May 10, 2021, Publisher: Breath Hub
Feminine and masculine refers to the cosmic principle in the spiritual and intellectual treasure of different cultures throughout history, from the yin and yang in Chinese philosophy to Hermetic* teachings, from Sufi thought to Vedanta**, from Sumerian inscriptions to Kabbalah texts.
The cosmic principle represents the principle of dualism, which is considered to exist at the core of creation, and the union of opposites and integration can be reached by overcoming this duality.
Although interpretations and practices may vary, there are techniques for recognising and channelling the feminine and masculine energies in every tradition. Research about the union of opposites by Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, shows that these schools of thought turn to another cosmic principle to balance masculine and feminine energies — the breath. Breathwork helps us set sail towards the balance and integration of opposites.
According to yogic traditions and the idea of spiritual enlightenment, there are 72,000 meridians of energy in the human body. These meridians are called “nadi”, which means “current” in the Sanskrit language. These are not a part of the physical body but channels through which pranic energy flows.
All these meridians are connected to three main channels, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, which pass through the spinal cord. Ida and Pingala represent two contrasting powers that flow within us: feminine and masculine energies. The prana flow in Ida and Pingala is completely involuntary until it is controlled by yogic practices. Sushumna is the main channel that is activated when the opposite poles are balanced.
Ida is the receptive, introverted, feminine energy channel. It is also known as Chandra or moon Nadi. Beginning from the left side of the root chakra, it circuits each chakra and spirals upward to the left side of the third eye (Ajna) chakra.
The mind is introverted when Ida is dominant. The mental energy is stronger, and the body is in a relaxed, resting state.
Ida corresponds to the parasympathetic system in the physical plane. Parasympathetic nerves are in charge of the rest and digest response which slows down the heartbeat and respiration, narrows the blood vessels and turns the focus inward.
Pingala is the active, extroverted, masculine energy channel. It is also known as Surya or sun Nadi. Located across from the Ida Nadi, Pingala Nadi begins from the right side of the root chakra and ends on the right side of the Ajna chakra.
When Pingala dominates, the mind is extroverted, and the body produces more heat. Physical activity and functions such as digestion are active. Pingala corresponds to the sympathetic nervous system in the physical plane, which is in charge of the fight or flight response. This response increases the heart rate and breathing rate, dilates blood vessels and improves the efficacy of the sensory organs.
Sushumna starts from the root chakra (Muladhara) and reaches the crown chakra (Sahasrarada).
Sushumna is the central body connected to Ida and Pingala. As the feminine and masculine energies are purified and balanced, the Sushumna channel begins to flow.
Sushumna is the ideal channel for meditative practices. If Pingala is dominant, the body is active. If Ida is dominant, the mind is active. When the Sushumna is dominant, the kundalini energy awakens and rises through the chakras.
Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are directly linked to breathing techniques as they are the main channels through which life force energy flows. Physical and mental activities are affected by alternating energy flow in these channels. For example, if Ida Nadi flows during sleep, we sleep comfortably, but sleep problems may occur if Pingala flows.
When Ida Nadi is active, airflow through the left nostril is more dominant. Alternately, airflow through the right nostril is stronger when Pingala is more active. When Sushumna is dominant, airflow is balanced. We can notice which energy is dominant by paying attention to our nostrils.
Recognising and balancing these two opposite poles of the duality principle, also known as yin and yang, is essential in improving our lives both physically and psychologically. The imbalance of these energies is reflected in our personal and social lives, causing stress, anger, unhappiness, weight and concentration problems, and many other symptoms. As we balance the energies flowing through the chakras, we also balance their manifestations in our lives. For instance, the two hemispheres of the brain represent these two contrasting channels.
Nadi Shodhana pranayama is the ideal breathing technique that balances these two polar opposites. Also called alternating nostril breathing, this technique aims to stimulate and cleanse these channels. It helps to activate the Sushumna Nadi by balancing and synchronising the two hemispheres of the brain.
You can find more on Nadi Shodhana here.
* Hermeticism is the philosophical system mainly based on the teachings of the wise Hermes Trismegistus (three times the great Hermes), said to have lived in Ancient Egypt. Today, ancient texts about Hermetisicm are referred to as emerald tablets or Hermetica.
** Vedanta is one of the Hindu philosophical schools. Sacred texts of Vedanta, the Upanishads, are philosophical and mystical in nature. They are considered as one of the essential sources in Hinduism.