Nadi is a Sanskrit word which translates as ‘tube,’ ‘channel,’ or ‘flow.’ It is used to describe the network of channels which allow energy to travel through the body. There are three principal nadis in the body which go through the spinal cord and the chakras; the energy centers of the body. Asanas, pranayama, and chanting are the most common ways to move prana around the body via these nadis.
Prana is the life energy which is required to help all living things function. This energy circulates through the body, but it can only do so if the pathways, or nadis, are clear and free from blockages. Where the prana cannot flow freely, the mental and physical health of the person can be affected.
There are three main nadis within the human body. They are:
Ida nadi: Also called the left channel, this starts in the root chakra (muladhara). It flows to the left, in and out of the other chakras up the spine, and ends up in the left nostril. It represents mental energy.
Pingala nadi. Also called the right channel, this starts in the same place - the root chakra - but instead flows to the right, up the spine and ending at the right nostril. It is the origin of prana - that precious life force.
Sushumna nadi: Also called the central channel, this runs straight up the spine, through all of the chakras. Starting just below the root chakra, it heads right up to the crown chakra - the sahasrara. It is the nadi of spiritual awareness.
Alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi shodhana, is a popular way to try and balance the nadis and is included at the end of the asanas in many yoga practices. By ensuring these channels are clear and balanced, you allow prana to move freely throughout the body.