Authors: Dr. Sunil Kumar Yadav, Dr. Anita
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The word Nadi means \'flow\'. In this sense, Nadis are subtle flows of energy. Nadis are not to be confused with nerves, which are related to the physical body; rather than energy body. The network of Nadis is so subtle and complex that yogic texts differ in their exact number. According to Goraksha Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika Nadi are 72,000; Prapanchasara Tantra gives the number of 300,000; while the Shiva Samhita states that 350,000 Nadis emerge from the navel centre. The body of energy has its own anatomy, based on seven major energy vortices called Chakras. The word Chakra means circle, wheel or disk. The Chakra line up along a central energy channel or Nadi, which runs from the base of the spine to the the top of the head. It is called the Sushumna. The life force\'s main pathway through the energy body is called Sushumna (Kundalini). Primary there is central Sushumna and two others on either side. The left-side channel is the Ida. Its qualities are cool, soft, reflective, sensitive and like the moon. The Pingala or right-side channel is associated with heat, activity, and strength and much like the sun. The balance of energy flow on these two sides, affects the sensations of heat and cold in the physical body. These two channels originate in Sushumna, near the base of the spine (bulb or Kanda), and correspond to the first Chakra, Muladhara. At each of upper Chakras, as they crisscross & ascend the Sushumna. According to Gherand Samhita, “When the Nadis are full of impurities, Vayu does not enter them.” The signs of free from impurities are lean body, glowing colour, eyes are clear, body is healthy, Bindu under control, and appetite increases.
Out of thousands of Nadis, it includes all the major and minor flows, seventy-two are considered important. Out of these seventy-two, ten are considered to be major. Among the ten major Pranic flows, three are most significant: Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. These three major Nadis are situated in the spinal column and pass through every Chakra. According to Hatha yoga, negative force represents Ida nadi, the flow of consciousness, positive force represents Pingala, the flow of vital energy, and neutral force represents Sushumna nadi, the flow of spiritual energy. The union, the connection between these three flows occurs in Ajna chakra (the eyebrow center)
Mental channel is Ida Nadi, vital channel is Pingala nadi and spiritual channel is Sushumna nadi. Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are the three main channels for the distribution of energy throughout the entire Pranic network. After Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, the seven lesser major Nadis include: Gandhari, Hastijihva, Yashaswini, Pusha, Alambusha, Kuhu and Shankhini. There are 19 major Nadis mentioned in several scriptures, among them Jihva, Koorma, Payaswini, Saraswati, Saumya, Shura, Varuni, Vilambha, and Vishwodari.
The three paths are Ganga (Ida), Yamuna (Pingala) and Saraswati (Sushumna) after the three most important rivers in India, the last being an underground flow. In the Pranic body, they converge at Ajna chakra. Pingala is also known as the Surya or solar Nadi, and Ida known as the Chandra or lunar Nadi. Ida and Pingala indicate time, while Sushumna is the devourer of time, since it leads to timelessness or eternity. Sushumna nadi, the hidden channel conducting spiritual energy.
Shatchakra Nirupana refers that, “In the space inside the Meru, The two Siras, Shashi (Ida) and Mihira(Pingala), are positioned on the left and right. The Nadi Sushumna, whose substance is the threefold Gunas, is in the middle. Ida, Pingala & Sushumna is in the form of the sun, moon and fire. From the centre of the Kanda (Mooladhara) to the head, the body's "string of flowering datura flowers" (the Chakras) expands, and the Vajra within her extends, shining from the Medhra (male sex organ) to the head. Chitrini, who shines with the radiance of Prana and is reachable by yogis, resides inside Sushumna. As subtle as a spider's thread, Chitrini is pure intellect and can penetrate all of the lotuses (Chakras) located inside the Sushumna. Inside of her is the Brahma nadi, which extends from the opening of Hara's mouth (Mooladhara) to the region beyond, where Adideva is (Sahasrara).
Sushumna is extremely subtle, the awakening of pure knowledge, the embodiment of all bliss, whose true nature is pure consciousness. The Brahmadwara shines in her mouth. After Sushumna, the next two major Nadis are Ida and Pingala. Thereafter Gandhari, Hastijihva, Poosha, Yashaswini, Alambusha, Kuhu and Shankhini.
When union between Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, takes place there is an instant awakening in Mooladhara chakra at base of the spine. This is the seat of primal energy or Kundalini shakti. In order to distribute energy, or Shakti to the 72,000 circuits, the Chakras must first be awakened. If the Chakras are not operating properly, there is an obstruction preventing energy from passing through.
The two Nadis, Ida and Pingala and the nervous system, drawns the awareness from one extreme to the other, binding us to the duality because of the interconnection and interrelationship with the external force of the sun and moon. The entire biological system is programmed to the movements of the sun and moon cycles. However, a Yogi can develop control of the autonomic nervous system so that the body and mind are not swayed to the extremes. It means developing the voluntary and central nervous systems, activating Sushumna nadi and Ajna chakra.
The period of time when day meets night is known as Sandhya. It can be seen as an external event but it is an internal event. It represents the period of Sushumna. In Shiva swarodaya, it is said that, "Sandhya is not the external Sandhya when day meets night, it is that period when the two opposite Pranas meet. When the two Pranas flow through Sushumna then time and space are not separate identities in the mind & there is no difference or extremity.
II. LOCATION OF NADIS
Ida and Pingala, alternately flow around the spinal canal from left to right, while Sushumna travels straight up through the middle. Ida emerges from the left of Mooladhara, Pingala from the right, and Sushumna flows straight up through the middle. From Mooladhara chakra, Pingala curves to the right, crosses Swadhisthana, then turns to the left to Manipura, then to the right to Anahata, left to Vishuddhi, right to Ajna at the top of the spine, and finally straight to Sahasrara. Ida travels a similar route, but on the other side.
As Pingala crosses to the right, Ida crosses to the left and so on . Ida and Pingala cross over at each Chakra, their energy currents branch off via the network of Nadis to all respective organs and parts of the body.
Pingala is the solar force and stands for the positive polarity. Physical vitality, dynamic activity and tension are qualities of Pingala nadi. It is hot in nature and corresponds to the Sympathetic nervous system. Ida represents the negative polarity and is the lunar force. It is cold in nature and corresponds to the Parasympathetic nervous system. Qualities of Ida are Relaxation, passivity and sedentary activity. The two mantras comprising the word 'Hatha' correspond to the Ida and Pingala nadis. Ham relates to Pingala nadi and Tham or Ksham to Ida nadi. This symbology is also seen on the two petals of Ajna chakra.
Pingala, the extrovert force, typically rules during the day, especially during periods of mental and physical effort and during activities requiring attention from others. Ida also flows at such times, but it is subordinate to the Pingala flow. Ida typically dominates at night to balance out Pingala's dominance during the day in order to keep the system in balance. Ida, the introverting force, is active while relaxing, reading, thinking, viewing television or sleeping.
The mental energy travels along Ida nadi while Pranic energy carried by Pingala nadi,. The positive and negative effects of these energies have been equated to the Parasympathetic nervous system and Sympathetic nervous system.
Negative charge is Ida, positive charge is Pingala, and Sushumna is the neutral. The third Sushumna channel becomes active when the opposing powers of Ida and Pingala are in balance. An additional force emerges when the body and mind are in harmony. This force is called Sushumna, the spiritual energy. Here north pole being Ajna and the south pole Mooladhara.
Sushumna is the pathway through which Kundalini rises, and thus forms the basis for awakening of higher knowledge. Three subtler Nadis make up Sushumna's inner structure and become active when Sushumna is awakened. Vajra nadi, the most subtle flow, is located inside Sushumna, followed by Chitra or Chitrini nadi and Brahma nadi in the centre. Brahma nadi is so called because the higher centres of consciousness are directly activated via this channel. Transcendental experiences happen when this channel is used by the Kundalini shakti.
A. Awakening Of Prana
When the Nadis flow regularly, rhythmically, and continuously and there are no obstructions or physiological discomforts experienced during breathing, Prana is awakened. This stage is known as Pranotthana, awakening of the Pranas, more specifically of Ida and Pingala.
When the awakening of Ida and Pingala occurs, Sushumna awakens. Pranayama actually begins with the awakening of Sushumna, because then the Pranic field expands. Awakening of Pranic energy denotes the development of the Pranamaya kosha, which enables one to settle into and stay in the higher meditative states.
III. PHYSIOLOGY OF NADIS
A. Link With Flow Of Nostrils
Dominance of the Ida and Pingala is correlated with nasal breathing. One nostril will often be more open than the other if the breath flow is checked at any given time. If Ida is dominant, the left nostril will have a stronger breath flow; if Pingala is dominant, the right nostril will have a stronger breath flow. One will note that the left nostril is flowing when they are sleepy or drowsy. The right nostril starts to flow more frequently when one is physically active.
B. Link with Right & Left Brain
The actions of Ida and Pingala are also correlated with certain brain functions. Right and left hemispheres make up the symmetrical cerebrum. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, while the right hemisphere controls the left side. Pingala is connected to the left hemisphere, while Ida is connected to the right. Information is processed in a generalised and holistic way by the right hemisphere. Ida regulates spatial orientation and has a keen awareness of experiences that are imperceptible to the senses outside of the vibrational realm of existence. As a result, it stimulates mental, psychic, and extrasensory perception as well as the creative, artistic, and musical abilities. Conversely, the left hemisphere which relates to Pingala processes information in a sequential, linear and logical manner, and is responsible for rational, analytical and mathematical ability.
C. Link With Koshas
The Ida force is the subtle energy that controls the Manomaya and Vijnanamaya koshas, whereas Pingala controls the Annamaya and Anandamaya koshas. In Pranamaya kosha, the Ida and Pingala forces reach out in both directions.
Manomaya kosha, or the mental dimension, is where thoughts and mental experiences stay until they become physical. This is referred to as Ida activity.
The power of Ida gives shape and purpose to desires, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Ida, the mental power, also has an aspect known as Vijnanamaya kosha, which is the body of psychic and intuitive knowledge that one acquires via Sadhana. Ida affects the development of extrasensory abilities like telepathy, clairvoyance, and clairaudience. Annamaya kosha experiences the range of Pingala, the vital power, as physical vigour. The consciousness in Anandamaya kosha is the outcome of an awakened Pingala, which endures even in the deepest stage of meditation after all Samskaras and Karmas have been destroyed. The awareness in Samadhi is Pingala energy; this is the subdest aspect of Prana.
At each node of Ida and Pingala there is a concentration of energy, which forms pulsating patterns in the horizontal plane. The Chakras are these nodes; they are force fields that expands and contract in response to mental and physical activity. Sushumna transmits a higher type of cosmic energy as opposed to Ida and Pingala, who transmit mental and bodily energy. The Pranic and mental energies are finite, whereas the energy of Sushumna is infinite.
The breath flows simultaneously through both nostrils when Sushumna becomes active. When the breath dominance switches from one nostril to the other, which typically occurs every 90 minutes, this often only lasts for a few minutes. When Sushumna flows, the whole brain operates, but only half of the brain is active during the flow of Ida or Pingala. During Sushumna, the bodily and mental organs, or Karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas, both work simultaneously and one becomes extremely powerful. Feelings of equanimity and steadiness arise, because Sushumna conducts Mahaprana, the Kundalini energy.
The flow of Sushumna is considered to be the most favourable for any type of Sadhana. It indicates the balance and fusion of the opposite principles of Ida and Pingala.
The purification of the Nadis, which enables the Pranas to awaken. Tamas and Rajas exist in the form of blockages in the Nadis. These blockages may be caused by disease, tension, accumulation of impurities, negative thoughts or Samskaras, mental patterns lodged in the subconscious and unconscious mind. Just as the Nadis are not physical but Pranic entities, the blockages too are Pranic and may be experienced, but not quantified. For example, will create a block in the Manipura/Anahata region and the network of Nadis there. A tendency to hold back will create a block in the Anahata/Vishuddhi region. These blockages in the Nadis often manifest as disease in the Annamaya kosha
Depending on the type of thought or Vritti, the corresponding Nadis, Chakras and Doshas are also impacted, which causes a spiralling effect throughout the energy network. Kundalini or spiritual energy can awaken and ascend through the intermediate passage the Sushumna nadi, if these two distinct flowing energies, Prana and Chitta can be united. The three Nadis – Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, terminate in Ajna chakra, the psychic center which is situated in the region of the medulla oblongata and the pineal gland. Through the practice of yoga, Ida and Pingala are equalized, Sushumna is activated and Ajna chakra is awakened.
IV. PSYCHIC CENTRES
The key to awareness of Prana is the psychic centres or Chakras, vortices of subtle Prana located at specific points along the Sushumna passage. According to the science of Prana, Prana is generated at Mooladhara, it is stored in Manipura, purified at Vishuddhi and distributed from Ajna. These are the four Chakras used in the practice of Prana vidya. With the techniques of Prana vidya, the Chakras can be awakened quickly. It will not just happen spontaneously; one needs to stimulate, influence and control Prana.
A. IDA NADI
Ida is passive, female principle. It is connected to left nostril and right brain hemisphere. Ida and right hemisphere activate an introverted state of awareness, orientation in space, artistic, creative and musical ability. If Ida is used, mental force become dominant and cause loss of Pranic vitality. It is believed that inhaling through left nostril causes cold i.e Chandra nadi, moon standing as symbol of cold. Ida nadi control subconscious activities.
B. Pingala NADI
Pingala is dynamic, male principle. It is connected to right nostril and left brain hemisphere. Pingala and left hemisphere externalise the awareness. In this approach become logical, sequential, mathematical and analytical. It is believed that inhaling through right nostril causes heat i.e Surya nadi, Surya means symbol of heat. It is responsible for conscious and dynamic function.
C. Sushumna NADI
The most powerful psychic passage is the Sushumna nadi, which rises straight up through the centre of the spinal column. This is the path through which the awakened Kundalini travels from Muladhara to Sahasrara. When Ida and Pingala forces are balanced and operating simultaneously, then both nostrils are active. This indicates that Sushumna nadi is functioning. Usually this occurs for one to four minutes between each ninety minute cycle. When both nostrils operate simultaneously the energy is being transferred from one hemisphere to the other. It passes through a thin sheet of membrane between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. At this time whole brain can function and receive perception. By strengthening the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems, Ida and Pingala nadis are directly affected, and by developing the central nervous system, Sushumna is activated.
D. IDA, Pingala & Sushumna
In the Pranic body, Prana flows through Nadis as energy channels and is stored in Chakras. Pranic body is is the intermediate link between the physical body and the mind. Ajna chakra is the meeting place of Ida, Pingala and Sushumna nadis, from where they proceed as one flow of consciousness. After Ajna there is no difference between Prana and consciousness; there is just cosmic awareness, moving upward.
Ida and Pingala start at the two nostrils and go down to the lower end of the spinal column, crossing one another and entwining the backbone. They are supposed to be related to the activities of the lunar and solar forces in the body. The antagonistic principle of devouring solar heat is supposed to be situated at the bottom of the body. From there force circulates upwards through the organism by way of the Pingala channel on the right side of the body. Both the Nadis, Ida and Pingala have no outlet in the region of the chest or elsewhere. Their opening at the lower end lies where they meet, and enter the Sushumna.
In the process of awakening Kundalini, the Sadhaka has not only to clear the energy channels (Nadis), but also increase the quantity and quality of Prana and store it. Prana is accumulated in six main Chakras along the spinal column. Prana shakti and Manas shakti collect in the Chakras and form swirling masses of energy. Each Chakra is a conjunction point for many Nadis.
When the mind is Sattwic, the inner awareness grows quickly and Prana accumulates. When Sushumna awakens, this represents Sattwa, when Pingala functions it represents Rajas and when Ida functions, Tamas. When the Prana flows in the Sushumna this state of Manonmani (consciousness devoid of mind) is established. When the breath is flowing naturally through both nostrils, it means Sushumna is active. We do not always breathe through both nostrils, usually one nostril is open and the other is partially or fully closed. When the breath is flowing through the left nostril it indicates that Ida and the right brain hemisphere are active. When the right nostril is flowing it means Pingala and the left brain hemisphere are active. The right hemisphere, corresponding to the parasympathetic nervous system, is responsible for the spatial, artistic, holistic, intuitive and psychic side of perception, which are Ida nadi functions. The left hemisphere is responsible for the logical, rational and analytical faculties and sequential and linear modes of thought, which are Pingala nadi functions. The left side of the brain, corresponding to the sympathetic nervous system, has centres for verbal communication: hearing, reading, talking and writing. Ida nadi channelizes the force of will and desire or Ichchha shakti; Pingala nadi distributes the force to act or Kriya shakti. If these two ‘lines’ are operating then individual body and mind is sustained. If they are disconnected there is no consciousness and activity, as occurs in deep sleep. If they are ‘plugged’ into Sushumna, consciousness and activity do take place, but it is no longer confined within the limitations of the individual body and mind. That is the experience of Moksha. The left lobe has the male qualities of competitiveness, selfishness, aggression; while the right cerebral lobe is endowed with the feminine qualities of love, compassion and nurturing. By balancing Ida and Pingala nadi, the personality of Ardhanarishwara is created in which the male and female qualities are balanced. The external sun and moon divide each twenty-four hours into night and day, and the internal sun and moon, i.e. Ida and Pingala, are responsible for our perception of night and day, that is duality. Ida nadi predominates at night, the parasympathetic nervous system is active, there is a greater release of melatonin hormone within the brain and the subconscious mind is active. During the daylight hours Pingala predominates, the sympathetic nervous system is more active and serotonin hormone is released within the brain which brings conscious functions to the fore and subconscious mind submerges.
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