The Ten Main Energy Channels
Manovaha Nadis—The “Ten Gates”
In Tantra Yoga, the manovaha nadis are the ten main energy channels. They are known as the “ten gates,” as it is believed that at death the jivatman (soul) and the vital energy abandon the physical body through one of these gates. The ten main nadis are: sushumna, ida, pingala, gandhari, hastajihva, yashasvini, pusha, alambusha, kuhu, and shankhini.
Traditional yogic texts like the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, the Darshana Upanishad, and the Yoga Yajnavalkya refer to these energy channels, however, they sometimes describe their paths in slightly different ways.
1. Sushumna Nadi
Sushumna nadi, the “most gracious energy channel,” is the neutral energy channel that passes through the spine in the subtle body. It begins in muladhara chakra and goes along the middle of the subtle spine to brahmarandhra at the crown of the head.
In yoga, we endeavor to make prana (life force energy) run in sushumna nadi, which is also known as brahma nadi. When energy flows predominantly through sushumna for long periods of time, we become “dead to the world,” and enter into samadhi. Symbolically, sushumna is associated with the Fire element (tejas tattva) and it is considered sattvic (harmonious) in nature.
2. Ida Nadi
Ida nadi means “comfort energy channel.” It is the passive, feminine, yin energy channel in the subtle body. It lies to the left of sushumna nadi, and its energy is complementary to that of pingala nadi. Ida nadi, also known as chandra nadi, begins at a subtle level in muladhara chakra, goes along the back on the left side of the spine, and intersects with pingala nadi in ajna chakra (the coordinator of polarity in the being). The color white is used to represent the subtle vibrational quality of ida nadi. Symbolically, it is associated with the Moon and is considered tamasic (inert) in nature.
3. Pingala Nadi
Pingala nadi (also known as surya nadi) is the “tawny energy channel.” It is the masculine, active, yang energy channel in the subtle body. It lies to the right of sushumna nadi, and its energy is complementary to that of ida nadi. The vibrational quality of pingala nadi is represented by the color red. Symbolically, it is associated with the Sun and is considered rajasic (dynamic) in nature.
4. Gandhari Nadi
Gandhari Nadi flows from below the corner of the left eye to the kanda (the energetic bulb in the abdominal area) and ends in the big toe of the left foot. It is said to carry psychic energy from the lower part of the body (starting from the big toe) to ajna chakra. Gandhari is situated behind ida nadi and has similar functions. Its complementary structure is hastajihva nadi.
5. Hastajihva Nadi
Hastajihva Nadi means the “elephant-tongued energy channel.” It flows from below the corner of the right eye to the kanda and ends in the big toe of the right foot. Hastajihva is said to carry psychic energy from the lower part of the body (starting from the big toe) to ajna chakra. Its complementary structure is gandhari nadi.
6. Yashasvini Nadi
Yashasvini Nadi, the “splendid energy channel,” flows from the right big toe to the kanda and ends at the left ear. Its complementary structure is pusha nadi.
7. Pusha Nadi
Pusha Nadi, the “nourishing energy channel,” flows from the left big toe to the kanda and ends at the right ear. Its complementary structure is yashasvini nadi.
8. Alambusha Nadi
Alambusha Nadi, the “very misty energy channel,” begins at the anus, goes through the kanda, and ends in the mouth.
9. Kuhu Nadi
Kuhu Nadi, the “new moon energy channel,” begins in the throat (or soma chakra, in the area of the palate) and ends in the genitals. In Tantric practices for sublimating sexual energy, the bindu (the essence of the seminal fluid) rises from the genital area to soma chakra. Thus, the practitioner becomes an urdhva retas (a Tantric who can sublimate sexual energy into spiritual energy).
10. Shankhini Nadi
Shankhini Nadi, the “mother of pearl energy channel,” originates in the throat and ends in the anus. Its energy flows between sarasvati nadi and gandhari nadi on the left side of sushumna nadi. Ashvini mudra (the conscious contraction of the anus) is a way of activating this nadi.
Learn more about the energetic body in the Hridaya Yoga Retreat: Module 1 Intensive.