#2: Causing Ida and Pingala to flow evenly: The first step in Kundalini Awakening is balancing the flow of energy in Ida and Pingala. This means that equal amounts of Prana are flowing in the left and right sides. It is most readily evidenced by the breath flowing evenly in the two nostrils.
Getting centered: In our common language, we speak of feeling off-balance or getting balanced. We speak of wanting to be centered. To balance or center the energies is the goal of this step of the Kundalini Awakening process. This affects not only the subtle body, but is also experienced in the gross, physical body, and brings tremendous health benefits by positively regulating the autonomic nervous system. (The Tantra practice of Yoga Nidra and the Yoga Nidra CD are very effective in attaining such a balance.)
Transitions between Ida and Pingala: There is a natural transition between Ida and Pingala from time to time during the day. For those with very healthy bodies and minds, this shift happens approximately every 90 minutes. For others, the shift may not follow so naturally, or energy may be more or less stuck in either Ida or Pingala for much longer periods of time during the 24 hours of the day.
Transitions bring calmness to the mind: In these moments of natural transition, the mind is calm, centered, or balanced. There is a sense of inner peace, as if the mind wants to do nothing but be in meditation. For most of us, unaware of this transition, we force ourselves to stay with the matters at hand in the external world during these moments, possibly thinking we are just sleepy. Once you are aware of this natural shifting, it can provide a time to take just a minute for yourself to enjoy the inner stillness. It is as if nature is giving us a free meditation from time to time.
Sandhya, the wedding: The union or balancing of Ida and Pingala is like a marriage. It is the wedding of sun and moon, night and day. This wedding is called sandhya, and like with a marriage, is a time of great joy, only this is a meditative joy. In this wedding even the mind and the breath are joined in a happy union. Later, the wedding is of jiva, the individual soul, and brahman, the absolute reality, turiya, the fourth state.
Beginning of joy in meditation: This balancing of Ida and Pingala, and causing Prana to flow evenly, this wedding of sun and moon, is the real beginning of joy in meditation. All of the other practices up to this stage are to bring this state of peaceful mind, from where the real practice of meditation begins. From this point, meditation is a joy, not a discipline. For, why would anybody have to cultivate discipline to do that which is only bringing joy?
Even breath between the nostrils: At one's regularly scheduled time for Yoga meditation, the aspirant wants to be able to balance these two energies by direct control. Breath balancing practices are done so as to balance Ida and Pingala, allowing them to flow evenly. These practices are extremely useful and build a foundation for Kundalini Awakening.
Opening a nostril with the mind: The ability to regulate this balance of breath by focusing the mind on the flow in the nostrils, though a simple practice, is one of the most profound parts of the inner journey. Notice with your mind which nostril is flowing more, and which is flowing less freely. By focusing attention on the closed or less open nostril, it will gradually open, and bring an increased feeling of calm. This may take some months to accomplish, or it may come sooner, but the skill will definitely come with practice.
Alternate nostril breathing: Alternate nostril breathing is a specific practice to balance Ida and Pingala, whereby you intentionally breathe through one, and then the other nostril. It may be done either with the fingers or the intentionality of the mind. There are many combinations of alternate nostril breathing, though one of the simplest is to breath three exhalations and inhalations from one nostril, and then three from the other. This is called one round of alternate nostril breathing. Three rounds is generally done to complete the practice.
Soham mantra: The breath naturally makes two sounds, Sooooooo with inhalation, and Hummmmmm with exhalation. Conscious use of the soham mantra is a tremendous aid in balancing Ida and Pingala. The Soham Mantra CD can be a useful aid in this process.
Hatha Yoga balances Ida and Pingala: The entire purpose of Hatha Yoga is the balancing of these energies of Ida and Pingala. Ha means sun and tha means moon (some people reverse these terms; in either case, it is the balancing and unions of these energies that is important). The sun is the active energy of Pingala, whereas moon is the passive energy of Ida. The union of these two energies is called Yoga, which means union or wholeness. In the ancient text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the first of the four chapters deals, in large part, with postures. However, the second chapter deals squarely with the issue of Kundalini Awakening, followed by chapters on advancing to Raja Yoga (See also Yoga Sutras, particularly sutras 2.49-2.53 on pranayama).
The Hatha postures and breathing practices all help lead one to balance between Ida and Pingala, where they are both flowing freely. The breathing practices of Diaphragmatic Breathing and Two-to-One Breathing are especially helpful, and the vigorous breathing practices such as Kapalabhati and Bhastrika can help to break the pattern of being stuck in Ida or Pingala.
Autonomic nervous system: Balancing Ida and Pingala also balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, reducing the elevated flight or fight response. In other words, the single act of balancing the breath is a tremendous aid in physical stress reduction, in addition to being a spiritual practice setting the stage for Kundalini Awakening.
Activities during the day: Although the days of most people are busy, it is useful to know about the difference between Ida and Pingala dominance in relation to activities. When the right nostril is open, when Pingala is dominant, this a better time to do more active projects. When the left nostril is open, when Ida is predominant, this is a better time to do more quiet projects.
Solid foods and liquids: Ideally, solid foods are taken when Pingala is more active, when the right nostril is open; this aids in digestion. Since this is more dominant in midday, that is usually the best time to take the major meal of the day. Ideally, liquids are taken when Ida is more predominant, when the left nostril is open. It is important to be flexible about principles such as these, so that they do not become obstacles or irritating rules.