The nadis are energy channels that run throughout the body — much like our tangible circulatory system — transporting prana (lifeforce) energy to every cell in the body. Like Chinese meridians, the nadi system is concerned with the subtle body rather than the physical body. Nadis — from the Sanskrit root meaning "to flow" — bathe our bodies in the pranic energy needed to grow and thrive.
The ancient texts report a staggering 72,000 individual nadis, but yogic philosophy focuses on the largest and most important three channels: ida, pingala and shushumna nadis. Shushumna nadi runs parallel to the spine, along the central axis of the body, with the ida and pingala nadis wrapping themselves around the staff like a DNA double-helix. The symbol for the medical profession — the caduceus — is the best example of the form these nadis take. Spiraling up the central axis from the base of the spine, ida and pingala cross paths at each of the seven major chakras. All three nadis intersect at the brow chakra (third eye center), our seat of intuition and knowledge.
Both ida and pingala have their own physical, metaphysical, and psychological components. Ida nadi — rising from the left side of the body and representing the left nostril — is the yin, lunar, cooling and introspective aspect of the trifecta. Pingala embodies the yang, solar, warming, and vital qualities. It starts on the right side of the body and dominates the right nostril. In life, ida and pingala dance with each other for dominance, but the ultimate goal is balance. Even as you breathe, one nostril vies for dominance over the other. Plug one nostril and take a few deep breaths out of the opposite nostril. Does the nostril feel blocked or clear? Next, plug the second nostril. Is one nostril significantly more blocked than the other?
The practice of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is designed to bring balance to the breathing by clearing any blockages and systematically equalizing the breath through both nostrils. The way you breathe can significantly affect your mood; therefore, balancing your breathing with Nadi Shodhana can help you find peace and balance in your life.
To perform Nadi Shodana:
1. Sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor. Straighten your spine and roll your shoulders up and back.
2. Plug each nostril individually to check whether there is a blockage in one of your nostrils. Take note of which side the blockage is located on. Continue the practice of Nadi Shodana even if you do not notice any significant blockage.
3. Breathe deeply through both nostrils for five to 10 full breaths.
4. Press the outside of your right nostril closed, plugging the nostril.
5. Breathe in through your left nostril for four counts.
6. Plug the left nostril and unplug the right nostril.
7. Breathe out of the right nostril for four counts.
8. Continue to plug the left nostril, as you breathe in for four counts with the right nostril.
9. Plug the right nostril and unplug the left nostril.
10. Breathe out of the left nostril for four counts.
11. Repeat this sequence: Breathe in left, breathe out right, breathe in right, breathe out left.
12. Continue Nadi Shodana for several minutes, eventually working your way to 20 minutes.