Continued from: The Nadis or Psychic Passages. Part I
The yogis of antiquity discovered that when the left nostril had the predominant flow of air then the pranic flow in ida nadi was also predominant. And when the right nostril had the greatest flow the pingala had the greatest flow of prana. The flow of air through the nostrils and consequently the pranic flow continually alternates. Under normal conditions the flow through the left nostril is predominant for about an hour and then the right flow becomes predominant for about an hour. During changeover from one to the other, flows are equal and the prana flows through the sushumna nadi. This generally lasts for a few minutes. These flows can also be artificially altered in response to individual needs. The study of these flows, their meaning and implications in life is the subject of the science of swara yoga.
Each of us fluctuates between periods of mental and physical activities. Generally, because of the type of work that each of us does we tend to either do too much mental work or too much physical work. We are either too introverted or too extroverted. There are times when we attempt mental work yet find it more difficult than usual. We generally force ourselves and end up with a headache or in a bad mood. At other times we want to do some physical work yet our mind is not on the job; we are thinking of everything else but the physical work involved. At other times just the opposite is the case – mental work comes easily and without effort; or conversely we can do physical work with zest and enthusiasm. There are auspicious times when we are tuned in to certain types of work. If we are introverted then we are more likely to successfully undertake mental tasks; if we are extroverted then we are more likely to accomplish physical or active work with more success.
A sure indicator of which type of work is suitable is the predominant flow of air in the nostrils. If the right nostril has the greatest flow then we are most likely to be actively inclined. We are more suited to physical work. The mind is extroverted and the body generates more heat. If the left nostril has the greatest flow then the mind is introverted and any kind of mental work can be undertaken. During sleep ida is dominant. If pingala is flowing it is normally more difficult to sleep. Ideally during meal times pingala should flow. If it doesn’t then the digestive processes may not be as efficient as they should be.
These two aspects of prana, which are particularly characterized by the flows in the ida and pingala nadis, represent the two most obvious characteristics of each human: the abilities to think and act 2. The flow of breath through these nostrils and the flow of prana through their corresponding nadis greatly influence our lives. Generally the flows are involuntary, but it is possible to manipulate the flows using willpower and various yogic techniques. One of these techniques is pranayama, in particular nadi shodhana stage 23.
One can make either of the air flows predominate for a specific reason. For example, if there is work to be done but we feel sleepy, it is possible to muster the necessary physical energy by artificially activating the flow of air in the right nostril and curbing the flow in the left nostril. This in turn ensures that pingala is dominant and that ida is subservient. However, under ideal circumstances the flow in each nostril should be dominant for a total of about twelve hours over each daily cycle of twenty-four hours. Under these circumstances one is neither too physically or mentally active.
In yoga practices the usual aim is to make the flow in each nostril exactly the same. Again, this is done by means of pranayama. When the flow of air is equal in each nostril then the flow in the ida and pingala nadis is also the same. Under these conditions prana begins to flow in the sushumna, the most important nadi in the bioplasmic body. This is the most auspicious time for the spontaneous occurrence of meditation. In fact, it is said that prana must start to flow in the sushumna for the experience of meditation to take place. Without this, meditation cannot occur. Under these circumstances one is neither too physically restless nor bombarded with excessive thoughts. One is content in the middle point between the two extremes. This is why pranayama is so important in yoga. It is an excellent tool in preparing the body and mind so that they become a perfect receiver of higher awareness. Pranayama practices help to prepare the ground for meditation.
Continue to: Modes of pranayama practices