe deeper, relieve stress and calm down a worried or anxious mind.

To practise square breathing, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts (retention), exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts (suspension). Continue this four-part sequence for approximately 1-3 minutes before returning to your normal breath.


Breathwork is a wonderful technique to include in your morning ritual, with the goal of calming, or energising your Prana, after which you can transition into a state of peaceful meditation and return to your normal breath.