Flow of Vital Energy & “Swara Yoga”

In the terminology of yoga, channels for physiological signal transmission and flow of vital energy within the body are called ‘Nadi’. These include the neural passages and the tracks of flow and distribution of inhaled and exhaled breaths. The yoga scriptures describe the presence of 7200 such nadis. The word “nadi” here should not be confused with the same used in Hindi for veins and arteries. Also it should be understood that they are not any ‘tubes’ of biochemical substance or any other material forms. They can’t be touched upon or seen but their presence can be experienced. (For example, two of the principal nadis described below can be easily experienced by concentrating over the breaths.)

The roots of several important nadis are bundled in a spiral shaped extrasensory nucleus beneath the navel. Ten principal nadis emanate from this center and spread across the body in different directions.  These are referred in the yoga scriptures as –– Ida, Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari, Hastijivha, Pusha, Yashasvini, Aalmbusha, Kuhu, and Shankhini. These play crucial role in activation, transmission, effect and manifestation of the bioelectrical signals and endocrine secretions and interactive functions of the mind-body system. Ancient Indian science of yoga and s³dhan³s discusses in detail and depth these aspects.  The first three of these are of great importance in swara yoga.

In “Hatha Yoga” The Muladhar Chakra (kava equina) is regarded as the extrasensory nucleus of the supernatural force of prana (called Kundalini). However, in “Swara Yoga” the Nabhi Chakra (solar plexus) in the navel is given more importance, as the vital energy essential for the healthy functioning and vigor of the mind-body system is concentrated at this center and distributed to every corner of the body. It also happens to be the main junction of the interconnected paths of important nadis, which govern the functioning of the nervous system. These findings of the Vedic sages (Rishis) are being re-affirmed by the modern researchers of yoga and the science of breathing. This is why the yoga exercises of pranayama predominantly include abdominal breathing or deep breathing up to the navel along with the exercises where lungs are to be filled by inhalation to the maximum capacity.

An American expert Prof. BB Atkinson has emphasized this fact in his popular book titled “Size of Breath”. According to him breathing up to the lungs serves only the partial purpose of pulmonary circulation and cleansing of the respiratory units. The purified oxygen from the lungs should reach the navel from where it could be supplied in the desired amounts to different parts of the body.  Regulation of healthy supply of oxygen and vital energy and necessary cleansing and activation of the whole body therefore require deep and consistent breathing from and up to the navel.  In advanced practices of pranayama, the yogis aim at harmonious functioning of the ten principal nadis ‘opening’ in the Nabhi Chakra.

The Ida Naai (lunar current) is associated with breathing through the left nostril and the Pingala (solar current) with breathing through the right nostril. These also correspond to the sublime streams of powers in the Pituitary and Pineal glands. These are described in the yoga scriptures as the solar (surya) and lunar (chandra) currents of vital energy flowing respectively on the right and the left side of the Sushumna Nadi. The latter is an extrasensory canal of a neural passage of subliminal flow of pr³ña hidden in the inner core of the spinal column.

The remaining seven nadis are passages (for flow of vital energy and bioelectrical signals) located in the indicated parts of the body; namely, Gandhari in the tongue, Hastjivha in right eye, Pusha in right ear, Yashaswini in the left ear, Alambusha in the mouth, Kuhu in the genital region and Shankhini in the anus.    It should be noted again that the nadis are not any kinds of veins or tubular ducts. These are like sublime life flow channels or passages that cannot be observed by instruments but are visualized and experienced by deeper yoga practices and introvert meditation.

Biological Clock and the Swara Patterns: 

The lunar currents (Ida) manifested in the vibrations of breathing through the left nostril are referred as ‘chandra-swara’ and solar currents (Pingala) manifested in the vibrations of breathing through the right nostril are termed as ‘surya-swara’. In simple terms, when we breathe only through the left nostril, the chandra-swara is ‘on’ (active). When we breathe only through the right nostril, the surya-swara is active.

If we pay a little attention to our breathing patterns, we will notice most of the time we breathe only through one nostril, either through the left or through the right. It is only at the time of changing of this flow from Ida (chandra) to Pingala (surya) i.e. left to right, or vice versa that both the swaras are active for a few moments. This change occurs periodically in about one to three hours time on an average. The flow of vital energy and praña is active through the Sushumana Nadi at these moments. This transition takes place at characteristic timings, e.g. exactly at the moments of sunset which are of very significant importance in yoga and spiritual sadhanas.

The movements of the Sun and Moon and their mutual interaction with the Earth – via planetary forces of attraction, cosmic radiation, electromagnetic waves, etc – continue without pause as per the universal Laws of Nature. So do the continuous swaras through Ida, Pingla, Sushumna throughout the life-cycle.

It is known to some extent to the researchers of the related areas of physics, physiology and psychology that the sunrise and sunset times and also the positions of sun, moon and the other planets affect the geomagnetism and biomagnetism and hence the biological clock and various mind-body functions. The gigantic variations in the tides of a sea with the lunar calendar are well known to most of us. However, little or no knowledge do we have about the relationship of these with the swara patterns.

In a healthy state of the body and mind our swaras universally manifest the following patterns around the time of sunrise during a lunar month. Here, chandraswara (or suryaswara) implies natural breathing through the left (or right) nostril.

1            Chandra swara    Surya swara
2            Chandra swara    Surya swara
3            Chandra swara    Surya swara
4            Surya swara          Chandra swara
5            Surya swara          Chandra swara
6            Surya swara          Chandra swara
7            Chandra swara     Surya swara
8            Chandra swara     Surya swara
9            Chandra swara     Surya swara
10          Surya swara          Chandra swara
11          Surya swara          Chandra swara
12          Surya swara          Chandra swara
13          Chandra swara    Surya swara
14          Chandra swara    Surya swara
15          Chandra swara    Surya swara

It is amazing that this description cited in the ancient scriptures (namely “Swara Yoga” and “Shiva Swarodaya”) of the Vedic Age is found perfectly correct in the present times as well. So much so that it could be used as a measure of our health. If some body’s breathing pattern in the morning within few minutes after sunrise does not match with what is shown in this chart, it would be indicative of some disturbance in the normal healthy state of his/her body or mind. If the perturbation is random and continues for several days in succession then there must be some ailment or disorder that could be significant. If it is not yet manifested, the person should have a precautionary medical checkup and should also take care of the stress or mental tension, if any.

We all can verify this fact by observing our own breathing pattern around the sunrise time on different days of the lunar month. Needless to say, we should get up before or at the time of sunrise to do this experiment and use the Indian calendar (Panchang) calculated on lunar cycle. It should be noted that the panchangs based on solar calendar won’t give the right information, viz, lunar day nos., required for using the above chart.

We all know that the rays of the moon (called chandra in Sanskrit) are cool and soothing whereas those of the sun (called surya in Sanskrit) are hot and energizing. As obvious by their names, the chandra-swara corresponds to a calm, stable and happy state of mind which is most suited for thorough and discreet thinking, balanced discussions and adept decision making, etc; the surya-swara occurs in the relatively excited, active, dynamic, agile, state of mind, which is best for intrepid, courageous efforts and tasks requiring enthusiasm, force, aggressiveness and alacrity.

Noting that proper initiation accounts for proper completion of the work at hand, wise people make sure that their body and mind (mood) are in an appropriate state to begin a job.  Suppose, a student is compelled to study a difficult lesson when he is tired and feeling sleepy then he would hardly learn anything. He would grasp the same lesson better if he reads it in a fresh mood the next morning after having a good sleep in the night.  Devotional practices, meditation, contemplation, etc require peaceful, static state of mind; that is why one prefers loneliness and silence for these purposes. On the contrary, noisy shouts of slogans of victory, high pitch sounds of bugles and drums in specific tunes of march-fast, aggressive and boosted state of mind are essential for a warrior who is departing for the battlefield.

You can experiment on yourself to see that whenever you are in a good and calm mood and having positive thoughts, you must be breathing through the left nostril. Your furor, excitement or abrupt, untoward thinking would on the contrary, be accompanied by respiration through the right nostril alone.

The yogis of swara-vigyana therefore advise that one should check the pattern of his/her swara before commencing an important task.  Decision making, planning for something that has long-term effects, farsighted thinking, meticulous study of a subject, any kind of scholarly or creative action, etc should be commenced when the chandra-swara is active.  Important decision-making, fixing of a marriage, rituals of marriage, investment, charity, digging a well, drawing an architecture design of a building, planning or starting a journey, prescribing a medicine, selecting a career, buying or ordering a jewelry, signing a paper, pledging, doing a research experiment, studying, practicing spiritual exercises of yoga, mantra-japa, meditation, yagya, etc should be done when the chandra-swara is active.

A creative, calm and thoughtful state of the mind associated with supportive endocrine activity implies upward flow of prana from the corresponding extrasensory charkas. Harmonious breathing through the left nostril in this case also indicates that the brain and the molecular, cellular components and organs of the body are receiving adequate amounts of the subtle currents of vital energy.  That is why the chandra-swara is referred as auspicious for the above kinds of constructive, beneficial, farsighted and intellectual activities.

Breathing through the right nostril is desired in violent, invigorating, aggressive, strong activities. Fighting in a battle field, struggling against a barrier, forceful debating or arguing on a hot topic, killing, hunting, sexual coupling, practicing a tantra, hard labors like breaking a stone, pulling an iron cable, cutting wood or diamonds, chiseling a pearl, rigorous physical exercises, etc, are most successful if performed in a state when the surya-swara is on.  The intense, rapid, energizing flow of prana associated with this swara is essential for awakening of zealous empowerment and excitation of the mental and bodily faculties.

The moments, when both the swaras are on i.e. when the prana flows through the Sushumna nadi, are of great importance for spiritual endeavors. This duration is referred as sandhikala, a transition period. For example evening is the sandhikala between a day and night. Similarly the phase of about early hours of morning till the dawn of the new day is the sandhikala between a night and the next day.  The scriptures guide us to do prayers, worship, and other devotional practices in these time-intervals.  Eating, sleeping, or any worldly activity in these hours is harmful for our physical and mental fitness.  The same is true of the sandhikala of the swaras.

The equilibrium state of swaras when the prana flows through the Sushumna is like a blessed opportunity for the individual self to leap forward in spiritual elevation. These are the moments when all vices, illusions, attachments and ego are naturally pacified and the divine inspirations and enlightened thoughts are awakened. Any spiritual determination, saintly thought or feeling occurring in these rare moments is inspired by the soul and therefore proves to be unerringly true. It is said that blessings and curses uttered in these moments surely materialize. The sadhanas of swara-yoga aim at timely recognition and cautious use of this beatifying phase for divine enlightenment and spiritual ascent.

The rishis had discovered that the microcosm is a miniature of the macroscosm (“Yatha Brahmande Thata Pinde”); the functions at the gross physico-chemical as well as atomic and subtler levels in the human body also follow the Laws of Nature like those followed at the cosmic level; for example in the planetary motion. The auto-regulated cyclic variation of the swaras is as natural as the dawn of the day after the night, shift of the sun from Uttarayan (winter solstice) to Dakshinayana (summer solstice) and consequent changes in the seasons from winter to summer, etc….  However, as the sublime force of omnipresent consciousness is also present in the individual self, it could be used by accomplished yogis, in what appear as supernatural effects at the level of the microcosm. Indeed they do so within the order of the universal laws of Nature, by controlling things at the level of the energy body which manifests in the gross (physical) body.  It is not possible to explain the intricacies of advanced sadhanas of swara yoga in an elementary article like the present one. Nevertheless we shall discuss, in the next issue, some of the yoga practices of changing the pattern of swaras that are rather simple like the deep breathing exercises of pranayam.

Source:- Akhand Jyoti ( Sept-Oct, 2010 )

Chandan Priyadarshi

Chandan Priyadarshi

A student of Spirituality from the ancient city of Nalanda, a Vedantic by faith, an independent philosopher and wanna be philanthropreneur by interest just trying to explore the subtle world of Ancient Philosophy with reference to Modern Science. Having an immense ineterest in Ancient Indian and Vedic Philosophy, Philology, Lexicography, Comparative Religion, Comparative Philosophy, Oriental and Occidental Philosophy, Astrophysics and Astronomy, Ancient and Modern History, Parapsychology, just want to project an integral and synthesized approach of Ancient Philosophy and Modern science to world.

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