The Best Time to Do Pranayama – Practical Advice

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Pranayama at sunrise


Is there a time of the day that is particularly good for pranayama (yogic breathing exercises)? If so, how much does the hour of the day influence your practice, and are there other factors that matter more? I will give you the answer without further ado. 

All else being equal, the best time of the day for pranayama is early morning. However, in practice, the ideal moment is when four hours have passed since your last meal and when you have had time to prepare your body and mind with yoga poses.

But there is more to it. Read the full post to learn how to decide on the best time for your pranayama practice. 

The ideal time to do pranayama

Some times of the day are more suitable for pranayama than others. The best time of all is early morning. This is true for several reasons. 

  1. Early in the morning is the time of the day when your body has had the longest time digesting your last meal. 
  2. Early in the morning, it is typically calmer than at other times of the day because most people haven’t yet started their day.
  3. After a good night’s sleep, you are naturally in a state of relative mental calm. 
  4. As the sun rises above the horizon, there is a certain energetic charge in the atmosphere. In India, this time of the day is called Brahmamuhurtha. 

(But keep in mind, sunrise doesn’t occur the same time everywhere, and it changes depending on the time of the year. For example, in the part of Sweden where I grew up, the sun rises at 1:30 am in the summer. That hour of the day is not practical for pranayama.)

The time of the day is just one of many factors that influence your pranayama. In reality, your habits and daily rhythm have much more impact on when you should practice than the time of the day. 

It is crucial to have digested to do work with the breath

Woman with hands on belly indicating she is digesting.
Take time to digest before practicing breathing exercises.

An essential factor when deciding when to practice pranayama is that you must have digested your last meal. As a general rule, you should have had at least four hours to digest after a big meal. 

That means that there are four times of the day that you can practice.

  1. Early morning (before breakfast)
  2. At noon (before lunch)
  3. Late afternoon (before dinner)
  4. Late evening (before going to bed)

For most people, the best time is early morning since that is usually the time of the day when you have had a maximum amount of time to absorb your food. However, if you are the kind of person who doesn’t have breakfast, doing pranayama before lunch would be even better. Before lunch can also be a perfect time if you have a light breakfast.

Late afternoon (5-6 pm) is also a great practice time since the digestive fire is the strongest at midday. 

Late evening also works for pranayama, but since digestion is slower during this part of the day, you need to have a light and early dinner. For optimal practice, finish eating before 7 pm or skip dinner altogether.

Yoga poses boost your pranayama

The right moment to do pranayama is when you have just practised yoga poses. Yoga asana brings you into a state of calm, alertness and concentration. Doing yoga poses makes breathing exercises more effortless, profound and comfortable. As a bonus, yoga asana helps to speed up digestion. 

Shashankasana is a perfect relaxation pose and substitute for Shavasana at the end of an asana sequence.
Warming up for pranayama with yoga poses is excellent. Make sure to have a calming pose, such as the hare pose, at the en of your physical programme.

From that point of view, the right moment to do pranayama is when you have just finished a good asana session.  And that is why I include pranayama after yoga poses in my session here on Forceful Tranquility.

Read my article about why it is essential to do pranayama after asana >>>

Calm is essential for pranayama

To do pranayama efficiently, you must have a certain amount of calm around you. You must be sure that nothing will happen that will force you to interrupt your practice (such as a small child needing your attention or grocery delivery that needs to be received). 

If you can’t be sure that you will be undisturbed, it won’t even matter that you have had time to digest or that everything else is perfect. 

The ideal moment for pranayama is when you can practice daily

If you are serious about exploring pranayama, it needs to be a daily practice. And not only that, you have to practice at the same time each day. 

By doing pranayama at the same time every day, your internal clock gets tuned in to your practice. In addition, since your physiological condition is similar at each sitting, you will understand your limits much more easily. Knowing your limitations makes it possible to meet them in a relaxed way.

The best time to work with the breath is after you have been to the bathroom

Holding your breath for extended periods can trigger the urge to empty your bowels. This is because pranayama activates your parasympathetic nervous system. 

Hence, it is crucial to go to the bathroom before advanced pranayama practice. Fighting the urge to go to the toilet during pranayama can ruin your training. Should you need to get up and go to the bathroom, you might even need to restart your preparations all over again. 

Key takeaways

The ideal time of the day to do pranayama for most people is early morning. However, as long as the following conditions are met, any time of the day is good.

  • You have had at least four hours to digest
  • You have been to the bathroom
  • You have prepared yourself with yoga poses
  • You honour your daily practice time
  • You know that you will not be disturbed
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Hi, I am Christian Möllenhoff

Christian Möllenhoff is an experienced yoga and meditation teacher as well as a teacher trainer. He is from Sweden, but he lives and teaches in France. He is the driving force behind Forceful Tranquility.

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