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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: SUBTLE ANATOMY 101

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Pingala

The "solar" channel governing the heating, dynamic energy of the body. Corresponds with the sympathetic nervous system.

Pingala nadi is depicted as running up the right side of the body, roughly from the perineum up alongside the spine to the top of the head, and then coming down the front of the head, ending at the right nostril. (Some sources have Pingala nadi starting at the navel, some suggest that it begins at the right testicle/ovary instead.)

Sushumna

The central channel of energy in the human body. Considered to be the single most important nadi, Sushumna runs from the base of the spine, directly along the spine to the crown of the head, and carries Kundalini energy upwards as it is awakened through the practice of Yoga. Sushumna nadi can only be open and flowing when Ida and Pingala nadis are balanced and clear, thus the importance of all three nadis for the overall energetic health of the body.

Different Hatha Yoga practices work on different nadis, especially in the case of breathing practices (pranayama) that work exclusively with one nostril or the other. As you deepen your Yogic practice, the idea is that the nadis become less of a concept, and more a set of actual experiences that you can feel, perceive, and adjust, according to your body's needs. As such, having a good knowledge of where they are (at least the important ones) and what their functions are, is important to have in mind as you're starting your Yoga practice.

Chakras

In Sanskrit, chakra means "wheel". The chakras are the cornerstones of the body's energetic field, according to Hatha Yoga, and they are located within the pranic layer of the body.

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They are said to appear in the shape of wheels, complete with hubs and spokes8 - hence the name. Hatha Yoga texts most commonly refer to 6 or 7 major chakras9.

You can think of chakras as the big brothers of those energy points we mentioned in the section above on Nadis. All of the many smaller points converge at different levels along the vertical axis of the body; each of these convergence points is a chakra, and each one has its own unique properties.

Have a look at the following interactive map of the chakras. Although we're mostly focusing on the Indian system of Hatha Yoga in this book, the map includes chakra models from a few other important traditions which relate to Yoga. Many systems are similar, with minor differences here and there - have a look around and you can get a sense for what lines up10. We also included a map of the major "secondary chakras" - these are something like half-steps between the numerous energetic points along the nadis, and the major centers of the primary chakras. Many of the secondary chakras have unique and important functions in their own right.

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