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Understanding Ida, Pingla & Sushumna Nadis

In order to understand Ida and Pingla, we need to first know what ‘nadi’ means. The word ‘nadi’ literally means ‘flow’ or ‘current’ and according to ancient texts, there are 72,000 nadis in our psychic body.

In current context, the word ‘nadi’ has been loosely translated as ‘nerve’ but they are actually composed of astral matter. Like the chakras, they’re not part of the physical body even though they correspond with the nerves.

Nadis are subtle channels through which pranic forces flow. In the psychic body, there are ten major nadis. Of these, 3 nadis are the most significant – Ida, Pingla and Sushumna.

Ida emanates from the left side of the ‘mooladhara‘ chakra and spirals up the spinal cord, passing through each chakra in turn, forming a criss-cross pathway that terminates at the left side of the ajna chakra.

Pingla nadi emanates from the right side of mooladhara and passes in an opposite manner to that of the Ida, terminating at the right side of the ajna chakra.

Ida and Pingla represent the two opposite forces flowing within us. Ida is passive, introvert and feminine, also known as the chandra or moon nadi. Pingla, on the other hand, is active, extrovert and masculine and is called the surya or sun nadi.

When the left nostril has a greater flow of air, then the Ida nadi is predominant and the mental energy is dominant. The mind is introverted and is a good time to undertake any kind of mental work. During sleep, the Ida nadi flows.

If the flow is greater in the right nostril, then the Pingla is predominant and there is more vital energy for physical work, digestion of food, etc. The mind is extroverted and the body generates more heat. If the Pingla flows at night, sleep is likely to be disturbed.

If the flow is equal, then Sushumna nadi is predominant. The Sushumna nadi is located at the center of the spinal cord. It originates from the mooladhara chakra and terminates at the sahasrara (crown chakra). When Ida and Pingla nadis are purified and balanced, and the mind is controlled, Sushumna nadi begins to flow.

The flow of these nadis influence pretty much all activities in the body and alternate every 60-90 minutes, i.e. each nadi dominates alternately. However, it is possible to voluntarily alter the flow of prana in either of the nostrils by practicing pranayama. For example, if you need to do some physical work, you can redirect the flow of breath to pingla in order to get the necessary energy to do that work. This is true even when you want to focus on some work that requires focus and mental energies.

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