If you’ve been practicing yoga for any length of time, you’re aware the practice works in ways that aren’t linear, aren’t clear-cut, and aren’t often explainable. Even though yoga is a science and a philosophical system, its benefits go much deeper than what can be seen by the naked eye. Yoga impacts us on the level of our subtle body, which expands beyond the Western understanding of anatomy and physiology.
Each of us is made up of three bodies: the gross or physical body (Stula Sharira), the subtle body (Sukshma Sharira), and the causal body (Karana Sharira). The physical body consists of what we can touch and see: our muscles and skeleton. It forms the Annamaya Kosha, the coarsest of the five sheaths. It is vital to craft a yoga practice which benefits our entire system.
One way to visualize the subtle body is as a blueprint of our physical body. Energy channels called Nadis carry energy throughout the body, like electricity through a machine. The Sushumna Nadi runs along the spine from Muladhara (Root) Chakra to the Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra. Two other primary Nadis, the Ida and Pingala, flow through us in spiraling energy centers known as chakras. In Sanskrit, chakras mean “wheels of light.”
When we practice yoga, we impact our body, our mind, our emotions on the deep level of the subtle body. Different asanas and pranayama impact the way we feel, not just in our muscles and bones, but in our life perspective. Different asanas and combinations of asanas enable us to feel differently from the inside out.
For example, Dhanurasana (Backbend) is a challenging posture that strengthens and opens the spine, shoulders, and legs. This position stimulates your Anahata (Heart) chakra and opens your Visshuda (Throat) chakra and is energizing and uplifting for mood. Forward folds like Paschimottanasa (Seated Forward Fold) are more introspective asanas where you open the muscles of the posterior chain of your body while quieting the nervous system. So, if you need to lift your mood, try heart openers, and if you need to calm or soothe your soul, fold forward. Understanding how asanas can balance out the energy within you can help you stay healthy in every level of your being.
You'll have a chance to explore these various yogic systems of your body in this week's classes. Savor the joy in knowing you are changing your thoughts and emotions by stepping onto your yoga mat. There’s no need to understand all the intricacies of the subtle body (unless you want to!) in order to garner all the benefits. Happy practice!
Geenie Celento - Sri Vidya Yoga
Life Force Project - Gentle & Accessible Yoga: Subtle Body Awareness
Alanna Kaivalya - Energetic Awakening: Understanding the Nadis
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