The Science of Breath
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
Exploring Kundalini, the Nadis, and our connection with Divine.
“God formed man of dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and then man became a living being.” - Genesis 2:7
Not only does this tell us breath is life, but more importantly, through breath we preserve some direct connection, as miniature fractals, to the Creator of Life itself in our universe. Note that God breathed into the nostrils, not the mouth, in order to make man a living being. It is no accident that the nostrils are the primary apparatus used to practice the variety of breathing techniques prescribed by Kundalini Yoga; since the two nostrils represent the dual nature of existence: i.e. hot/cold, light/dark, good/evil, etc. Through our nostrils, we can find and experience all things in the universe within our self, because after all, we have been created in God’s image – through the breath. Kundalini Yoga, at least in its unadulterated form, has given ample techniques to gain insight into God’s fractal nature, which is our own, to help us understand the God within, and thereby God Absolute.
No accepted consensus exists as to when this science of breath as detailed in Kundalini Yoga was first created or by whom; but it is generally accepted that the tradition is so ancient as to be contemporaneous with biblical scripture while some even opine that the science itself is the very foundation of all scripture knowledge. Either way, such debates are not relevant to our purpose or goal. We seek a proper foundation and understanding of Kundalini Yoga and the elements which are fundamental to the science.
There have been mostly unsuccessful attempts at characterizing the term “Kundalini” throughout the last hundred or so years, primarily because Kundalini is a Sanskrit term with no transliteral English equivalent. What Kundalini “is” only direct experience can facilitate rather than descriptive characterization and prose. Nonetheless, some theoretical conception should be given for our own frame of reference.
Kundalini refers to the “source” of all energy which lies hidden within all things as an undifferentiated / static potential. It acts as the foundation and support to all forms of existences which we as in individuals ourselves are and experience as things within our physical cosmos. It should be understood and accepted, at least for now, that our physical universe is entirely rooted and supported in something other than what we see or typically experience. Kundalini energy is dormant within all animate and inanimate objects, while supporting their “life”. Even the stagnancy of rocks and plants, or even water, all are only different expressions of Life rooted in the same substrata – which is Kundalini energy. As human individuals, this energy is suppose to be located at the base of the spine – latent or “asleep” as it were.
The word Kundalini is composed, in part, by the Sanskrit Kanda, which itself refers to the “place”, or nexus where Kundalini springs from it potential form to it’s dynamic giving matter life and animation. Kanda corresponds to the location of Cauda Equina, which is a region of fine nerve endings precipitating out of the bottom of the spine. Though Kanda is not perceptible to the senses, it is in the region of the sacrum. From Kanda 72,000 astral veins or “channels” diffuse throughout the body, and where the Pranas and Mind move throughout. What is known as the “spirit” within us is nothing more than then the Pranas and the Mind collectively moving throughout these channels.
In Sanskrit, these astral veins or “channels” are called Nadis – or Nadi for singular. And they are what the spirit (Prana / Mind) moves throughout which results in the markup of our entire personality is to be found and understood. Practically speaking, the freedom or inhabitation of movement the spirt has throughout this system is what is meant by the term karma. Karma is nothing more than nadic blocks preventing proper functionality and expression of certain parts of or nature. Why or how this happens is beyond the scope of this work, but I should bring solace to know that certain types that pranayama, which we will briefly introduce, do rectify the these impediments.
Of the 72,000 nadis, only three are necessary to mention and discuss for our purposes – Sushumna, Ida and Pingala. Sushumna is the largest and most important nadi. It runs inside the entire spinal column within the central canal, and holds two other nadis within it called Chandra, and within Chandra another called Vijra. Because Vijra nadi is characterized as being of an intense generative nature, Sushumna is characterized as being of a generative nature. Ida nadi runs from the opening of left nostril down to the right testicle, or ovary, while oscillating left and right intersecting the region of the pituitary, heart, and base of the spine. It is characterized as the “moon” because of its nurturing qualities. It corresponds to the parasympathetic nerve system. Pingala nadi, runs from the opening of right nostril down to the left testicle, or ovary, oscillating right and left while intersecting the region of the pituitary, heart, and base of the spine. It is characterized as the “sun”, because of it is a dynamic and highly active quality. It corresponds to the sympathetic nerve system.
As the Prana and Mind move up and down these and throughout other Nadis, they cross plexuses of Nadis which are collectively called Chakras. Chakras are not simple “energy swirls” as most have come to understand, but plexuses where make Nadis join and intersect. At the base of the spine for example, is a Chakra called Muladhara, which is either yellow or red depending on your source, but agreeably a square in structure. This square symbolizes the fact that this chakra has 4 Nadis converging together at that point called Muladhara. The four nadis that make up Muladhara are not important for our purposes, but it may be helpful to remember that they are distinct and unique to one another, and each has its own proprietary vibration; and that applies to every nadi throughout the body. The heart chakra, or Anahata plexus for example, is again located within the Sushumna in the region of the heart, and has 12 distinct Nadis that make it up.
Most of the important Chakras are within the Sushumna, which is why it is regarded as the most important nadi from all 72,000. After kundalini becomes dynamic and directed to rise into and up Sushumna does one experience various the mystical powers mentioned in The Bible and other Scriptures. And when Kundalini reaches the region of the pineal gland, or Sahashrara chakra, do all the dualities within the individual cease so only harmony and equanimity remains, and thereby liberating the soul from physicality.
Through rhythmic Breathing both Prana and Mind are controlled and used to cleanse the nadis thereby allowing Kundalini to awaken. As mentioned previously, Prana and Mind are only flip-sides of the same coin. If one is controlled, the other becomes automatically controlled. Because Kundalini Yoga focuses heavily on pranayama, or the control or Prana, the mind won’t be discussed at any notable length. All that should be noted is that the mind is subtler form of Prana. There are 10 distinct functions, or types of Prana of which only 5 are generally known – Prana, Apana, udana, vyana, and Samana. Of them, we will focus on only two as beginning practitioners – Prana and Apana.
Prana can have two meanings. On the one hand, it is a general term which refers to the collection of all Pranic forces and their functions, and on the other, Prana can refer to a distinct function as the force behind exhalation of breath. This Prana has an upwards moving tendency located within the upper chest, causing it to have a airy quality and nature. Controversy, Apana is separated from Prana at the heart occupying the abdominal region. It’s force is opposite to Prana and has a downwards force associated with responsible for inhalation, amount other things. [cite other things it does here]? Apana is of fiery quality or nature.
Intermediate stages of pranayama certain “locks and holds” termed “Bandhas”, which are integrated primarily while retaining the breath to restrict and navigate the Pranas to certain Nadis. Three are primarily used called Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Banda and Jalandhara Bandha; the combination of these three simultaneously is called Maha Bandha. Since the proper implementation of these are best left to individual guidance, they will not be discussed in conjunction with pranayama here. Visualization of each respective nadi during inhalation, exhalation and retention help expedite cleaning the Nadis. In advance stages of pranayama, mantras are used clear and revivify the nadis. Mantras are something like prayer chants in Sanskrit that act as “vibrational codes” containing the vibrational equivalence of a particular nadi, or a set of nadis (chakras). Just a certain vibrations can manipulate matter as demonstrated in cymatics, such mantras sync with certain Nadis to cause effects.
It is no mystery that every human inhales and exhales thousands of times a day. What may elude most is the direct association their breathing patterns have on their mood and state of consciousness. This is due to the close association between the Prana and the Mind, both which are regulated and controlled by the breath. Also, Prana and Apana representing a dual force have a direct correlation to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, where the mind is primarily located. When God breathed into the nostrils of man, it was Prana that was gifted into man’s nostrils making him a living being, not oxygen and nitrogen.
As our Nadis become more cleaner and revived, we start to have more control over our conscious states. Our Will becomes more effective and with seemingly less effort. During intense practice we are likely to experience various lights appearing before our minds eye among other experiences. These lights our essence and strength coming back to us, which is a reflection of our divine nature realigning with our Creator.
- Joe Dolezal