The Subtle Body in Yoga Practice

In a previous post, I wrote about the physical body  also referred to as the ‘gross body’ in Ayurveda and Vedanta and several other schools of mysticism.

In this post I shall write about the subtle body which many people confuse for the soul. There are several variations and understandings of this metaphysical concept of the etheric body of human kind.  In my writings, I will be using a more accessible variation for the sake of simplicity.

What is the Subtle body?

The subtle body is the emotional body.  All emotions are part of the chakra system.  It is interesting that when people speak of the chakras they somewhat tend to forget to mention this important fact, that our emotional body is part of the chakra system and that is where the imbalances in our chakras come from. This really makes the chakra system more tangible than previously thought.  Furthermore, there are more chakras than we have been led to believe, and that is a whole other discussion in and of itself.

It is quite probable that the last thing you want to do while practicing yoga is to pay attention to your emotions.  Especially if you happen to be a beginner, and are still trying to find your way through the postures.  I am going to attempt to give you a short cut here so that you do not need to practice for many years to be able to feel your emotions as they arise while on your mat.

On the mat…

The first thing to be aware of is the ability to feel emotions while you practice. Most of us go into yoga thinking that it is a purely physical exercise to get our bodies in shape.  Yoga is so much more than that.

As you practice the poses, aside from the physical sensations, thoughts, memories and future plans begin to arise, there will be feelings that begin to trickle into your practice. Some examples of feelings: frustration, worthlessness, comparing yourself to others, sadness, anxiety, happiness, shame, guilt, etc…

These feelings are most often if not always located in the areas in your physical body that hold the most tension.  Once I realized this several years ago, I started preferring to practice yoga alone. Sometimes things come up in each person’s body that are not coming up for others and we therefore need to move in certain ways that others do not need to.  I always found I had to move contrary to what the instructor was saying. I was not looking for a workout. I was looking to feel my body from within. This is the reason I always ask students in my class to feel free to honor their body and move as they need to.  My words and guidance are not laws to be adhered to. They are merely suggestions.

 

 What to do when you begin to feel emotions during yoga practice?

First and foremost: DO NOT BYPASS your emotions!

Begin to follow the emotion and locate it in your body, do not avoid it, or pretend that it is not there, stay with it as long as you can, begin to  give it attention as if it were a baby.  Try not to judge what comes up, not only that but also try not to control what is coming up.   Let your-self feel it and locate it in your body.  This is the somatic aspect of yoga, feeling what arises and not trying to change it.  Accepting even the difficult emotions as they are.

Next is using the breath in those areas that are tense or tight.  You do not need to know why you feel a certain way, just that you feel this way and it is OKAY. It is okay to feel because it means you are alive.  Once you bring this attention to whatever you are feeling, the emotions begin to subside and the physical movement will bring relief into your practice.  You must come out of any yoga class feeling this state of relief, otherwise, you may have just added extra tension on top of the tension that was already there…

Now we have accessed two of the human bodies all at once.  We feel the physical body by using the breath and coming into the moment and as soon as the emotions arise we send the breath to them thus creating a link between our physical and emotional bodies.

In an upcoming blog I shall link the gross, and subtle bodies to the causal body.