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The Spiritual Anatomy of Yoga

Updated: May 2

“Wherever you go, you carry your light with you”

~ Yogi Ashokananda, my Beloved Teacher

The spiritual anatomy of yoga is a vast subject; over the next few weeks, we will be examining the key points of this aspect of the yogic sciences as I share with you the teachings as imparted to and interpreted by me.

These blogs are in no way intended to be exhaustive, but are shared to offer a glimpse of the light that we all carry within us; the light from which we originated and which we shine into the world.

The Subtle Body

Human anatomy is mind-boggling in its complexity and artistry - our physical form is a triumph of evolutionary engineering and adaptability. Our spiritual anatomy (also known as our ‘energetic anatomy’), is no less of a marvel.

If we term the physical manifestation of our body’s as the ‘gross body’ (taking the meaning of the word ‘gross’ to be ‘dense’), we can refer to the energetic anatomy as the ‘subtle body’ or those aspects of ourselves which are ‘finer’ and perhaps not so easily identified.

Many people have questioned the existence of the subtle body over the centuries of western scientific domination, but we have all felt the actions of the ‘finer selves’, whether we have recognised it as so or not. Those feelings of a hunch or the subtle shift in awareness that comes with a feeling of intuition or deja-vu are all the workings of the subtle body having a direct and palpable effect on our physical body. Most cannot explain these sensations or feelings, or even accurately say where they originate from within the gross body, but they are real and have a profound and powerful effect.

The subtle body of the human being consists of many different parts, just like the physical body, and these parts have been called by many different names across millennia - for example, names such as ‘aura’ or ‘etheric field’ refer to the same quantifiable and measurable physical manifestation of the electromagnetic field of the body.

We are bio-electromagnetic animals and our bodies emit an electrical charge which generates an electrical field around the body. This bio-electromagnetism of the body is the basis of our ‘energetic anatomy’.

The subtle body has as its foundation seven major psycho-spiritual centres (known as ‘chakras’ in yogic terms), countless channels through which the vital energy of the body flows (known as ‘nadis’), and three major channels which are coterminous with the spinal system in the physical body (‘Ida’, ‘Pingala’ and ‘Sushumna’). It can be useful to think of these three parts of the subtle body as the ‘spiritual nervous system’.

Whilst these energy centres and channels are not currently measurable by western science, eastern disciplines place upon them the same importance as the physical organs and nervous system; and just like the physical systems of the body, if the energetic systems of the body are not functioning properly, imbalances and problems can arise.

The various disciplines of yoga, as discussed in the series of the Eight Limbs, have a profound effect upon our spiritual and energetic anatomy; indeed, my own discipline of Himalayan Hatha Yoga has as its core the principle that the practice of the Eight Limbs assists the body in supporting the energetic systems and vice versa, so that the entire system can function as a whole.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be examining the seven major centres or ‘chakras’ in more detail.

All spiritual disciplines have at their heart the recognition of Light as the source of all things - it is the Light of our awareness shining within the depths of the human experience, illuminating the path ahead, one step at a time.

Matt ~ The Bearded Naked Yogi

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