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.” -http://www.adishakti.org/subtle_system/nadis.htm
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
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