Prana breath is the universal vital energy which is literally the thing of life. For all of us those who practice yoga, the major challenge for us is to harness this energy so that it can fuel our mental, physical as well as spiritual development. In order to do this, we have to look deeply into the mysteries that surround our mind as well as the subtle body. Fortunately, the Tantra’s early practitioners have voyaged into this particular inner landscape, mapping the different ways the energy in our body circulates within us. Among their most crucial and the important discoveries were the Nadis which is the vast network of energy channels which makes us an integrated, vital and conscious whole.
The Nadi is a Sanskrit word which comes from the root “nad” that means the “flow”, “vibration” or “motion”. The word itself depicts the basic fundamental nature of the Nadi, to flow like water which finds the path of least resistance and also nourishes everything that comes in its path. The Nadis are essentially the energetic irrigation system, which in essence, keep us alive.
In the energy body or the Pranamayakosha, there are 72,000 Nadis. These Nadis are channels or pathways of prana breath in the system. These 72,000 Nadis don’t have any type of physical manifestation. In a sense, if you cut the body of a human being, you won’t find any of it. But when you become more aware of the body, you will certainly notice that the energy in the body isn’t moving at random. It is moving in underlying and established pathways. There are 72,000 various ways in which the prana breath or energy moves in the body.
Nadis are the energy channels through which the divine energy of the body, life as well as consciousness or Prana streams. Within our human body, there is a perfect and subtle inherent network of these Nadis that distribute the life force throughout our entire body. One the physical level the Nadis are corresponding to the nervous system of the body, but the influence of these Nadis extends beyond this and to the astral as well as spiritual planes of our existence. If all these Nadis are functioning and working properly, then we will be healthy and feel happy, in general. But nearly each one of us is suffering from some sort of psychic or physical problems, which means that few of the Nadis aren’t functioning properly and there is a requirement of balancing them.
Prana breath is the conscious energy that essentially means that the Nadis of our body also transmit consciousness. Through Nadis, one can easily see as well as hear things from a distance of greater proportion and move in other consciousness levels. There are many reports from people who were considered to be clinically dead, and then they came back to life again. Many of them described how they travelled through the tunnel which has a light radiating at the end of it. This tunnel is called the Nadi through which the prana or life escapes from the body.
All of us can have such tunnel experiences in our dreams as well as on astral journeys. With these, we aren’t actually outside our body but in sort of an altered state of consciousness. These Nadis make quite possible for us to take this mental journey of discovery through our entire universe. With the assistance of these Nadis, our consciousness is able to go from our body to any place we would like to go without the movement of our body at all.
Three Nadis carry special importance in our body. They are the –Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna.
Ida(left or moon)
It is the left channel. It is white, cold and feminine which represents the moon and it is associated with the river Ganges or Ganga. It originates in Muladhara, Ida ends up in the left nostril of our body.
Pingala (right or sun)
It is the right channel. It is red as well as masculine along with hot as it represents the sun and it is associated with the river Yamuna. It originates in Muladhara. It ends up in the right nostril of our body.
Sushumna (center )
It is the central channel which is associated with the Saraswati river. Within this Shushumna Nadi, there are three more essential subtle channels which are Vajra, Chitrni as well as Bhrama Nadi through which the Kundalini moves upwards in the body running up from just below the Muladhara chakra to Sahasrara chakra, then all up to the crown of the head.
When it comes to the physical level, the Pingala is the counterpart in our Parasympathetic Nervous system while the Ida is the counterpart in the Sympathetic Nervous system. The Sushumna in the Central Nervous system of the body.
The moon here symbolizes the minds which have its changeable feelings while the sun represents the intellect of the mind. Just like our emotions as well as thoughts which keep on changing constantly, the moon is also changing its form constantly. The intellect in the mind, however, is stable as well as constant principle like the sun. Only when the harmony as well as balance prevail between the sun and the moon system, we are actually healthy as well as capable of developing both mentally as well as spiritually.
We are able to harmonize and activate the Nadis through our breath. When we breathe through the left nostril of our nose in Pranayama Yoga, we activate our Ida Nadi. The Ida Nadi cools as well as quietens along with refreshes the body as well as the mind like the moon’s silvery light. The Pingala Nadi, however, that is influenced by breathing through our nose’s right nostril has warmed as well as activating influence, just in the similar way as sunshine warms our earth along with stimulating the growth of vegetation.
Ida and Pingala begin in our brain at approximately the Pituitary gland level. Ida has an effect on the brain’s right side while the Pingala influences the left side of the brain. In order to maintain the balance, both Nadis run in just like a snake-like path from one side of our body to the other. At the points where these Nadis cross, they meet with the central Nadi, which is Sushumna. At those places where the radiance, as well as the power of the sun and the moon, meet, together with the Sushumna’s strengthening effect, the powerful energy centers in the body which are called Chakras are formed.
The first crossing of these Nadis at the tops of our spinal column forms the Vishuddhi Chakra or the Throat Chakra, and the last crossing at the base of our spinal column form the Muladhara Chakra or the Root Centre. Here the Ida Nadi flows from the left side of our body and the Pingala Nadi on our right side, and it is precisely and the actual position here that our dormant consciousness of our body lies hidden.
At different places along our spinal column, these Nadis form a particular type of knot which is called Granthi, and each of these constitutes a key and essential point in the spiritual development of our mind and the body. When these knots or Granthis are “untied”, the energy which is located within these Granths gets activates and the Siddhis or the hidden powers are given to us a type of healing powers which allows us to see the past as well as the future along with seeing the auras as well as the other supernatural abilities.
When it comes to other terms of the three Nadis, the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna, they are Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati, respectively. These are the names of three of the holiest rivers in India. The Ganga and the Yamuna flow at the surface of the earth, but the Sarasvati flows underground. It rises at the surface one in every twelve years only. This event happens in conjunction with a specific planetary constellation which is also known as the Kumbha Mela. This great and holiest spiritual festival of India happens at the confluence of these three rivers which is called the Sangam, and it is attended by millions of people from all over who come here to attain liberation and freedom from their Karmas as well as the cycle of rebirth by taking a bath in the sacred waters. But for the Yogi, these three main Nadis are his divine rivers as well as the eyebrow center or the Agya Chakra where these Nadis meet is the only place of pilgrimage where he attains liberation and freedom.
Just like the Sarasvati, the mysterious river, only appears rarely, the Sushumna Nadi is active only for the particular short time period, for instance, at dawn and the dusk. When the three Nadis which are main Nadis of our body, unite, only one stream of consciousness flows which is the spiritual energy of Sushumna Nadi. The energy also flows through this particular Nadi in deep meditation as well as in Samadhi. For as long as this Nadi, the Sushumna is inactive, we are plagued by constantly and ever-changing Chitta Vrittis which is thoughts, worries, emotions etc. But once the this Nadi, Sushumna begins to flow, mind’s waves come to reset, and we actually bathe in the bliss and blessing of divine consciousness.
Within the spine, if you know about its physical construction, you will probably know that there are two holes in either side of our spine while are more like conduit pipes for all our nerves to pass. This is the Nadis, Ida, and the Pingala, the left channel and the right channel. Only when the energies enter into our Sushumna Nadi, life really begins.
The Ida, as well as the Pingala Nadi, represent our existence’s basic duality. It is this particular duality that we traditionally personify as Shakti and Shiva. Or you can also call it as feminine and masculine, or it can also be the intuitive and logical aspect of you. It is also based on this that life is being created. Without the presence of these two dualities, our life wouldn’t exist as it actually does right now. In the very beginning, everything around is primordial, and there is no duality. But after the creation happens, there is this duality.
When we say masculine and feminine, we are not actually talking in terms of sex, that is, about being male or female, but in the particular terms of different qualities in nature. These particular qualities in nature have been found and identified as masculine. Different other qualities have also been identified as feminine. You might be a male, but is your Ida Nadi is more pronounced, then the feminine may be much more dominant within you. You might be a woman, but if your Pingala Nadi is more pronounced, then the masculine may be more dominant within you.
It is about bringing a balance between these Nadis, the Ida and the Pingala, which makes us effective in this world and it makes us handle the different life aspects as well. Most of the people live as well as die in Ida and Pingala while the Sushumna which is the central space, remains dormant. But when it comes to the most significant aspect of our physiology, Sushumna is the one. When the energies enter into Sushumna, only then life really begins.
In a fundamental sense, Sushumna is more like attribute less which means that it has no quality of its own. It is more like an empty space. If there is an empty space, then you can easily create anything that you wish for. Once the energies enter into this Nadi, the Sushumna, we can say that we have attained to Vairagya where the “Raga” means the color and “Vairag” means no color, which essentially means that we have become transparent. If we have become transparent, then whatever color is behind us, we turn into that color. If we are behind the color blue, then we turn blue too. If we are behind the color yellow, then we turn yellow. We become unprejudiced. Wherever we are, we become part of that particular thing, and nothing ever sticks to us. Only if we are like this, only when we are in the state of Vairag, then only we will dare to explore the different dimensions of life when we live here.
At present, we are reasonably balanced, and if because of some reason, the outside scenario or situation goes messy, we will get messy or crazy in reaction to that because this is what the nature of Ida and Pingala is. It is quite reactive to what is outside. But once the energies start to enter into Sushumna, we attain a new kind of balance which is an inner balance where anything that happens outside to us, there is a certain space within which we can never get disturbed, which is like never getting into any kind of turmoil and we can’t be touched by any of the outside precarious situations. Only if we create this particular stable situation within ourselves, we can dare to scale the peaks of our consciousness.
Now we talk about the meeting place of these three Nadis. The Kanda in Muladhara chakra is where these three main Nadis meet, and it is also known as Yukta Triveni which is comprised of words: “Yukta” which means combined, “tri” which means three and “Veni” which means streams. In Muldhara, the static unmanifested Kundalini, the Shakti is also symbolized at the spine’s base. The serpent lies block the Sushumna entrance along with the central channel with its mouth. Sushumna remains closed at the lower end of it as long as the Kundalini is not awakened in our body.
The technique of Kundalini Yoga comprises of using the vital air, the Prana, which guides its circulatory movement through the two Nadis, Ida, and Pingala, down to the spine’s base into space where this Kundalini lies coiled. The important and vital energies of these opposite forces which are circulating in Ida as well as Pingala will be unified, and the Shakti Kundalini then awaken as well as rise up the Sushumna which energizes the seven chakras.
From Muladhara Chakra, the Ida as well as Pingala alternate from the right to the left sides of each and every chakra until they reach to the Ajna Chakra that is where they meet again with the third Nadi, the Sushumna.
In Ajna chakra, the meeting of these three main Nadis is known as Mukta Triveni where “Mukta” meaning “liberated”. Continuing beyond this Ajna chakra, the Ida, as well as Pingala, end in the left as well as the right nostril of the nose, respectively.
Once the Kundalini Shakti has ascended through the Sushumna to Sahasrara, which is the highest psychic center located which is at the crown of the head, it reverses its course and then returns to the rest in the base center again.
With this, we end our detailed discussion on Nadis with a comprehensive explanation of the three main Nadis, the Ida, the Pingala, and the Sushumna. It is up to the practitioner to practice the yogic practices to activate and start the flow of the energy and reach the highest state of consciousness. This leads us to better life and healthy body and helps us in getting rid of ailments that plague us while assisting us in physical, mental and spiritual growth.