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Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha.


Nadi literally means 'flow or current'. In the ancient texts it is written that there are seventy two thousand nadis in the psychic body of man. These are visible like currents of light to a person who has developed psychic vision. In recent times the word nadi has been translated as nerve, but actually nadis are not nerves as we known them, for they are composed of astral matter. Like the chakras they are not located in the physical body, though nerves of the physical body can be considered as their corresponding physical manifestations.


Nadis are the subtle channels along which the vital forces of prana flow. Out of the large number of nadis in the psychic body, fourteen are more important, and of these, three are most important. These three are ida, pingala and sushumna.



All the nadis are subordinate to sushumna, even ida and pingala. Sushumna nadi runs within the spinal cord, from mooladhara chakra at the bottom to ajna chakra at the top. It is silvery in colour. Emanating from the left side of mooladhara and passing through each chakra in turn in a curving path, finally ending on the left side of ajna chakra, is ida nadi. It is blue in color. Emanating from the right side of mooladhara and passing in an opposite manner to that of ida, up to the right of ajna, is pingala nadi. Pingala is fiery red in colour. Ida and pingala are the pathways of the two polar opposites of life force flowing within us.


Quality Ida Pingala
Breath Left nostril Right nostril
Temperature Cold Hot
Sex Female Male
Quality Mental Physical
Metal Silver Gold
Colour Blue Red
Energy Negative Positive
Nerves Parasympathetic Sympathetic
River Yamuna Ganges
Planet Moon Sun


Ida is negative, and also called the moon (chandra) nadi, while pingala is positive and called the sun (surya) nadi. These force currents in ida, pingala and sushumna operate alternately and the current that is flowing at any particular time can be determined by noting the flow of breath in the nostrils. It the left nostril has a greater flow of air, then ida nadi is predominant. When the flow is greater in the right nostril, then pingala is predominant. If the flow is equal, then sushumna is ruling.

If you watch your breath you will find that it is usually flowing more in one nostril than the other.

  • When the right nostril is flowing, then vital energy is more active, allowing the individual to do physical work, digest food and so on. The mind is extroverted and the body generates more heat.

  • When the left nostril (ida) is flowing, mental energy is dominant, the mind is introverted, any kind of mental work; thinking concentration, etc., may be undertaken. Ida nadi also flows mainly during sleep.

If pingala flows at night, the person is very restless and finds it difficult to sleep. Likewise, if ida flows at the time of taking food, the digestive process may be inefficient, causing indigestion. All our activities are influenced by the flow of these nadis which alternate approximately every hour.

However, it is possible to alter the flow voluntarily by using willpower and certain yogic techniques, such as padadirasana and pranayama. For example, if there is work to be done but one feels sleepy, it is possible to direct the flow of prana to pingala nadi thereby gaining the necesssary energy.

There is a science known as swara yoga which deals in great detail with the changing flows of the nadis. Also the prime aim of hatha yoga is to bring about a balance of flow between the prana in ida and pingala, (ha = sun, tha = moon). To do this the body is purified by the six techniques known as the shatkarmas. We should have an even balance between these flows, so that we are neither too mentally, nor too physically orientated. In a day the flow of air through the left nostril should predominate for about twelve hours and through the right nostril for the other twelve hours.

When these two nadis are purified and balanced, and the mind controlled, the most important nadi, sushumna, begins to flow. Sushumna must be flowing if there is to be success in meditation. If pingala flows, the body will be restless; if ida flows, the mind will tend to think too much. When sushumna flows, kundalini rises through the chakras.

In human physiology, the two nadis correspond roughly to the two halves of the autonomic nervous system - the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Pingala coincides with the sympathetic nerves, responsible for the stimulation and acceleration of activities concerned with the external environment and the deceleration of the organs which tend to utilize a lot of energy internally. The sympathetic nerves speed up the heart, dilate the blood vessels, increase the respiration rate, and intensify the efficiency of the eyes, ears, etc.

The parasympathetic nerves directly oppose the sympathetic nerves, for they reduce the heartbeat, constrict the blood vessels, and slow the respiration so that the individual becomes introverted. The flow of prana in ida and pingala is completely involuntary and unconscious until yogic practices control it.

The descriptions given in the previous text are according to the traditions of yoga and the experience of present day yogis. It is hoped that the spiritual aspirant may find the information useful on his own path. The primary necessity in this science of kundalini yoga is sensitivity in order to locate these chakras and visualize their symbols on the psychic plane. Concentration is necessary and once the practitioner is able to concentrate on the psychic centres, s/he will find themselves will on the way to spiritual discovery.