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The word `nadi` simply means a channel, course or conduit.  It could describe the veins and arteries of the body, or indeed the nerves carrying their electrical messages to and from the brain.  However in yoga we are usually referring to the more subtle circulation of the psychosomatic pranic energy.


In traditional teaching 72,000 nadis, and in the Siva Samhita 350,000 nadis are claimed.

 However just as the arteries of the physical body divide into ever smaller vessels, and it would be an impossible task to count the exact number in any one body, so any figure must be seen as illustrative of the concept.  Various writings speak of the principle nadis as ten, twelve or fourteen.  For our purposes three are generally regarded as the most important. 


Sushumna nadi, often called the central channel or the Most Gracious Channel, is said to run from near the base of the spine in the Kunda gland, located in the perineum of men, and the cervix of women.  It is the opening to this channel, said to be the Way to Liberation, which the sleeping serpent, Kundalini is said to block until awakened through the practise of yoga.  Sushumna passes all the way up through the body to the crown of the head ending at the Sahasrara chakra, the point of the brahmic fissure in the brain.  Its course is sometimes said to relate to the central canal of the spinal cord (the main nerve of the body).


Ida nadi, and Pingala nadi run alongside Sushumna nadi.  Their courses also start at the Kunda gland but finish after reaching Ajna charka (the Third Eye in the forehead) by passing out of the physical body through the nostrils.  In general Ida is said to run along the left side of Sushumna, and Pingala to the right.  Their courses are sometimes described a forming a helix (spiral) around the central channel, and sometimes as meeting and crossing at the various chakras, and in other teaching as remaining to the left or right but touching at the chakras.


In most people the nadis are said to be blocked by impurities, lethargy etc. and one of the important aims of yoga practise is to open the nadis to allow the free flow of prana through the body and especially from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.  Only when Ida and Pingala are open and prana flowing freely in the body can the opening of Sushumna begin.  As the channels open they also allow the opening and realisation of the chakras, the great energy centres of the body.


Nadi-shodhana, the processes of purifying the nadis, take place in various ways.  Cleansing processes such as `dhauti` prepare the physical body.  In advanced practice, meditation is used.  The most well known methods include practise of Maha Mudra, or through the use of breathing practices involving control of the movement of air through the nostrils, in alternate nostril breathing.   (See Pranayama in site).


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