This is the first in a series of articles that will attempt to put to words the practice of Nadi Yoga, a form practice that I have been cultivating over the past few years, rooted in the classical work and brought to life by years and years of experience. I intend to write about all stages of this work in the blog.
Lets start with some basic definitions. Yoga has already been defined in this blog elsewhere so I won't define that here. The word nadi means river or flow corridor. Classically the different nadis have been assigned to the 5 jnanendriyas (knowledge organs) and the 5 karmendriyas (action organs). These follow the traditional elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth. Respectively (to the elements) the corresponding knowledge organs are ear/hearing, skin/feeling sense, eyes/sight, tongue/taste, and nose/smell and breathing. The elemental correspondences with the action organs are tongue/speech, hands/manipulation, feet/locomotion, genitalia/sexual functioning, and the anus/elimination.
Note that in the above correspondences the functions occur on many levels. For example the hands in relation to manipulation relate to ALL functions of manipulation including grasping, pushing, taking, holding and other. And these functions are not only related to the hand but to all functions in our psychological and physical worlds. In other words the energy of grasping itself is included under this flow corridor. So if there is any obsessive tendency to grasp or hold things in our life, it will affect this particular flow of energy in our lives. The same is true of all of the nadis. It will be worthwhile to contemplate the different relationships here.
The central channel or susumna (only one of its many names) is the primary channel. According to traditional work, the peripheral channels have to be worked with and cleared before proper functioning of the central channel can occur. There will be more said on this channel later.
Understanding the basic definitions of nadi and yoga,
we come to the conclusion that Nadi Yoga is the "union of the flow
corridors" or the "samadhi that results from harmonious functioning of
the flow corridors". This follows closely with the meaning of Hatha as
Sun/Moon and thus Hatha Yoga as a union of the sun and moon or the
polarities of the body/mind system.
We have here only described the major nadis. Note that I have said nothing of the mapping of how these corridors flow in a specific way through the body. This is because I truly feel that it is not possible to map these corridors in some universal way with every person. Even more importantly, these nadis are purely instrumental modes of functioning. A map only presents from the objective understanding and is ultimately useless if one is to truly understand the nadis from a personal perspective.
So what do we mean by instrumental versus objective modes of functioning? Patanjali defines 3 different modes of experiencing in his Yoga Sutras. These are the objective, instrumental, and subjective modes. I have elaborated on this elsewhere in the blog but will recap briefly here. Objective is any sort of object of awareness. This could be an object of mind or an object of sensory awareness. Instrumental mode is the sensory mode itself or the mind sense in itself. The subjective is the I which witnesses the sensory and objective modes. There are varying levels of objective awareness as described in sutra 1.17. Instrumental awareness is quite different as it brings us into the sensory process of perception itself. It is here that we truly start to understand and witness the actual nadis in themselves.
This is an important distinction to make with the practice of Nadi Yoga as it implies that the practice of Nadi Yoga is not as much about external forms but more about how we relate to the practice internally. From this perspective, many different forms from different traditions could be used under the term Nadi Yoga if one is working to function and explore within instrumental level awareness.
Nadi Yoga thus entails a deep process that involves understanding instrumental functioning and being able to access that level of awareness. Not that following the techniques in themselves will not lead to beneficial results but rather that the true depths of this work will not unfold unless one can start to access those instrumental layers of oneself.
To this end, the traditional practices given in the yoga scriptures of preparation are vital. The traditional yamas and niyamas as related to the energetic system of the body/mind system are extremely important. In addition one has to have a certain faith and recognition that mind and body are ultimately intimately related. One should have at least an initial understanding of this relationship or if even that is difficult, one should have faith that one can at least find this understanding. Nadi Yoga is about experience, direct experience, which leads to an understanding of the power that one truly has as a locus of consciousness.
Once this understanding begins to take root in the individual, it becomes apparent that bringing the mind and its energies under control is vital to the process. In this way, we meet the deepest aspects of the yoga very early on. In addition, with this understanding, one realizes the responsibility and magnitude of what can unfold with this process.
Self study is therefore very important with the yoga, even right from the beginning of the practice. Especially when one undertakes energetic work such as the Nadi Yoga. Understanding our different sides (as mentioned in the previous post) can be extremely beneficial to unifying our mental/psychological front and channeling the resultant energies into a concentrated effect. The directions one can go with this are without limit.
In the next few blogs we will explore the preparations and foundational work that are essential along every step of the way.