Everything we do, all the time, is changing our bodies, our minds, our being. No wonder finding balance can be hard! One approach to working with this onslaught on information is to work with the Nadis in our yoga practice.
The Nadis have 3 principle pathways, which we will be exploring today. But also 14 major branches, 72,000 lesser branches and 350,000 minute channels. Wow! Basically, the Nadis are all the many physical and metaphysical tubes and openings in our bodies. And, we want these nadis to be free-flowing so that Prana can pass with ease. Good energy!
The Sushumna is the central channel and runs from the perineum to the crown of the head through the center of the spinal column. This Nadi connects to the Hara Center. It is said that the Sushumna connects the lesser self to the greater self. That sounds like a great connection to make, doesn’t it? In the average person, Prana/energy will be moving through all the nadis, except this one. Through yoga we attempt to activate this pathway fully – uniting consciousness and nature, lesser self with higher self. Without this, consciousness is externalized and the we are subject to suffering and a reactionary nature. Ew!
As you will see, pranayama is a great way to work on activating the Sushumna. But first, we must spend a little time working on the Ida and Pingala Nadis, as the balance of these two is critical to even being able to access to the Sushumna.
The Pingala Nadi is the solar pathway and ends at the right nostril. It corresponds to the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for rousing the body to action. Pingala activation is associated with building energy and logical thinking. It is also considered the “masculine” nadi.
The Ida Nadi is the lunar pathway and ends at the left nostril. It corresponds to the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system which calms the body. Ida activation is associated with relaxation and creativity. It is also considered the “feminine” nadi.
One of these two nadis is almost always dominate. Just like one of your nostrils is almost always dominant. Check it out now… notice your current state reflects the qualities of one nadi over the other. Then, check which nostril is dominant. See?
A truly telling time to check this is when you can’t sleep. You will notice that the right nostril is dominant. Once the dominance switches, you will be able to sleep again. So cool! But, if you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. Actually, check it out for yourself anyway. Experience is always the best way to learn! Do note that dominance changes regularly and naturally (without manipulation) – for most people, about every hour and a half.
As the Ida and the Pingala wind around the Sushumna on their journey upward in your body, these three Nadis all 3 meet at only 7 points – the 7 chakras.
Balancing the Nadis
If you balance the flow of energy through the Ida and Pingala, you will find more focus in the mind and ease in the body. One simple way to balance this flow of energy is with the Nadi Shodna Pranayama. Breathe this breath until you notice that the flow through the Ida and Pingala are equal and there is no longer a dominant Nadi (or one nostril). This means that the Sushumna Nadi is available for access and you are ready for the Sushumna Pranayama. (This pranayama is an advanced technique best learned with a teacher after you have adequate experience with long pranayama sessions.) The practice of Sushumna pranayama requires very close attention as balance is ever-changing. When we lose that balance, we must revert to Nadi Shodna until it returns. This practice will create focussed awareness and meditative pranayama.
As you practice balancing Ida and Pingala, you will notice that when the flow of prana is focussed through the Sushumna, the Ida and Pingala cease to be so active. As these two nadis cease to compete, you will feel a calm, internalized awareness perfect for deeper meditation sessions. This makes Nadi Shodna a great way to start any meditation practice. Truly, it is a remarkable, and remarkably useful, breath.