Animating Form: What is the Subtle Body?

Health is helpful, but it is not everything. Injury, illness, and death are all uncomfortable or even painful topics and experiences, but they need not be avoided. There is no reason to fear or worry about these things, for they are inevitable features of life. These things happen. Pain happens. Death happens. Suffering happens. You will encounter these things. So rather than worrying about if, when, and how these things will occur, let us consider how we want to interact with these experiences. Perhaps, then, suffering may be transformed from a burden we carry to a passing experience.

The body is designed both to heal itself and to eventually dissolve back into the Earth. So long as you are alive, fueled and enlivened by life-force energy, every cell in your being is working to preserve your physical existence. Without having to ask it to, the body will continuously address threats and work to regenerate any damaged areas until it no longer has the energy to do so. Even in moments of illness and death, the body fights to endure. It will do anything and everything it can to keep you alive. It exists for existence’s sake and knows nothing else.

To exist, energy must be present. Energy flows into the body to animate and illuminate the physical form with life, movement, and the presence of consciousness. Without this presence, we are left with nothing but the object of a body, lifeless.

To continue existing in our current condition, a body must also be present. Through our bodies, life-force energy, can manifest and move through the world of form. Our bodies are arranged in such a way that energy can flow through them, or perhaps energy flows in such a way that the body may form. In Yoga, we call this energy Prana. The currents of Prana have been tracked and mapped in what is described as subtle body anatomy, through careful observation in meditative practice over thousands of years. In learning to navigate the map of subtle body anatomy, with awareness and breath, we can learn to conserve and direct our energy in more optimal ways. This education and practice can lead to a longer, healthier, and even happier life.

My discovery of subtle body anatomy stemmed from one simple, yet impossible question: what would our existence look like outside of this material plane? We know what a body looks like without the animating presence of spirit, but what does this energy or life-force look like without the body?
I cannot answer this question with any level of concrete, conceptual certainty, but if you can, please do share! From my current perspective, subtle body anatomy is only observable in relation to the physical form, like the exhaust that quickly dissolves into space as a vehicle races off into the distance, but I will also say that this observation brings us one step closer to knowing the true nature of ourselves, of spirit, and of reality as a whole. Learning and exploring the map empowers us to interact with our bodies and our lives with greater ease and freedom, even in the midst of suffering.

Would you are to join me in an expedition into the subtle body? I recently shared a Yoga Nidra practice focused on exactly that, and more are sure to follow in the coming weeks. Listen HERE and be sure to follow my SoundCloud page to get updated every time I post a new adventure into inner space.

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