Nadis in Yoga/Ayurveda

Nadi’s in Yoga and Ayurveda

Join us tonight, 7pmSLT at PDOM to discuss!

In order to understand the Nadi’s we must first have a basic understanding of the Chakra’s.


Within the body is a subtle network of energy, which flows through the nadi’s. At the main points where nadi’s intersect is a chakra. The purpose of the chakras differ depending on which body you are focusing on, but we’ll go into that more later.


In many styles of yoga and many practices of Ayurveda, the Chakra’s have great importance. There are said to be seven Chakra’s in the human body. They form a line up the spine, some say in the center of the body, others think these centers are “attached” to the spine. A chakra is a center of energy, the literal translation being “wheel” or, less commonly, “vortex.” The English terms for the chakras, starting from the bottom, are: root chakra (Muladhara), sacral chakra (Svadishthana), solar plexus chakra (Manipura), heart chakra (Anahata), throat chakra (Visuddha), third eye chakra (Ajna), and crown chakra (Sahasrara). As in most Eastern medicine systems, the goal is to have the energies in the chakra’s balanced in order to have the best possible mind/body relationship and health.


“The theoretical foundation of Thai massage lies in the concept that all of life at its most basic level is energy. This energy, called Prana in Sanskrit (Qi in Chinese), exists in many forms from the extremely gross to the infinitely subtle and life is an interplay of these energies. Metaphorically a cosmic dance of Shiva and Shakti, Yin and Yang, the Sun and the Moon. Within the human body these energies flow along a network of channels or lines (nadis or meridians).

Health in eastern philosophies is regarded as a state of balance between these energies, where all the systems of the body, including mind and spirit, function in harmony with each other. And disease (dis-ease) is seen as imbalance or disharmony in this flow of energies. But beyond feeling good physically an enlightened definition of health encompasses feelings of vitality, strength, inner peace and joy.” -


nadis, the vast network of energy channels that makes each individual an integrated, conscious, and vital whole. The Sanskrit word nadi derives from the root nad, which means “flow,” “motion,” or “vibration.” Very similar to the meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the sen lines of Thai Massage.


The nadis are our energetic irrigation system; in essence, they keep us alive. According to many Tantric texts, the human body contains 72,000 nadis that channel prana (energy) to every cell, each nadi having a specific function and energy that it deals with (although other sources vary, some in the millions!). When this system flows freely, we are vital and healthy; when it becomes weak or congested, we struggle with poor mental and physical health.


Three nadis are of particular interest to yogis. The sushumna (most gracious) nadi is the body’s great river, running from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, passing through each of the seven chakras in its course. It is the channel through which kundalini shakti (the latent serpent power) —and the higher spiritual consciousness it can fuel—rises up from its origin at the muladhara (root) chakra to its true home at the sahasrara (thousandfold/crown) chakra at the crown of the head. In subtle body terms, the sushumna nadi is the path to enlightenment.


The ida (comfort) and pingala (tawny) nadis spiral around the sushumna nadi like the double helix of our DNA, crossing each other at every chakra. If you visualize the caduceus, the symbol of modern medicine, you’ll get a rough idea of the relationships among the ida, pingala, and sushumna nadis. Eventually, all three meet at the ajna (third eye) chakra, midway between the eyebrows.


The ida nadi begins and ends on the left side of sushumna. Ida is regarded as the lunar nadi, cool and nurturing by nature, and is said to control all mental processes and the more feminine aspects of our personality. The color white is used to represent the subtle vibrational quality of ida.


Pingala, the solar nadi, begins and ends to the right of sushumna. It is warm and stimulating by nature, controls all vital somatic processes, and oversees the more masculine aspects of our personality. The vibrational quality of pingala is represented by the color red.


The interaction between ida and pingala corresponds to the internal dance between intuition and rationality, consciousness and vital power, and the right and left brain hemispheres. In everyday life, one of these nadis is always dominant. Although this dominance alternates throughout the day, one nadi tends to be ascendant more often and for longer periods than the other. This results in personality, behavior, and health tendencies that can be called ida-like or pingala-like.


Bringing ida and pingala into equilibrium is a major focus of hatha yoga—so important, in fact, that the term hatha symbolizes this balance. Although the word hatha literally means “forceful” in Sanskrit, it is composed of ha and tha, two esoteric bija (seed) mantras that have arcane meaning and power. Ha represents the solar qualities, the vital force, of pingala; tha represents the mind and the lunar qualities of ida.


All the Nadis spring from the Kanda, the junction where the Sushumna Nadi is connected with the Muladhara Chakra. This Kanda is thought to be about 12 inches above the anus. Out of the innumerable Nadis 14 are said to be most important. They are Sushumna, Ida, Pingala, Gandhari, Hastajihva, Kuhu, Saraswati, Pusha, Sankhini, Payasvini, Varuni, Alambusha, vishvodhara, and Yasasvini.


In the beginning I mentioned there are different body’s you can focus on. What I meant by this is that there are five different koshas (sheaths) that every living being has. “From the yogic point of view, the body/energy/mind complex is divided into five parts, the grossest being the physical body, the next being the energy body, the next the mental body, then the wisdom body and finally at the finest level the bliss body.” So, in essence, the koshas are “the sheaths or dimensions of human existence.” The chakras, when considered in the energy body are a kind of energy modulator or transducer, and in the mind bodies as a switch for the different aspects of the personality.


Different styles of yoga and ayurveda will deal with these connections differently, but basically one will do “work” in each chakra and body in order to develop that part of the being. Most commonly, practitioners will work starting at the root chakra and work their way up to the crown chakra. When this is completed successfully, it is said that one reaches enlightenment. But, the basic place to start is with Nadi Shodhana, to balance the nadis.


I’d like you all to try this exercise with me.


To practice Nadi Shodhana, the main practice of balancing the nadis, sit in a comfortable meditative position. Make a fist with your right hand, then partially re-extend your ring and little fingers. Lightly place the pad of the thumb on your nose just to the right and below the bridge; lightly place the pads of your ring and little fingers on the corresponding flesh on the left side of your nose. Gently pressing with the ring and little fingers to close the left nostril, exhale fully through the right. Then inhale fully through the right, close it with the thumb, release the left nostril, and exhale through it. Inhale through the left nostril, close it with the fingers, release the right nostril, and exhale through it. This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana.



“Practcal Yoga Psychology” by Dr. Rishi Vivekananda, Bihar Yoga School, Yoga Publications Trust


Are there any comments or questions?

“Organizing in the Natural World” by Michael Stone

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Stone, found in his book “Awake in the World”. Find it on the Centre of Gravity website, along with his other books.

“Organizing in the Natural World” by Michael Stone

“For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world. Our life is endless, in just the same way that our field of vision has no boundaries.”
-Wittgenstein, Tractus Logico-Philosophicus
What does it mean that our field of vision has no boundaries? I look into a river and see fish and stones and there is nothing other than everything. It’s a cold winter day, and my son wanted to have a long bath before school this morning. He said the water was just “really hot snow.” Before it can put an end to its own elaborations, the mind creates the world out of boundarylessness. Such union is the basis for the mind-body-world to begin with. These words are just the words of winter. Winter writes itself on the branches and grasses. but when I am in stillness, I can’t find the line between those branches and the limbs of my body.
Although a person is not exactly water and earth and air and fire, we are also not separate from those elements either. We are not separate or identical to the elements. If we search for any one thing we can pinpoint as objectively real – one thing we really depend on for our existence – we will fail. We can’t land on one defining characteristic.
The yoga that precedes “this” and “that,” “mind” and “body,” is percolating through your every movement today – every thought, word, and deed. Everything you think and feel and do is temporary. Everything you see and hear is passing away. This reminder of death in life is following each and every one of us. A simple and gentle reminder but relentless nevertheless: don’t drift. Don’t squander your life. Mind is not just a human function or organ but the natural condition of living systems. Wherever there is life there is mind. Biological systems, from embryos to social insects, get tremendous mileage by using vast numbers of easy-to-find, unreliable components to achieve complex evolutions reliably. One year after a forest fire, the land is itself on fire- teeming with insects and other breathing creatures.
Mind is always organizing. We humans classify the raw data of our experience by giving it name and form. Mind is what puts name and form together. When we can see that our mind is a kind of synthesizer, we can step back and watch the choices that our minds make moment to moment. The greatest freedom we have is being able to clearly see that in any given context, we have choice. We can decide what kind of attentions and attitude we bring to the object showing up here and now. And it can change. This life and death cycle of thoughts and attitudes reminds us that choice is always present. There is immense freedom in choice. How we pay attention is a liberating resource.

Emptiness and Impermanence Notes

At 11amSLT I’m hosting a discussion on Emptiness and Impermanence at Sedona’s Playground. Come join us!


Emptiness and Impermanence

This idea of things being empty and impermanent is a very well known Buddhist thought. The basic idea is that everything is ever-changing, and therefore empty. It is considered common knowledge that the Diamond Sutra, one of the main Buddhist texts, deals with impermanence. But, some say this is a misperception. One of the main issues with any Buddhist texts is the fact that they are translated for those of us who don’t speak Sanskrit, Pali, or any of the other ancient languages they were written in (which is most of us). Because of these translations, we have to be careful about the way we interpret the words. We take emptiness and impermanence as meaning that Buddhists don’t believe anything actually exists. But this may not be the case.

Emptiness really means ’empty of inherent existence’. (Sean Robsville) “The teachings on emptiness are concerned with HOW things exist, not IF and WHETHER things exist (UFO’s Unicorns and Yetis) or WHY things exist (because God, The Devil or the Spaghetti Monster made them). … We don’t normally say that an explosion exists or existed (though there’s no logical reason not to say so). And we don’t normally say that the universe occurs. Yet an explosion and the expanding universe are similar entities, just operating on different timescales.” So, it seems that the way we use the terms “exist,” “existence,” and “existed,” are all relative to our notion of time. “So to say that something exists is ultimately an arbitrary statement. All we are saying is that its rate of disintegration is negligible on the timescale of our lifetime. In reality, all functioning phenomena are impermanent – it’s just that some are more impermanent than others.”

Let’s look at an example. Oftentimes you’ll hear people refer to the senses as our way of experiencing the world. What if you take a closer look at your senses? Your ears hear because of the many parts that make them up. But what if you took that ear apart and separated the many pieces? You would no longer be able to hear. Same with your eyes – they only work because of the various parts and the fact that the brain has a way to communicate with these parts. But we see how easy that can break down if one piece of this sense organ doesn’t work, or deteriorates over time. So, everything we experience is based on these very delicate organs, that themselves are reliant on time and consequence.

The Buddha points to a chariot and says, “Where is the essence of the chariot?” Is it in the wheels? The seat? The axle? The cart? No – none of these contain any “essence” of the chariot. And if each of these is broken down into their smaller parts, there is no essence within them either. The chariot, as a whole, is simply a particular arrangement of parts, each of which themselves are also a particular arrangement of smaller parts. The chariot is a thing that exists interdependently

The Buddha teaches that we want things to be permanent, because we love them or desire them to be ours forever. This creates suffering. The whole idea of Buddhism is to recognize that suffering is constant in the world, but to try to leave it behind. So the teachings of emptiness and impermanence seem not to be saying that nothing exists, but that nothing exists permanently, or eternally.

The Sanskrit term for emptiness, “sunyata,” is translated to english as: “Buddhist concept denying the existence of lonely properties, in other words those intrinsic properties of a thing that could survive it having no relations with other things, or being the only thing in its universe.” –

So you can see that the translation to “emptiness” is a lacking one. We just don’t have a better word for it. “Sunyata” could also be taken as meaning that nothing has an independent origin – that “the present state of all things is the result of a previous state.” (

The idea that we see here is that nothing has a permanent essence that allows it to stay constant or exactly how it is forever. Even the universe is in a constant flux – growing, expanding, collapsing. There is nothing we’ve come to know that is permanent, and therefore nothing that has an essence that is eternal.

But Buddha isn’t the only one who has touched on this idea of emptiness and impermanence. Plato also developed a theory, which we call Plato’s Theory of Forms, which actually looks at the other end of the spectrum. In this theory he states that Forms are properties or essences of things that are eternal and changeless. Some examples of this would be beauty, car, notebook, lamp, love, hate, chariot, etc. In other words, Plato is saying that everything is referred by using a general notion(s) or idea(s) that are eternal and changeless. For instance, if I was to say, “Look at this beautiful table.” You know automatically, without further explanation, that I think the table (the object with four legs that acts as a hard surface, usually for eating on) has exceptional qualities that I find attractive. Of course, all this depends on the fact that we speak the same language.

To expand on this, imagine all the tables you’ve ever seen. No matter if they have two legs and are supported by a wall, or three legs and are triangular in shape, or four legs and tall, they are all tables. So the “idea” of table stays the same, regardless of which table you’re speaking of. A box is a box is a box, until you take away the sides and it’s a tray. A human is a human unless you look closer and see two arms, two legs, a torso and a head (which can then break down into smaller, more descriptive characteristics that determine WHO or WHAT a human actually is). So these Forms are in themselves not necessarily ideas, or mental objects, but an essence that is “changeless”.

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” – Jorge Luis Borges

There are a few questions this makes us have to ask. The main question is: where is an objects separate, independent, defining and lasting essence? Can one say that a Form is completely changeless and eternal, or does the Form change as society grasps at better understandings of what things are? And, if things are empty and impermanent, what effect does that have on our consciousness or way of thinking (i.e. happiness, fear of death, our notion of souls, God(s), etc.)?

I open the floor.

Some links for further reading:

Wed Dec 5 at 11amSLT Emptiness and Impermanence

Wednesday Dec 5 at 11amSLT at Sedona’s Playground

I’m back, and I have missed you!
Come join us to talk about Emptiness and Impermanence.

The Buddha: “So, Subhuti, is it possible to speak of A?”
Subhuti: “No, there is no A to speak of. Therefore, we call it A.”

Sounds a bit like Plato’s Theory of Forms, no? 😉

Also, I’ll be hosting a regular weekly event starting Tuesday December 11 at 7pmSLT. Stay tuned for the place and topic!