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Nadis and the Nervous System


The Sanskrit word nadi derives from the root Nad, which means flow, motion, vibration. These nadis are creative energies of the subtle body. Just as the negative and positive forces of electricity flow through complex circuits, in the same way, vital force and mental force flow through every part of our body via these nadis. There are 72,000 nadis in the body with three main channels up the spine, right, left and centre. These are known as ida, pingala & sushumna. The left nostril is connected to the ida network of nadis, the right nostril is connected to the pingala network of nadis and when both nostrils flow together, the main channel or sushumna network is stimulated. They connect at special points of intensity called chakras. When these nadis flow freely, we are vital and healthy; when it becomes weak or congested, we struggle with poor mental and physical health.


The brain & the spinal cord along with the nerves emanating constitute the nervous system of the body. The nervous system is divided into two main systems: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves which gather information while others transmit orders. Peripheral nervous system is divided into two systems: somatic nervous system & autonomic nervous system. Somatic nerves participate in the organism’s relationship with its external environment. 

Autonomic nerves are more involved in regulating vital internal functions. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two categories: sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system goes into action to prepare the organism for physical or mental activity. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system causes a general slowdown in the body’s functions in order to conserve energy. The Nadis determine the nature and the quality of the nervous system, with its extensive network of nerves and plexus covering the entire physical body. A healthy nervous system is the secret of vitality and rejuvenation.


The subtle or sukshma body is within the gross or physical body. The gross body cannot do anything without the astral body. Every gross centre of the body has its astral centre. Ida, pingala & sushumna nadis originate from mooladhara chakra at the anus and the root of the reproductory organ. From there they separate and proceed into different directions to meet again at the ajna chakra located at the root of the nose between the eyebrows and approximately 2 1/2 inches into the brain. Ida nadi emerges from the left side of mooladhara and spirals upwards to the spinal cord, passing through each chakra in turn, forming a criss-cross pathway which terminates at the left side of ajna chakra and end up in the left nostril. Pingala nadi emerges from the right side of the mooladhara chakra and passes in an opposite manner to that of Ida, terminating at the right side of ajna chakra and end up in the right nostril. Sushumna nadi is the spiritual channel that terminates at sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. So, it is clear that the gross body & the subtle body have close relationship with each other. Practically, we can feel the desired effects that are produced through yoga, pranyama, meditation between these two centres.


The word ida means "comfort" & is located on our left sympathetic nervous system. It begins and ends on the left side of sushumna. Ida has a moonlike nature and female energy with a cooling effect. It is also known as the chandra or moon nadi. It courses from the right testicle to the left nostril and corresponds to the Ganges River. Ida is the introverted (passive), lunar nadi and controls all the mental processes & manages our emotions.When Ida is flowing, the breath will be more in the left nostril & the mental energy is dominant. That time any kind of mental work may be undertaken. It is like nectar and gives strength and nourishment to the soul and the body. If Ida flows for a long time beyond the normal schedule, this signifies some imbalances in the mental processes.

On a physical level, the left channel controls the left-hand side of the body and the right hemisphere of the brain. People, who make excessive use of this channel, are emotional, often dwell on the past, often feel guilty and are easily dominated by others. In extreme cases, they may fall prey to lethargy and depression because this channel feeds also into the skull area; pressure on the brain becomes excessive. The entire system is thrown off balance causing problems such as mental breakdown, epilepsy and senility (decay of the brain).


The word pingala means "tawny" & is located on our right sympathetic nervous system. It begins and ends to the right of sushumna. Pingala has a Sunlike nature and male energy with a heating effect. It is also known as surya or sun nadi. Its courses from the left testicle to the right nostril & corresponds to the Yamuna River. Pingala is the extroverted (active), solar nadi & controls all the vital processes & manages our physical energy. When pingala is flowing, the breath will be more in the right nostril & the physical / vital energy is dominant. That time any kind of physical work may be undertaken. It is responsible for the growth of the body. If pingala flows for a long time beyond the normal schedule, this signifies some imbalance in the pranic body.

On a physical level, the right channel controls the right-hand side of the body and the left hemisphere of the brain. People, who make excessive use of this channel are aggressive and dominating (ego). In extreme cases, the entire system is thrown off balance, causing problems such as often blinded by ego & then decisions and actions taken not only disrupt the lives of others but also lead to heart disease


The Sushumna nadi is located on our central parasympathetic nervous system which is also known as middle path. The central channel begins in the triangular bone or sacrum and rises along the spinal column until it reaches the top of the head. When ida and pingala nadis are purified and balanced and the mind is controlled, then sushumna, the most important nadi, begins to flow. The physical organs & mental organs function simultaneously & it indicates that the mind is blissful, calm, pure, balanced. The spiritual energy is in power & time is good for concentration, meditation and worship. A person entering this state never complains of dispersion of mind. When sushumna flows, kundalini awakens and rises through the chakras. In subtle body terms the sushumna nadi is the path to enlightenment.

At a physical level, this channel coordinates our involuntary or autonomic nervous system activities such as heart beat, breathing & reflex. We do not have conscious control over these activities. The parasympathetic nervous system, together with the sympathetic nervous system, constitutes the autonomic nervous system. It is responsible for our spiritual evolution and our physical, mental and emotional balance.


All activities are influenced by the flow of these nadis which alternate approximately every sixty to ninety minutes. When there is a disturbance in the natural cycle, and the proper nostril does not open, body chemistry becomes disturbed thus affecting physical, emotional & mental state. For example, during sleep Ida nadi flows. If pingala flows at night, sleep will be restlessness and disturbed. It may result in numerous adverse physiological changes such as hypertension, anxiety, acidity and ulcers. Likewise, while taking food pingala nadi flows. If' Ida flows while taking food, the digestive process may be slow, causing indigestion. To counter these changes, we should follow certain techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts the stress effect, calms you down, slows heart rate, increases digestion and so on.


Nadi shodhana pranayama is the simple act of changing the breath from one nostril to the other, reversing brain hemisphere dominance & altering chemical reactions taking place throughout the organism. Changing the breath helps prevention of disease.


Sit in a comfortable position steadily. Keep the palm of the right hand facing the face. Bend the first two fingers next to the thumb inside. Now put the right thumb on the right nostril and last two fingers of the same hand should be used to press the left nostril. Remember, for the practice of this Pranayama always start & finish the breathing from the left nostril.


1.Breathe in through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring & little fingers and breathe out through the right nostril.
2.Breathe in through the right nostril. Close the right nostril with the thumb & breathe out through the left nostril.
3.This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana.
4.Make 10-15 rounds like this.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti


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  3. Thank you very much Dr. Rita for this blog. before i was having info in pieces and now u completed it a little more. well i have one doubt that i would like to tell you that i read and saw some pic of sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous system in which it was told that SNS function is to arouse and PNS function is to calm down the various organ of the body. In this article IDA nadi which is in the left of shushmna nadi is relate to SNS. Ida nadi has a moon like nature and female energy with cooling effect. whereas SNS is the one that arouse organ. can you enlighten us on this pls.


  4. I had a rhinoplasty surgery due to sinusitis, I always had my nostrils clogged. Before surgery, the doctor, who is not a yoga practicioner, said the exact same thing about ida and pingala while sleeping. Your left nostril is usually more opened while sleeping and the same with the right when you are doing activities.
    Loved this article