The Sanskrit word (yes that again) Nadi derives from 'nad' which means flow, motion or vibration. According to Yogic texts there are 72.000 nadis that channel prana (life force, breath, energy, see previous blog on Prana) to every cell in the body. Some are wide and rushing, some just a mere tickle. When the the flow of energy in the nadis is free, we are vital and healthy. When it becomes weak or congested, that's when we start to struggle with poor mental and physical health. Remember how we use the breath during class to expand and release? We are washing these channels through basically. The practice of Yoga is effective because it strengthens the flow of prana in our body, invigorating the current so that it carries away obstruction that blocks the free flow of energy.
The three main nadis that are particularly important to yogis are the Sushumna (main channel, running from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, passing through each of the 7 Chakras), the Ida and the Pingala. These two spiral around the Sushumna like a double helix of DNA, crossing each other at every Chakra. Eventually all three meet at the 6th Chakra, the 3rd eye centre.
Ida Nadi begins and ends on the left side of Sushumna, at the base of the spine. It is the lunar energy channel, with qualities of cooling, calming, our feminine aspect, our intuition, the parasympathetic nervous system.
Pingala Nadi beings at the right side of Sushumna, at the base of the spine. It is the solar energy channel, with qualities of warming, stimulating our masculine aspect, our rational side, the sympathetic nervous system.
The dominance of these two channels changes throughout the day. Bringing Ida and Pingala into balance is one of the major focuses in Yoga. Hatha Yoga for example means Ha - sun and Tha - moon. The never ending dance of the sun and the moon, light and darkness.
One way to control and balance these nadis is through the nostrils. The right nostril connects to Pingala and the left nostril connects to Ida.
Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana in Sanskrit), what we practise in class, balances the currents and harmonizes the flow of these channels. We can also activate one or the other, depending on the qualities we wish to bring more of into our life by activating the channels separately.
To energize yourself activate the Pingala Nadi, by practicing right nostril breathing. Right nostril breathing is also beneficial when there is a weak digestive fire, poor appetite, obesity, dull sleepy state of mind.
To calm yourself down activate the Ida Nadi, by practicing left nostril breathing. Left nostril breathing is also beneficial when there is too much inflammation in the body, digestive fire is too active, high blood pressure, scattered and anxious state of mind.