Chakras and Nadis


The literal meaning of the word chakra is ‘wheel or circle’, but in the yogic context a
better translation of the Sanskrit word is ‘vortex or whirlpool’. The chakras are vortices of
psychic energy and they are visualized and experienced as circular movements of energy
at particular rates of vibration.
In each person there are myriads of chakras, but in the practices of tantra and yoga,
only a few principal ones are utilized. These chakras span the full spectrum of man’s
being from the gross to the subtle.
The chakras are physiological as well as psychic centers whose structures correspond
more or less with the traditional descriptions. These nerve centers are not situated inside
the spinal cord itself, but lie like junctions on the interior walls of the spinal column. If
you cut the spinal cord transversely at different levels you can see that the grey matter in
the cross section resembles the lotus shape and the ascending and descending tracts of
nerve fibers correspond to the nadis. These communicating nerve fibers control the
different physiological functions of that portion of the body. Many books state that the
chakras are reservoirs of power, but this is not true.
A chakra is like a centrally placed electricity pole from which electrical wires are run
to different places, houses and street lights in the vicinity. This arrangement is the same
for each of the chakras. The nadis which emerge from each chakra carry prana in both
directions. There is a forward and backward pranic motion in the nadis, analogous to the
flow of alternating current in electrical wires. The outgoing communication and the
incoming reaction enter and leave the chakra in the form of this pranic flow in the
corresponding nadis.

6 Chakras:
There are six chakras in the human body which are directly connected with the higher
unillumined centers of the brain. The first chakra is mooladhara. It is situated in the
pelvic floor and corresponds to the coccygeal plexus of nerves. In the masculine body it
lies between the urinary and excretory openings, in the form of a small dormant gland
termed the perineal body. In the feminine body it is situated inside the posterior surface
of the cervix.
Mooladhara is the first chakra in the spiritual evolution of man, where one goes
beyond animal consciousness and starts to be a real human being. It is also the last chakra
in the completion of animal evolution. It is said that from mooladhara chakra right down
to the heels there are other lower chakras which are responsible for the development of
the animal and human qualities of instinct and intellect. From mooladhara chakra
upwards lie the chakras which are concerned with illumination and evolution of the
higher man or super man. Mooladhara chakra has control over the entire range of
excretory and sexual functions in man.
The second chakra is swadhisthana, located at the lowest point or termination of the
spinal cord. It corresponds to the sacral plexus of nerves and controls the unconscious in
The third chakra is manipura, situated in the spinal column exactly at the level of the
navel. It corresponds to the solar plexus and controls the entire processes of digestion,
assimilation and temperature regulation in the body.
The fourth chakra is anahata, and it lies in the vertebral column behind the base of
the heart, at the level of the depression in the sternum. It corresponds to the cardiac
plexus of nerves, and controls the functions of the heart, the lungs, the diaphragm and
other organs in this region of the body.
The fifth chakra is vishuddhi, which lies at the level of the throat pit in the vertebral
column. This chakra corresponds to the cervical plexus of nerves and controls the thyroid
complex and also some systems of articulation, the upper palate and the epiglottis.
Ajna, the sixth and most important chakra, corresponds to the pineal gland, lying in
the midline of the brain directly above the spinal column. This chakra controls the
muscles and the onset of sexual activity in man. Tantra and yoga maintain that ajna
chakra, the command center, has complete control over all the functions of the disciple’s
These six chakras serve as switches for turning on different parts of the brain. The
awakening which is brought about in the chakras is conducted to the higher centers in the
brain via the nadis.

There are also two higher centers in the brain which are commonly referred to in
kundalini yoga: bindu and sahasrara. Bindu is located at the top back of the head, where
Hindu brahmins keep a tuft of hair. This is the point where oneness first divides itself into
many. Bindu feeds the whole optic system and is also the seat of nectar or amrit.
Sahasrara is supreme; it is the final culmination of kundalini shakti. It is the seat of
higher awareness. Sahasrara is situated at the top of the head and is physically correlated
to the pituitary gland, which controls each and every gland and system of the body.

Nadis are not nerves but rather channels for the flow of consciousness. The literal
meaning of nadi is ‘flow’. Just as the negative and positive forces of electricity flow
through complex circuits, in the same way, prana shakti (vital force) and manas shakti
(mental force) flow through every part of our body via these nadis. According to the
tantras there are 72,000 or more such channels or networks through which the stimuli
flow like electric current from one point to another. These 72,000 nadis cover the whole
body and through them the inherent rhythms of activity in the different organs of the
body are maintained. Within this network of nadis, there are ten main channels, and of
these ten, three are most important for they control the flow of prana and consciousness within all the other nadis of the body. These three nadis are called ida, pingala and sushumna.

Ida ,Pingala ,Sushumna
Ida nadi controls all the mental processes while pingala nadi controls all the vital
processes. Ida is known as the moon, and pingala as the sun. A third nadi, sushumna, is
the channel for the awakening of spiritual consciousness. Now the picture is coming
clear; prana shakti – pingala; manas shakti – ida; and atma shakti – sushumna. You may
consider them as pranic force, mental force and spiritual force.
As sushumna flows inside the central canal of the spinal cord, ida and pingala
simultaneously flow on the outer surface of the spinal cord, still within the bony vertebral
column. Ida, pingala and sushumna nadis begin in mooladhara in the pelvic floor. From
there, sushumna flows directly upwards within the central canal, while ida passes to the
left and pingala to the right. At swadhisthana chakra, or the sacral plexus, the three nadis
come together again and ida and pingala cross over one another. Ida passes up to the
right, pingala to the left, and sushumna continues to flow directly upwards in the central
canal. The three nadis come together again at manipura chakra, the solar plexus, and so
on. Finally, ida, pingala and sushumna meet in the pineal gland – ajna chakra.
Ida and pingala function in the body alternately and not simultaneously. If you
observe your nostrils, you will find that generally one is flowing freely and the other is
blocked. When the left nostril is open, it is the lunar energy or ida nadi which is flowing.
When the right nostril is free, the solar energy or pingala nadi is flowing.
Investigations have shown that when the right nostril is flowing, the left hemisphere
of the brain is activated. When the left nostril is flowing, the right hemisphere is
activated. This is how the nadis or energy channels control the brain and the events of life
and consciousness.
Now, if these two energies – prana and chitta, pingala and ida, life and consciousness,
can be made to function simultaneously, then both hemispheres of the brain can be made
to function simultaneously and to participate together in the thinking, living, intuitive and regulating processes.
In ordinary life this does not happen because the simultaneous awakening and
functioning of life force and consciousness can take place only if the central canal –
sushumna, is connected with kundalini, the source of energy. If sushumna can be
connected in the physical body, it can reactivate the brain cells and create a new physical

The importance of awakening sushumna
Sushumna nadi is regarded as a hollow tube in which there are three more concentric
tubes, each being progressively more subtle than the previous one. The tubes or nadis are
as follows: sushumna – signifying tamas, vajrini – signifying rajas, chitrini – signifying
sattva and brahma – signifying consciousness. The higher consciousness created by
kundalini passes through brahma nadi.
When kundalini shakti awakens it passes through sushumna nadi. The moment
awakening takes place in mooladhara chakra, the energy makes headway through
sushumna up to ajna chakra.
Mooladhara chakra is just like a powerful generator. In order to start this generator,
you need some sort of pranic energy. This pranic energy is generated through pranayama.
When you practise pranayama you generate energy and this energy is forced down by a
positive pressure which starts the generator in mooladhara. Then this generated energy is
pushed upward by a negative pressure and forced up to ajna chakra.
Therefore, awakening of sushumna is just as important as awakening of kundalini.
Supposing you have started your generator but you have not plugged the cable, the
generator will keep running but distribution will not take place. You have to connect the
plug into the generator so the generated energy can pass through the cable to the different
areas of your house.
When only ida and pingala are active and not sushumna, it’s like having the positive
and negative lines in your electrical cable, but no earth. When the mind receives the three
currents of energy all the lights start working, but if you remove the earth wire, the lights
will go down. Energy flows through ida and pingala all the time, but its effulgence is very
low. When there is current flowing in ida, pingala and sushumna, then enlightenment
takes place. This is how you have to understand the awakening of kundalini, awakening
of sushumna and the union of the three in ajna chakra.
The whole science of kundalini yoga concerns the awakening of sushumna, for once
sushumna comes to life, a means of communication between the higher and lower
dimensions of consciousness is established and the awakening of kundalini occurs. Shakti
travels up sushumna to become one with Shiva in sahasrara.

BY:  Sri Satyananda Saraswati

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