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Nadi – from the Sanskrit root nad – usually translated as channel, stream, motion, flow, pond or river.

In modern texts, nadis are often described as ‘veins’ or ‘nerves’ – which can be problematic as it tends to reinforce a western tendency to think about Indian body-constructs in anatomical terms (NB: the conflation of Nadi with veins may have originated with Max Meuller, who uses the term ‘artery’ in his translations of the Upanisads). The concept of Nadis predates the emergence of Tantra, appearing in the early Chandogya Upanisad.

Given the etymological association of Nadi with rivers, it’s hardly surprising that the three so-called ‘principal’ Nadis – Sushumna (very gracious), Ida (pale) & Pingala (red-hued) are identified with three great rivers – the Sarasvati, Yamuna & Ganga, according to the Jnanasankalini Tantra.