The nadis are defined as subtle pathways, they are the way in which prana travels through the body delivering the life force and energy and health to every cell. The system of nadis is unimaginably vast. It is said to be made up of an estimated 72,000 channels. Imagine the channels that surround us in our world: the channels created by rivers, the channels of cracks in the earth, paths in the woods, energy in outer space. The nadis within our bodies are similar to this. They are energy channels. Conduits. Pathways for the life force which sustains us.
The Major Nadis
Although there are estimated to be 72,000 nadis in the body, we only need to concern ourselves with the fourteen major ones. The nadis on the right side are: Pingala, Pusha, Payasvini, and Yashasvati.
Pingala, “The Red” is connected to the third eye and continues to the right nostril and right nasal passage. It brings prana to this area.
Pusha, “The Nourisher” comes from the third eye and continues to the right eye. This particular channel is considered especially important because the Atman is said to dwell in the right eye.
Payasvini, “Full of Juice” comes from the third eye and branches out into the right ear.
Yashasvati, ”Abounding in Glory”, travels from the root chakra to the navel chakra.
The nadis corresponding to the left side of the body are Ida, Shankhini, Gandhari, and Hastijihva.
Ida, “The Inspirer”, begins in the third eye and makes its way to the left nostril. It inspires our creativity.
Shankhini, “Like a Seashell”, also begins in the third eye and goes into the left ear and allows for our ability to be influenced by higher intelligence.
Gandhari is a musical note that begins in the third eye and continues to the left eye promoting creative visions.
Hastijhiva, “The Elephant’s Tongue” begins in the root chakra and continues to the navel chakra.
The central nadis are Alambusha, Kuhu, Vishvodhara, Varuna, Sarasvati, and Sushumna.
Alambusha means “a limit” and it begins in at the base of the spine and travels to the tip of the rectum.
Kuhu, “The Hidden or New Moon”, travels from the base of the spine to the sex chakra and supplies prana to the reproductive organs.
Vishvodhara, “The Center of All”, travels from the base of the spine to the navel chakra and carries prana to the digestive system.
Varuna, “The Pervader”, runs from the base of the spine to the navel chakra, supplying prana to the entire body.
Sarasvati, “The Goddess of Speech”, begins in the throat chakra. This nadi provides us with our power of speech.
Sushumna, “The Very Blissful”, begins at the base of the spine and runs to the top of the head energizing the spine, the brain and the nerve tissue.
Treating the Fourteen Nadis
In order to experience optimal mental and physical health it is important to keep the nadis clear and flowing so that energy can travel effectively through the body. Prana is the life force and just as a river needs to be kept clean and clear to flow properly and provide nourishment to the earth and its creatures, so your body’s channels need to be healthy to provide you with the life force.
All of the nadis can be effectively treated and stimulated with massage, heat and the application of herbs and oils. The best way to treat them is at their main site of energy transmission. Simply apply pressure and massage using oils such as sesame oil or sunflower oil to the following points of the body: the top of the head and scalp, the ear lobes and ears, around and above the eyes, the areas to the right and the left of the nostrils, the hands and feet with particular attention to the fingers and toes, the neck and the throat, the abdomen, the perineum and the rectum. A whole body massage is effective for treating the whole body channel.
In India a pure, clarified form of butter called “ghee” Is made for use and cooking and is also good massage oil that can be used for the treatment of the nadis. Most large American markets carry ghee and it can also be made at home rather simply by heating unsalted butter and removing the impurities and solids that rise to the top. What’s left in the pan can be poured into jars and sealed and does not need refrigeration.
Abhyanga or self massage is an important part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. If you massage the points and areas mentioned as a part of your daily regimen, you will do well in maintaining a flow of energy through the nadis keeping the prana smoothly running and supplied to the entire body.