Kundalini Yoga is the Yoga of prana. Prana is the life-energy or life-principle of the universe. There are three principal channels through which this life-energy flows. These channels are ida, pingala and sushumna. In Sanskrit these channels are called nadis. Ida, pingala and sushumna are inside our subtle physical body, not inside the gross physical. Ida carries the current of life-energy in the left side of the body. Pingala carries the current in the right side of the body. Sushumna carries the current in the middle of the spinal column. Sushumna is the most important of the three nadis. It receives a ceaseless stream of life-energy from the universal Consciousness-light. There is an inner connection between ida and pingala and the zodiac and planets. Ida has a special connection with the moon and the planet Mercury; hence its main quality is coolness and mildness. Pingala is connected with the sun and Mars hence its quality is powerful and dynamic heat.
Ida rules the left nostril. Pingala rules the right nostril. When we breathe in and out primarily through our left nostril, we have to know that it is ida that is functioning. When we breathe in and out through our right nostril, it is pingala that is functioning. And when both of our nostrils are functioning satisfactorily, we have to know that it is sushumna that is playing its role. It also happens at times that ida breathes in and pingala breathes out.
Ida, pingala and sushumna meet together at six different places. Each meeting place forms a centre and each centre is round like a wheel. Indian spiritual philosophy calls these centres chakras. They are also called lotuses, because they look like the lotus flower. The six centres, as perhaps you know, are muladhara, svadhisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddha and ajna. There is also another chakra that is inside the brain, called sahasrara. Because it is in the brain, and not along the spinal column, it is not counted with the other six centres. Apart from these six, there are many other chakras in the subtle physical body. Here in the knee we have a chakra; even in the toes and the fingertips we have chakras. But these chakras are minor and are not usually mentioned.
The root chakra, or the lotus muladhara, has four petals, which are red and orange in colour. The spleen chakra, svadhisthana, has six petals. The petals are orange, blue, green, yellow, violet and blood-red. Blood-red is the most prominent colour in this chakra. The navel chakra, manipura, has ten petals. They are pink, orange and green, but primarily green. The heart chakra, anahata, has twelve petals. Here the colour is bright golden. The throat centre, the vishuddha lotus, has sixteen petals. Blue and green are the colours. The brow centre, ajna, has only two petals. But inside each petal there are forty-eight petals. Here the colour is rose. The crown centre, sahasrara, has 1,000 petals, or to be more precise, 972. It has all the colours, but the violet colour is predominant.
The universal Consciousness embodies universal Music. From each chakra, where the life-energy from the universal Consciousness gathers, a musical note is produced. From sahasrara the tone of shadja or sa is produced. In western music, you call this ‘do’. From ajna, rishava or ri is produced: what you call ‘re’. From vishuddha, gandhara or ga is produced: what you call ‘mi’. From anahata, madhyama or ma is produced: what you call ‘fa’. From manipura, panchama or pa is produced: what you call ‘so’. From svadhisthana, dhaivata or dha is produced: what you call ‘la’. From muladhara, nishada or ni is produced: what you call ‘ti’.
There are seven worlds corresponding to the seven chakras. Muladhara corresponds to Bhurloka; svadhisthana corresponds to Bhubarloka; manipura corresponds to Svarloka; anahata corresponds to Janaloka vishuddha corresponds to Tapoloka; ajna corresponds to Maharloka; and sahasrara corresponds to Satyaloka. Each world is symbolised by something. Bhurloka is symbolised by earth, Bhubarloka by water, Svarloka by heat, Janaloka by air, Tapoloka by ether, Maharloka by energy, and Satyaloka by infinite space.
For each centre there is a special Mother-Power, which is a manifestation of the Supreme Mother. These Mother-Powers are known as Brahmi, Parameshwari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda. Each one has a special place of her own. Brahmi is the Mother-Power that embodies and pervades the infinite space. She rules all the chakras. Brahmi stays in the sahasrara, or brain chakra, which is the thousand-petaled lotus. From there she rules the centres that are below her: ajna, vishuddha, anahata, manipura, svadhisthana and muladhara. Parameshwari is located in the ajna chakra, the brow centre. There she rules ajna and the chakras that are below her. Kaumari is located in vishuddha, the throat centre, and rules vishuddha and the chakras below her. Vaishnavi begins functioning from anahata, the heart centre, and rules the others below. Varahi, who stays in the navel centre, rules the lower planes: manipura, svadhisthana and muladhara. Indrani rules svadhisthana, at the spleen, and muladhara, at the base of the spine. And Chamunda rules only over muladhara.
Each centre also has a presiding deity, a cosmic god. Brahma is the presiding deity of muladhara; Rudra is the presiding deity of svadhisthana; Vishnu, of manipura; Ishwara, of anahata; Sadashiva, of vishuddha, Shambhu, of ajna; and Paramashiva is the presiding deity of sahasrara.