Balance in Yoga – The Importance of Ida and Pingala

In yoga the idea of balance is very important.

There are two very important energy channels or nadis in the human body out of the 72,000 nadis that exist in each human being. Both of these important nadis flow symmetrically. One is known as ida and the other as pingala. Ida represents the creative, feminine qualities within you and pingala represents the energetic, male qualities within you. Bringing balance into the body by using balancing postures brings about balance between ida and pingala and hence balance achieved not just physically but also on an energetic level within ourselves. Between ida and pingala lies sushumna nadi which exists parallel to and slightly in front of the spinal cord.

Ida nadi begins and ends on the left side of sushumna nadi. Ida represents the lunar energy within us, that is the energy within us that is related to the moon. It is a cool energy and it is nurturing by nature. The colour white is sometimes used in yogic teachings to represent the subtle vibrational qualities of ida. Ida is also active in the right side of the brain. Pingala represents the solar energy within us, that is energy related to the sun. It begins and ends on the right side of sushumna nadi. It is warm and stimulating by nature. Pingala is responsible for all the vital somatic processes within our bodies. The subtle vibrational qualities of pingala are sometimes represented by the colour red in yogic teachings. Pingala is active in the left side of the brain.

The interaction between ida and pingala relates to the play between intuition and rationality, consciousness and vital power and the right and left hemispheres of the brain that takes places within us. In day-to-day life, one of these nadis is always dominant. Although this dominance changes during the day, one nadi is usually more dominant. This brings about personality, behaviour, and health factors that can be described as ida like or pingala like. One goal of yoga practice is to bring about balance between ida and pingala.

The idea of balance in yoga is seen when yoga is described as hatha. ‘Ha’ relates to the sun or the solar principle of pingala and ‘tha’ relates to the moon or lunar principle of ida. In hatha yoga then, balance between solar and lunar energies within us is the aim of our practice.

It is said in many yogic teachings that balancing sun and moon, or pingala and ida, allows the awakening of kundalini, and thus the awakening of the higher consciousness that is felt at sahasrara, the seventh chakra. In fact, certain yoga teachings say that as long as either ida or pingala is dominant, sushumna nadi remains dormant or asleep and the power of kundalini cannot be awakened and so you cannot sense the awareness of sahasrara.

If we look at these definitions in terms of science we observe that the left and right hemispheres of the brain are each responsible for different functions. The left hemisphere of the brain controls the right-sided functions of the body and is also responsible for scientific thoughts. The right side of the brain is responsible for creativity as well as the functions of the right side of the body. In yoga we are looking for a balance between left and right and so balance between left and right side of the brain and right and left side of the body all contribute.

Balance between ida and pingala occurs at ajna chakra which is represented as a lotus flower with two petals at the centre of the forehead. One of the petals is represented by the energy channel of ida and the other petal by the energy channel of pingala.

Further to this, yoga theory states that there is a connection between the mind and the body so when there is balance in the mind – between ida and pingala – between left and right hemispheres – then there is balance too in the body. Hence it is important to work on balance in the mind to develop balance in the body. This can be achieved using meditation (dhyana) or breath control techniques (pranayama).

However the reverse is also true – when there is balance in the body then too, balance in the mind can be created. Hence working on the physical asanas of balance also helps create balance in the mind – especially when we focus on the breath, as when we focus on the breath then we are also focusing on prana or the life force within us.

Important balancing poses in yoga practice include standing balances such as:

Garudasana (Eagle pose)
Vrikshasana (Tree pose)
Natarajasana (Dancer’s pose)
Utkatasana (Fierce pose)

Arm balancing poses include:

Bakasana (Crane pose)
Mayurasana (Peacock pose)
Tolasana (Weighing scale pose)
Pinchamayurasana (Feathered peacock pose)
Bhuajapidasana (Hand pressure pose)

In all balancing poses you should focus your attention on your core muscles as they help to stabilise you and also on your ajna chakra as your ajna chakra is the command centre of the body and the mind.

Hence by working on balancing postures, you are not just bringing balance into the body but also into the mind and your nadis. A balanced life is always a happier life.