The Three Granthis
According to the yogic tradition, a granthi (“knot”) is an energetic and psychic contraction preventing the free flow of prana (energy) along sushumna nadi (the main energy channel in the subtle body). The granthis impede the awakening of the chakras and the rising of kundalini shakti (the fundamental force of our being, generally lying dormant in muladhara chakra). In order for kundalini to achieve its final upward movement to sahasrara, it must first pierce through each of the three granthis (Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra). These three psychic knots are located at the level of muladhara, anahata, and ajna chakras. Each granthi can be associated with a particular state of contraction of the personal consciousness. Such a “knot” is the expression of a form of attachment that presents an obstacle on the path to higher knowledge, therefore obscuring the truth of our essential nature. When the granthis are pierced, kundalini will rise spontaneously, bringing a profound expansion of consciousness. This is when, according to Swami Sivananda, “The Yogi drinks the Nectar of Immortality.”
The “knot of Brahma,” is a tangle of nadis (energy channels) that represents the first energetic and psychic contraction in the human being. It is situated in muladhara chakra and symbolizes the attachment to the material world. It is linked to the survival instinct, the urge to procreate, instinctive tendencies, passivity, desire, and tamas (inertia). When Brahma granthi is pierced (or transcended), kundalini is able to rise beyond muladhara chakra without being held back by the attractions and instinctual patterns of the personality.
“The knot of Vishnu,” the second of the granthis, is located in anahata chakra. (According to some yogis, it is located at the level of manipura chakra or on sushumna nadi between manipura and anahata chakras). It is associated with emotional attachment, attachment to limited forms of compassion, and doing good deeds. It is the knot that creates the desire to preserve ancient traditions and spiritual orders. But, as Johari Harish wrote in his book Chakras, “Even the devotion to scriptural knowledge and the respect for spiritual orders becomes a bond. Only by true discrimination, knowledge, and faith can one untie the knot of Vishnu and realize the purpose behind the Cosmos, which is a part of the divine plan.” Once Vishnu granthi is transcended, the awareness of the universal quality of energy is more easily recognized. In this way, the yogi will have more natural access to the universal source of energy, rather than having to draw energy from the localized centers within the being.
“The knot of Rudra,” the third granthi, is located in ajna chakra (some yoga practitioners place it at the level of vishuddha chakra or on sushumna nadi between the eyebrows or between vishuddha and ajna chakras). It is also called Shiva granthi (“the knot of Shiva”). Attachment to siddhis (paranormal powers) is the great hindrance related to ajna chakra and it creates this knot. Rudra granthi can be pierced only by the power of discernment between what is ephemeral—samsara (the phenomenal world)—and what is eternal—nirvana (the Absolute). Then, detachment from siddhis occurs naturally. When this knot is surmounted, the ego consciousness is left behind and the truth of the Oneness beyond individual consciousness is revealed.
Read more about the chakras here.