Three Nadis | Ida, Pingala & Sushumna

Author: Jessica Tracy

Three Main Nadis - Ida Pingala Sushumna

Whenever you feel a particular type of emotion, say happiness, often, you may be able to associate that feeling with a rush of energy. Similar energy rushes may happen when you are actively involved in a particular task or doing something creative. Have you ever wondered how this energy rush occurs?

From the physical perspective, this energy flow can be credited to the presence of our central nervous system. The nervous system has two forms that govern our bodies, namely, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. While the sympathetic nervous system deals with the actions and immediate reactions, the parasympathetic nervous system is all about rest and nourishment.

But this is all on the physical level. There is also another form of energy flow that happens on the astral level, or at the subtle metaphysical level that cannot be seen but exists within our beings. This energy flow takes place through a vast network of channels or pathways, called Nadis.

So, what exactly are Nadis, and how does the energy flow through them? Is there a way to make these Nadis more vigorous? If such questions are going through your mind, it is time to sit back and read through this post to understand the key aspects of Nadis. 

What Are Nadis?

In Sanskrit, Nadis meaning originates from the word "nad", which means flow, usually of water, which is unrestricted and provides nourishment wherever it goes. Within our subtle beings, nadis are referred to as channels or pathways through which the energy from the chakras (energy vortexes) flows unrelentingly, feeding every minute portion of our being as it moves. Nadis and chakras thus combine to transmit life energy, or prana, through which all our physical, emotional, and spiritual actions and reactions are manifested. 

The Three Main Nadis

Now, you are probably thinking, if Nadis are pathways of energy, there must be thousands of them running all over our body. And you are right. In some yogic scriptures, it is mentioned that there are at least 72,000 Nadis in each human being.

Some scriptures even go on to suggest that there are more, with numbers as high as 350,000. Of all these Nadis, there are three most important ones that we are going to talk about here.

The three main Nadis are Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna, and they are all connected to the seven core chakras that run down our spine. Yes, it is surprising how the connection of Nadis with the central nervous system pops up every time.

Coming back to the three Nadis, while Ida originates on our left side, Pingala begins its journey on the right, and Sushumna flows centrally. The three Nadis meet at the Ajna Chakra (between the eyebrows) and continue to flow through the rest of the body.

Let us now dive deeper and see how these three Nadis function and how prana and Nadis keep on nourishing our beings, one through the other, so that we remain healthy and balanced. 

Nadis and Chakras Chart - Ida Pingala Sushumna

Ida Nadi

The Ida Nadi is responsible for all your emotional responses. Remember how we talked about the parasympathetic nervous system? Well, think of the Ida Nadi as the corresponding channel to the parasympathetic nervous system, except, instead of being physically present in the body, this Nadi is more symbolical, and is present within our subtle beings.

Ida reflects the characteristics of the moon and hence, controls the subconscious aspects of our mind. Think of feelings such as happiness, sorrow, desire, etc. These are the feelings associated with the Ida Nadi. If this particular Nadi is weak, the energy that flows through it turns negative, which gives rise to evil emotions, such as irrational desire, addictions, lethargy, fear, and so on.

Pingala Nadi

Let us now see how the Pingala Nadi flows. If the Ida Nadi bears the characteristics of the moon, then the Pingala Nadi is the extreme opposite of it. Yes, you guessed it right. The Pingala Nadi derives its nature from the sun. And as we are talking about opposites, I think it is easy to correlate the Pingala Nadi with our sympathetic nervous system.

The Pingala Nadi, thus, carries all the energy that is required for any activity, be it mental or physical. If your Pingala Nadi is strong, you would be known as an active person, more often with a creative bent of mind. However, if the Pingala Nadi is allowed to continue to grow in strength, neglecting the Ida Nadi, you are likely to turn into an ego-centric, selfish person, with no feelings or compassion.

Sushumna Nadi

So, how does our system create a balance between the Ida and the Pingala Nadis? That is the task of the third and the most crucial Nadi, which is the Sushumna Nadi. In the physical world, the Sushumna Nadi may be thought to correspond to the spine. In the system of chakras, this Nadi runs through the middle of the seven chakras, with Kundalini at the base.

The Sushumna Nadi is all about awareness, righteousness, faith, and revelation. This channel is pure and forms the pathway to the realization of the inner consciousness. With meditation, it is possible to achieve the perfect balance of the Ida and Pingala Nadis by focusing on the Sushumna Nadi.

It is also possible to further benefit from the characteristics of this Nadi by awakening Kundalini, which is the dormant serpent power every one of us possesses. Kundalini, when awake, moves upward through the Sushumna Nadi and spreads throughout our beings through the Ida and Pingala Nadis, and that is when the mind, the body, and the soul are completely nourished with prana. In short, this is when you achieve oneness with divine energy.

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How to Activate Your Nadis?

Alright, so it is great that we have these three Nadis that need to be balanced to achieve calmness of mind and strength of character. But the big question is, how? As usual, age-old Yoga techniques have the answer. There is no one way to do this, but it boils down to how well you can channelize the energy flowing through the Nadis. Let us look at a few of the well-known methods.

Nadi Shodana

Alternate nostril breathing, also known as nadi shodana, is a purifying breathing technique used to release trapped energy channels in your body and calm the mind. It is probably the most effective method of activating all of your nadis. Nadi shodana will fill your body with oxygen and allow you to experience a gentle, cooling sensation throughout your body.

Here’s how to do alternate nostril breathing:

  1. Sit down with your back straight.
  2. Take your index finger and middle finger of your right hand and fold it towards your palm.
  3. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril and slowly inhale through the left nostril.
  4. Pause after the inhale and seal the left nostril with your ring finger.
  5. Slowly exhale through the right nostril.
  6. Keep your ring finger in the same place and inhale through the right side.
  7. Seal the right nostril with a thumb and exhale through the left.
  8. Keep your thumb in the same place and inhale through the left nostril.

Nadi Shodana - Alternate Nostril Breathing

If you find it confusing, keep in mind that each time you inhale, you're sealing and alternating to the next nostril.

Asanas and Bandhas

Some Yoga postures, such as the seating-forward-bend, help balance the sympathetic nervous system by keeping the sympathetic cord healthy. They further cleanse the breath that flows through the Sushumna Nadi.

Bandhas, on the other hand, are practiced through pranayamas where the focus is on the retention of breath. One such bandha is the abdominal energy lock, during which prana can flow freely through the Sushumna Nadi.

Yogic Kriyas

If you have been to any Yoga class, you probably already are aware that Yoga is not just about exercising your body. Some techniques in this century-old philosophy help you cleanse different portions of your body. These techniques are called Kriyas. Some of these Kriyas can be used to decongest the pathways in our body and let the vital life-force flow freely through the three main Nadis.

Aromatherapy

In Ayurveda, certain essential and medicated oils can be used to purify the nostrils. The decongestion of the nasal pathway is one of the proven ways to clear the central energy channel, which is the Sushumna Nadi.

The process allows the pathway to carry prana to each cell in the body without any obstacle. This process, however, is not linked with Yoga practices and must be performed only after consulting Ayurveda practitioners. 

Takeaway

The vital life-force that flows through our beings has the specific pathways, the Nadis, to thank. Without the Nadis, the energy would be lost somewhere, and our beings would never receive the desired nourishment. Hence, it is vital to cleanse these pathways regularly so that the energy flow is never interrupted.

Through Yoga postures and other methods, it is possible to create a harmony between the three principal Nadis, a balance that helps us to better understand our subconscious mind and connect with the prana that flows through the universe.

In short, an equilibrium in the Nadis creates a stable character and allows us to get rid of negative thoughts and activities, thus resorting to our calmer selves.

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