Yoga suggests that we are wired with a vast network of subtle channels – Nadi – through which energy can potentially flow. All Nadi originate in one point – somewhere around the base of the spine. Teachings (for example: Prasna Upanishad 3.6) say that there are over 72,000 channels, 3 of which are endeared by popular knowledge resources & modern teaching.
Before touching on the famous spiritual 3 I think it can be useful to notice a few more that are directly related to everyday life. These are Nadi that relate to sensing the world:
- 2 nostrils (smell)
- 2 ears (sound)
- 2 eyes (sight)
- 1 skin (touch)
- 1 tongue (taste)
- 2 genitalia (procreation and defecation).
- 1 umbilical cord
I particularly like that last one – the umbilical cord. Two things come to my mind: (1) the significance of the umbilical cord as both a source nourishment in the womb and the first thing to die when babies are physically separated from mothers at birth; (2) a recurrent theme in Carlos Castaneda’s books about the umbilical region in relation to both seeing as an evolved means of perception and as the source of will – a power that is used to act on the world.
Now for the famous Nadi. There are three major Nadi which are at the heart of the Yogic energy system. They can be a source of knowledge and inspiration, and like all things in the hands of man, can be a source of much misapprehension ( and deception). This is what I was taught:
There are two Nadi that are associated with female (moon) and male (sun) qualities. The feminine Nadi is called Ida and the male Nadi is called Pingala. Some resources describe them as placed alongside the two sides of the spinal cord. Some resources suggest that they cross over at one point. there is agreement that Ida is related with the left nostril and Pingala with the right. I was taught that they cross over numerous times in a spiraling pattern (the signficance of this will be covered later in this series).
The 3rd and most popular of the three Nadi is Sushumna. It runs up the spinal cord. It is blocked (more on that later in the series). A popular goal of Yoga practice is to unblock the Sushumna so that the energies of Ida & Pingala can mix and merge and … it hasn’t happened for me so I don’t know what happens (for an account of what may happen you may want to read this: Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man) . However this does represent for me a core inspiration and idea in Yoga – integration. Mind tends to separate things in it’s attempt to make sense of them. Yoga has taught me that when integration replaces separation there is clear perception. The idea of mixing two raw forces of nature of opposite qualities – this I like very much.
Of course you are required to find your own context and inspiration in these teachings.
If you want more details on the Nadi mentioned in this post – you may want to look here.