In yoga practice, besides the performance of asanas, there is a lot of focus on the breath (prana). Managing and balancing the prana makes all the difference between having a ho-hum yoga experience or having a great one.
To reach the higher levels of performance and consciousness the breath management plays a big part and it helps to be mindful of the prana channels called Nadis.
The nadis transport the prana all through the body and help deliver us to a place of balance, health and also tranquility when we are mindful of the prana and practice good breathing habits.
Learning the Nadis
The Nadis are actually energy channels through which prana streams. They transmit divine energy, life and consciousness, distributing this life force throughout the whole body.
They range from gross to subtle and make up a subtle and perfect network, with 72,000 nadis in total. Since the nadis distribute the prana they really help make the difference between us being healthy and balanced or leaning toward un-balance with clogged energy and possible health issues.
In yoga, asanas, breathing exercises (pranayama) and chanting are among the tools used to help circulate the prana through the nadis and deliver us to balance, equanimity and a whole yoga practice.
When the nadis are functioning correctly then we feel good and are healthy, with fresh vitality and vigor and feeling ready for the coming situations.
But most of us have some physical or psychic problem or difficulty which means that some of the nadis might not be working properly and need to be balanced.
Balancing the Nadis
In the world all living things function thanks to this life energy called prana. Since this prana depends on the subtle pathways known as nadis, it can only circulate when the nadis are clear and strong. If the nadi system is blocked, prana won’t flow good, and this affects a person’s physical and mental health, making them negatively affected.
For balancing the nadis the best approach is to practice good health habits which includes proper diet, avoiding extremes, regular exercise and doing breathing exercises.
Balancing the Nadis with Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga is the oldest school of yoga and is known as the physical yoga. The word hatha literally means “force” and it alludes to a system of physical techniques.
Hatha yoga holds each pose through several breaths and puts a lot of focus on breathing and prana management.
In practicing good breathing you want to find a steadiness, resonance, and depth to it. This is usually done by closing your eyes and observing your breath in its natural state.
By observing the breath we come into the present moment and that offers us an awareness that benefits us and we want to carry into our practice and our daily lives.
Some popular methods of pranayama breathing are:
- Long Deep Breathing
- Sitali Pranayam
- Ujjayi breathing (Victorious breath)
- Kapalabhati Breath
By managing the breath and regulating it we bring balance to our entire system and that is the best way to balance the nadis. When we practice this even-ness we keep them clean and it encourages healthy prana flow.
Another helpful technique for balancing the nadis is to drink a lot of water, which helps to cleanse them and also to calm the mind. These techniques can also help to lessen anxiety and sleeplessness plus relieve tension and relax.
The 3 Main Nadis
On the physical level the nadis are like the nervous system, how they reach out to all the places in the body. But they differ because their influence extends further to the astral and spiritual planes of our existence.
There are three principal nadis which weave through the spinal cord and are the main centers of the prana energy. These nadis spiral up the spinal column, crossing each other at the intense energy centers known as chakras.
The three main nadis are:
Ida nadi – This nadi is Called the left channel, it begins and ends on the left side of sushumna. It starts in the muladhara (root) chakra and flows to the left, weaving in and out of the chakras before ending in the left nostril.
This nadi represents mental energy, being cool and nurturing by nature. It controls the more feminine aspects of our personality so it is considered as the Lunar nadi.
Pingala nadi – Pingala nadi is called the right channel, and it also starts in the root chakra, beginning and ending to the right of sushumna. It flows to the right, weaving in and out of the chakras just like the ida nadi and ends in the right nostril.
This nadi oversees the more masculine aspects of our personality, it is warm and stimulating by nature. Pingala nadi is the origin of prana.
The interaction between ida and pingala nadis is like the internal dance between the right and left brain hemispheres.
Sushumna nadi – This nadi is the central channel, running straight up the spine and through the chakras, from just below the root chakra to the sahasrara (crown) chakra at the top of the head. It is the main nadi and is the nadi of spiritual awareness.
Balancing Ida & Pingala Nadis
For each person one of these two nadis (ida or pingala) is usually dominant and can be detected as the primary presence in your breathing. We see this result in personality, behavior, and health issues that can be called ida-like or pingala-like.
The balancing of these two nadis is a major focus of hatha yoga. We want to keep these in a state of equilibrium and that is reflected in the name hatha:
- Ha is the sun and represents the solar qualities as the vital force of pingala
- Tha is the moon and represents the mind and the lunar qualities of ida.
Balancing sun and moon, or ida and pingala, facilitates the awakening of our consciousness and has many menefits including good health. Also the balancing of these two improves the functioning of sushumna madi.
The most powerful method for balancing ida and pingala is a breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana (alternate-nostril breathing). This method is particularly effective because the ida nadi is connected to the left nostril, and the pingala nadi to the right. Nadi Shodhana literally translates from Sanskrit as “nadi cleansing”.
Just a few rounds of Nadi Shodhana at the end of your asana practice are a good way to boost your equilibrium by balancing the two nadis and help regulate any imbalance you may have experienced during your practice.
Practicing Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Start out by sitting in a comfortable seated position, or in a chair if that is too hard for you. The basic idea of this pranayama technique is to alternate the breathing between the right and left nostrils, one at a time.
So using your right hand, place the thumb pad on the right nostril and inhale with the left nostril. Then exhale from the left nostril and close the left nostril with your ring finger of the right hand.
With the right nostril open, breath in through the right nostril, hold it, then exhale through the same right nostril. Close the right nostril and open the left nostril.
This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana. Repeat this five or ten times to start with, and extend it after you get used to it. Always take care not to overdo it.
Continued Nadi Focus
If you want you can practice balancing the nadis while doing yoga asanas. Before you practice you can take some deep breaths, usually through the nose, and see which nadi dominates.
If the left channel dominates then that is ida nadi, the more feminine, and you can practice with these traits in mind.
If the right channel dominates then that is pingala nadi, which is more masculine, and so you might be geared up for some more active poses.
Even when you are practicing you can pause in between poses and check out the state of your nadis (ie which nadi dominates). The nadis have a direct effect on your state of mind and so you can see, by which nadi is dominant, how your mind is feeling and if you see any corresponding relationship.
All in all it is good for you to keep in touch and check on your prana-mind relationship. It is definitely healthy and helps to raise your awareness.
The 4 Bandhas
Doing pranayama breath practice is positive for the body-mind and helps very much to cleanse and strengthen the prana and nadis. Some yogis like to take it a step further and ‘super charge’ the prana energy by doing the 4 bandhas (locks) which can be done one at a time or even all three together, which is Maha Bandha (the Great lock).
The 4 Bandhas are:
- Mula Bandha (Root Lock)
- Uddiyana Bandha (Stomach Lock)
- Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock)
- Maha Bandha (The Great Lock)
The prana is a main concern for yogis and being aware of the nadis is a great step towards having a full and rewarding yoga experience. We see the relationship between the prana management and healthy body and mind so it only makes sense to do pranayama techniques and balance the nadis regularly.
Clean healthy prana and nadis are to our best interest and offer us not only good health and vitality but is a gateway to higher awareness and consciousness.
We have outlined good prana and nadi cleaning techniques so all you need to get in better shape is to put them to work. Being fit and tuned breathwise is truly like a ticket to ‘pie in the sky’.
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Cover image credit: By Oct11988duh