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Beginner Yoga How To

Goddess Yoga Project: Defeat Fear With Sword Breath

Turn to this pranayama practice in times of transformation to invoke Kali and free yourself from anything that's holding you back.

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Turn to this pranayama practice in times of transformation to free yourself from anything holding you back.

Sianna Sherman Kali Pranayama Goddess

Sianna Sherman is on a quest to help every woman discover her inner deity. Deepen your physical, mental, and spiritual practice with knowledge of mythic feminine power through this blog series and Sianna’s four-session Goddess Yoga Project online course. Sign up now and join @yogajournal and @siannasherman using #YJGoddessProject to create an inspiring female collective, sharing experiences in real time.

Unexpected events in life can toss you into an irreversible matrix of change. You may feel devoured, stripped, and vulnerable, as you shed an old skin. Your ego holds onto its story, your rational mind tries to explain what is happening, and fear begins to control you. Humans tend to seek creation but not dissolution, do everything to fall in love but run away from heartbreak. And yet the two are forever intertwined in the dance of life and death. Even if you know change is coming, it is often terrifying and all too easy to deny.

See also What Is Goddess Yoga?

Meet Kali, The Goddess of Transformation

In the yoga tradition, there is a dark goddess known as Kali who governs time, death, and change. Her fierce form is portrayed with gnashing fangs, a protruding tongue, disheveled hair, dripping blood, a garland of skulls, and a belt of severed arms,wielding weapons in every hand. Kali represents massive transformation, non-conformity, boundary-pushing, life and death cycles, responsibility and accountability for mistakes, karmic mess cleanup, wild and untamable sexuality, total surrender, and the intensity of love and compassion. Kali is the essence of Freedom and she is the force within that transforms fear and sets you free.

See also Goddess Yoga: 5 Heart-Opening Practices Dedicated to Lakshmi

How To Use Kali’s Teachings

Kali often arrives in times of crisis, when your perspective is turned upside down: illness, heartbreak, financial loss, career change—anytime a new boundary is pushed. This fearsome goddess comes to devour what is no longer needed. She leads the way to transformation from within, standing for radical honesty and radical freedom from false attachments and delusions. When you resist, she draws out her swift sword to cut off the stubborn head of ego, reminding you what really matters in life. A friend recently said to me about Kali energy: “If a tsunami comes, you don’t care about your wallet and iPhone. You just run!” When Kali comes to you, certain things don’t matter anymore. Listen to the voice inside that is losing patience with the old way of doing things and let her be the initiatory force that begins to set you free.

See also Goddess Yoga: 3-Step Meditation To Inspire Intuition

Defeat Fear with Kali’s Sword Breath

I learned this pranayama technique from a Himalayan yoga master named Suresh when I was 23 years old. This was one of our first breathing techniques we practiced each morning, barefoot in the mountains. Once I learned about Kali, I started calling this breath: “Kali’s Sword Breath.” Try it now—and in any time of change.

Kali’s Sword Breath

Goddess Sianna Sherman Kali

Benefits: Revitalizes the spirit, enhances mental clarity, recharges the subtle body, releases stuck energy.

To begin, take a wide Goddess Pose stance and visualize you have Kali’s swift sword of freedom and detachment. This dynamic pranayama has three strong inhalations followed by a full exhalation through the mouth—Kali-style, tongue out.

See also Beginner’s Guide to Pranayama

First Inhalation

Goddess Sianna Sherman Kali

Bring your hands together below your navel, drawing them up the front of the body overhead.

See also The Energetic Effects of Pranayama

Second Inhalation

Goddess Sianna Sherman Kali

From overhead position, expand your arms out wide to the sides and up.

See also Pranayama Practices for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Third Inhalation

Bring your hands back together below your navel, drawing them up the front of the body overhead again.

See also Ask the Expert: What Is Proper Yoga Breathing?

Full Exhalation

Sianna Sherman Kali Pranayama Goddess

Staying relaxed in your body and grounded through your legs, swiftly pull your hands down the front of your body, leaning forward, and exhaling through your mouth with your tongue out. Visualize yourself cutting away negative habitual patterns and freeing yourself from false concepts that imprison you. Surrender into your heart and call forth the essence of Kali within you to transform fear into love.

REPEAT Complete 10 rounds of this breath practice to honor the form of Kali with 10 arms.

See also When Escaping the Moment Is the New Moment: The Power of Off

About Sianna Sherman


Sianna Sherman is creator of the Goddess Yoga Project in partnership with Yoga Journal. She is the founder of Mythic Flow Yoga, a unique style of alignment-focused asana informed by ancient wisdom and myths. She leads teacher trainings and retreats around the world.