The term Nadi is originated from Sanskrit root word “Nada” which means “to flow”. Nadis are the network of channels which facilitate the movement of Prana within it and, so in the different organs of the body. Prana is the vital force or life energy.
The working of Nadis is the same as a tube or pipe through which water flows with ease. Various schools of Yoga include Raja Yoga, Hatha yoga, and Kundalini Yoga aim at the awakening of Kundalini Shakthi through Nadis. The flow of Kundalini shakti is possible only when are these Nadis are purified.
Nadis and Subtle Body
In Yoga, 5 koshas (covering) of the body is studied in 3 deepen levels called Sharira Traya. Behind the Gross body which we mostly aware of, the function of the subtle and astral body takes place.
Nadis are the pathway of ‘Prana’ in the subtle body, in the same way as in the gross body a nerve impulse takes place. Since nerves are the physical structure, in the anatomical study it can be seen but Nadis only can be perceived as energy and consciousness in motion during the deep and higher state of meditation. Different Nadis can be distinguished by light, color, and sound at psychic levels.
In subtle body, Nadis are of two types:
- Pranavaha Nadis – Energy channel which carries Prana (life force). These are the same as acupuncture meridians.
- Manovaha Nadis – Energy channel which carries mental energy (Chitta).
How Many Nadis?
The network of Nadis in our body is so vast and subtle that ancient texts have cited different numbers of Nadis based on their calculations.
According to Shiva Samhitha, our body consists of 350,000 Nadis. Out of these 14 Nadis are important. They are: Sushumna, Ida, Pingala, Gandhari, Hastijihva, Kuhu, Saraswati, Pusha, Shakhini, Payaswini, Varuni, Alambusha, Vishwodari, and Yashaswini
Another text ‘Prapanchasara Tantra‘ says 300,000 numbers of Nadis are present in the human body.
Goraksha Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika explain the total number of Nadis as 72,000 and they arise from Nadi Kanda. Nadi Kanda is the ‘bird egg’ shaped root situated below to umbilicus and above the pubis.
Among 72,000 nadis, 10 Nadis are the most important: Ida, Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari, Hastijihva, Pusha, Yashaswini, Alambusha, Kuhu, Shakhini. These 10 Nadis facilitate the flow of 5 Prana and 5 Upa-prana in our body.
3 Main Nadis: Ida, Pingala & Sushumna
On further classifying Nadis, we come to know 3 main Nadis; Ida (comfort), Pingala (tawny), and Sushumna (most gracious). These 3 main Nadis are termed as Trividha Nadi. Shiva Samhitha states that in between Trividha Nadi, there is a Nadi in a subtler form (Sookshma) called as Chitra Nadi.
Trividha Nadi or 3 main nadis are situated near to the vertebral column, resembling the stalk of lotus facing downwards (Adhomukha Padma).
Ida Nadi is situated towards the left side and Pingala Nadi towards the right side of Sushumna Nadi. Ida and Pingala nadis spiral around the Sushumna Nadi resembling the double helix of human DNA. They cross each other at certain points along the spine, forms Chakras.
The 3 main Nadis meet at Triveni point which is situated at Ajna Chakra, midway between the eyebrows. Later Ida Nadi terminates at left nostrils whereas Pingala Nadi terminates at right nostrils.
1. Ida Nadi
It symbolizes the Planet Moon (Chandra tattva); hence it is also called as Chandra Nadi. Ida Nadi is cool in nature, nourishes the body and mind. It controls all mental processes and energizes the emotions. It is responsible for the feminine, auspicious, and easy smooth activities of our personality.
The functions of Ida Nadi are anabolic in nature and can be co-related with the Parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). It governs inspired or visionary speech. Ida Nadi mainly operates throughout the night-time which results in a slow metabolism and sense of relief in night. However, sometimes the activity of Ida can also relate to tamas qualities.
In our body during the flow of Ida, the breath will be more in the left nostril with the dominance of mental energy. Ida Nadi controls the left side of the body and right hemisphere and back part of the brain.
Symptoms of Blocked Ida Nadi
When there is a disturbance in Ida Nadi then the person will be emotionally affected, lethargic, and suffer from depression. Also, blocked Ida causes:
- Feeling restless in the night
- Improper digestion
- Epilepsy seizure, dementia, and mental health problems
- Mentally, not being able to correct bad habits
2. Pingala Nadi
It symbolizes the Sun (Soorya tattva), hence it is also called as Surya Nadi. In contrast to Ida, Pingala Nadi is warm, active, and stimulating in nature, hence maintains the body temperature.
The functions of Pingala Nadi comprises body growth, catabolic activities, controlling all vital somatic processes, and can be co-related to the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system). It oversees more of the masculine aspects of our personality and represents the Rajas guna.
In our body when the Pingala Nadi flows, the breath will be more in the right nostril, the mind and senses are extroverted with the dominance of physical energy. Pingala Nadi influences the right side of the body, the left hemisphere, and the front part of the brain.
Symptoms of Blocked Pingala Nadi
Disturbances in Pingala Nadi will affect the person by increasing the aggressive behavior, over dominating nature and may spoil the relationship with others. Also, blocked Pingala causes:
- Overeating, increased appetite, and cravings for junk food
- Getting frustrated easily, feeling irritated and, aggressive nature
- Increased levels of testosterone and estrogen – High sexual drive
According to the Shiva Swarodaya text, the active Nadi flows for 60 minutes. Thereafter, Sushumna functions for 1-4 minutes, and then the other Nadi begins to operate.
Comparison between Ida and Pingala Nadi
|Representations/Features||Ida Nadi||Pingala Nadi|
|Breath||Left nostrils||Right nostrils|
Sushumna Nadi is situated at the center of the vertebral column as spinal cord in between Ida and Pingala Nadi. It’s considered to be the most gracious, spiritual, and hidden channel like river Saraswathi originating at the base of the spine (Mooladhara Chakra).
When Kundalini Shakti at Mooladhara Chakra is awakened from the dormant state, it moves through Sushumna Nadi to reach Sahasrara Chakra. It passes through all the 6 Chakras through its path where we find 6 various Shakti like Daakini, Haakini, Kaakini, Laakini, Raakini, and Shaakini. Moreover, Tongue in khechari mudra used to tap the top of Sushumna Nadi to facilitate these Shakti.
In Guna’s perspective, Sushumna Nadi is called trigunamayi as it comprises 3 Gunas qualities, representing the sun, moon, and fire altogether.
The formation of Sushumna Nadi comprises three subtle Nadis (Nadikas) lie one inside other. Sushumna is the outermost, Vajra Nadi is inside of Sushumna, inside Vajra, it contains Chitra or chitrini Nadi and finally, Inside the chitrini, Brahma Nadi lies.
The Alternating Breath
Normally, we believe that a person generally breathes through both the nostrils simultaneously, though it is not so. It can be noticed that most of the time respiration takes place through one nostril for a certain duration, then it is closed and the other nostril opens.
When the left nostril flows, it indicates that the mental energy (Chitta) is predominant, and the Pranic energy is weak. While the right nostril flows, the Pranic forces are stronger and the mental aspect is weak.
- When we inhale and exhale only through the right nostril, it activates Pingala Nadi – Surya Bhedana Pranayama.
- Similarly, when we breathe through left nostril Ida Nadi gets activated – Chandra Bhedana Pranayama.
The awakening of Sushmna can be performed only when the equilibrium of these 2 Nadis are achieved.
Different types of Nadis are dominant in various stages of life, right from birth in all humans. Yoga leads to the union of the individual soul with the universal soul. It can be achieved by harnessing the vital energy present within the body, moving through various channels.
It is necessary to look deeply into oneself into the mysteries of the mind and subtle body to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment. By proper yoga practices under a good teacher, the person can awaken the Sushumna Nadi to maintain health and attain salvation which is the ultimate purpose of Yoga.