When we think about subtle yoga anatomy, usually the first thing that comes to mind are the chakras – the energy centers of the body. However, the body actually has numerous subtle aspects, says renowned yoga teacher Tias Little in this free download.
The subtle body doesn’t have to be something abstract, notes Tias. We can learn to sense aspects of subtle functions in yoga practice as we begin to sense how yoga poses affect our body and mind, e.g. the pathway of nerves through the fascia or the neurovascular changes that unfold in different yoga poses.
The whole idea of the subtle is used in many of the spiritual teachings as a guide towards the infinite or the spaciousness, says Tias. The ancient yogis knew that in order to contact this boundless awareness, one had to move very slowly and really attune to the most sensitive, vibratory rhythms that reverberate inside. The more one attunes to these subtle shifts in one’s own physiology, the more one can approach spirit.
A concept of subtle yoga anatomy that has a strong parallel in Western physiology, says Tias, is the yogic and Ayurvedic concept of the nadis. There are tens of thousands of nadis in the body; in fact, Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes 72,000 nadis, and some yogic texts describe even more.
In Western physiology, these channels are described as e.g. the blood arteries and veins, the lymphatic channels, and the nerves that transmit signals from the brain to all parts of the body. The nadis, from a yogic point of view, are really rivers of energy, which the ancient yogis mapped out in a very detailed way, notes Tias. Connecting to these little rivers throughout the body is something we do in the subtle body.
The biggest river to connect to is the river of the breath, says Tias. But underneath the breath, there are many, many layers. There are many pulses. There are many different rhythms that one can connect to. And the beauty of practicing yoga is starting to really sense some power and to sense and feel the aliveness of this pulsatory flow inside.
If the information flows freely through the Nadis, if the subtle energy flows through the Nadis, we enjoy good health. But when the nadis get clogged, it affects our health, as well as our mental and emotional well-being. This is particularly paralleled in the Western concept of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system has a dual role. It functions both as a vehicle for the immune system as well as a system of detoxification. The lymphatic vessels remove waste products left over from the cellular environment and return them to the blood stream. As such, the lymphatic system is critical for our health and well-being.
It’s very much like keeping the plumbing in your house below your sink free, notes Tias. The lymphatic system is really all about purification. The yogis placed great emphasis on purification, and left us numerous practices to tone the lymphatic system. Tias further talks about how the lymphatic system is a sister system to the circulatory system, and why it’s so important to our overall health.
You may also enjoy Tias’s course, Yoga for Lymphatic Health: Building Physical and Psychic Immunity.