How Does Yoga Work?

Aug 14th, 2017
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Have you ever wondered how asana and breath work? How is it that people experience weight loss, calmness and even curing of certain diseases through breathing practice and asana?

Yoga is a science. The practice of yoga-asana and pranayama purify the nadis (closest translation is tubular glands) but it really is the energetic field of our body where the physical, emotional and mental aspects meet. The ancient texts explain there are 72,000 nadis in our body. Out of these there are 3 that are most important. Imagine these as pipes as Michael Roach and McNeally explain in their book “How Yoga Works”.

1. Surya Nadi (Pingala)

It runs from the right nostril to the anus. It is the male aspect of our being and carries energy that is action oriented and externally focused. Its quality is heat and dynamism. Swami Satyanand Saraswati of Bihar School of Yoga says Ujjayi clears Pingala for the ascension of prana. Michael Roach and Christie Mc Neally explain that “tied to the winds that flow in this channel travel our ‘hot’ negative thoughts: anger, hatred, jealousy, all based on disliking objects, events, and people because we fail to understand how we ourselves have produced them. Stilling the turbulence of inner winds within the sun channel has the effect of freeing us from misunderstanding our outer reality. The beauty of yoga is that we work on this channel simply and effectively through selected physical yoga exercises. Breath control, practised with authentic guidance, further achieves this goal. And then finally we use the teamwork of the last three limbs of yoga – mental focus, fixation, and wisdom – to still this channel from the inside”.

2. Chandra Nadi (Ida)

It runs between the left nostril and terminates at the anus. It is the feminine aspect of our being. “Within this channel run all our thoughts of liking things in the wrong way because we misunderstand them.” (Roach and Mc Neally). It carries energy that is introspective and thinking oriented. Its activation produces calmness and a sense of well being.

3. Sushumna Nadi:

This is the central channel which terminates at anus and runs along the spine, opening into sahasrara (crown) chakra that connects us to the divine. It becomes active when Ida and Pingala are balanced. “Linked to the winds in this channel run all our good thoughts: caring for others, watching what they want and need” (Roach and Mc Neally). The true purpose of all physical yoga practice is to guide inner wind out of the side channels and into the central channel. This is the path to the greatest health and well being and even enlightenment.

The Surya nadi and the Chandra nadi coil around the Sushmna nadi and their intersection creates the chakras in our body. Whenever there is blockage of prana in the nadis, they tighten around sushumna and the choking disrupts the free flow of energy in the sushmna nadi, creating the first signs of disease. That is also the principle on which chakra healing and colour therapy is based. This slowly grows and manifests then in the physical sheath of the body. Often, we speak of chakras as if they are in the body. Actually, it is more like the body has been suspended on the subtle chakras! When we do asanas and pranayama, we work by knocking on these nadis from the outside to remove the blockages. When we meditate (silent sitting) we work from the inside cleaning the blockages within these nadis. Free flow of energy in Sushumna nadi is our path to well being, good health and even enlightenment.

Sources:
“How Yoga Works” and “The Essential Yoga Sutra” by Michael Roach and Christie Mc Neally
“Insight into Pranayama” by Bihar School of Yoga

Swati Pandey

Bio

Swati Pandey is a keen student of Yoga. She has completed 400 Hrs Teacher Training from Anahata Yoga, Hong Kong and continues to pursue further Teacher Training and workshops with Manoj Kaimal, founder Manasa Yoga, Kualalumpur. Swati is passionate about sharing yoga and teaches regularly in Kualalumpur.

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