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What are the Subtle channels?

As part of our yoga practice at HOA, we incorporate Nadi Shodhana in our Pranayama, or breath-work practice. In a previous blog, we have learnt that Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is a technique aimed at bringing balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain. To understand the mechanics of this method, we must first understand the Nadis, otherwise known as the Subtle channels. 


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Nadi means 'stream’ in Sanskrit, and represent a network of Subtle channels through which our life force circulates. In the physical body, the Nadis are channels carrying air, water, nutrients, blood and other bodily fluids around.


They are similar to the arteries, veins, capillaries, bronchioles, nerves, lymph canals and so on. In the Subtle body however, the Nadis represent channels for cosmic, vital, seminal, mental or intellectual energies - collectively described as Prana or life force - and are important for sensations, consciousness and the spiritual aura. The Nadis are said to connect the chakras, or the energy centers of the body. 


The number of Nadis of the human body is claimed to be up to hundreds-of-thousands and even millions! The Shiva Samhita treatise on Yoga states that out of 350,000 Nadis, 14 are particularly important, and among them only three are the most vital. They are: the Ida on the left of the spine, the Sushumna in the centre, and the Pingala on the right of the spine. They are believed to run vertically from the base of the spine to the head. 


The Ida and Pingala Nadis interpreted in modern readings as the two hemispheres of the brain. Ida, the channel left of the spine, represents the Moon, is associated with the feminine essence, and corresponds to the left side of the body and the right hemisphere of the brain. Originating in the Muladhara, or the base of the spine, Ida ends in the left nostril. 


Pingala, the channel on the right of the spine, which represents the Sun, is associated with the masculine essence, and corresponds to the right side of the body and left hemisphere of the brain. Also originating in the Muladhara, Pingala ends in the right nostril. 


Sushumna is the central channel and is associated with both nostrils being open and free to the passage of air. The Sushumna connects the root chakra to the crown chakra and is the path for the ascent of Kundalini energy up the base of the spine to the top of the head. Within a Yoga practice, some Yogis may have the goal of a spiritual awakening and increased spiritual energy flow. By being aware of the Sushumna and how it affects the flow of Prana throughout the body, Yogis can concentrate on distributing energy throughout the chakras. When Prana flows freely through the Sushumna, the practitioner can attain a Still mind. However, when impurities and blockages exists in the other Nadis of the body, the flow can be affected, preventing the practitioner from achieving Moksha, or true liberation.


Discover the intricacies of the Subtle energy body with us at HOA to unlock your own spiritual awakening. Book your mats today!


Written by Izzy Liyana, content creator & writer for HOA