The Subtle Body and Healing

When the Western world envisions the body, it is has been strictly the scientific and anatomical body- our skeletal structure which allows for support, our muscular system which allows for standing upright and movement in all direction, and our organ systems which allow for the functioning of our bodies.  As yoga becomes more popular in our Western culture, the subtle body interpreted through the chakra system becomes more widespread. For thousands of years ancient cultures have created systems of the subtle body or energetic body, which lies in the core vertical column of our bodies, invisible to the human eye. Through this understanding of reality they recognized the entirety of the universe within a human being. These various systems of the invisible body, known as chakra systems, note energy gathered at certain centers of the body or chakras. These centers represented by specific symbols were used in spiritual practices and healing ways, and since then have been interpreted through scientific study of physiology, thought processes and feelings in psychology, and healing in vibrational medicine.

In the Hindu tradition the subtle body (sukshmasharira) is the “perfect microcosm that is made in the image of the macrocosm” (Varenne, 155). The subtle body “is made in the image of the universe and the powers of the universe are all present within it” (Varenne,156). As the universe is very multidimensional, so is every human being. To explain the multidimensionality of our beings, the Hindu chakra system diagrams this interrelationship. The word chakra means “wheel” or “disk” in Sanskrit, and are centers for reception, assimilation, and transmission of prana, or life energy. As these chakras rotate, various texts describe them as spinning vortices of energy emanating from central nerve ganglia of the spinal column (Judith Seventh, 6). These energy centers are described as lotuses (padma), with a circular wheel in the center and varying number of petals radiating around it (Varenne, 164).  In the Hindu Chakra system there are noted between four and twelve chakras, but most commonly known are the seven major chakras running from the anus up the middle of the body to the top of the head. Moving from physical security at the bottom of the spine to self-realization at the crown chakra, the seven chakras are as follows- root chakra (muladhara), sacral chakra (svadhisthana), solar plexus chakra (manipura), heart chakra (anahata), throat chakra (vishuddha), third eye or brow chakra (ajna), and crown chakra (sahasrara).

Eastern philosophy and Western physiology and psychology overlap in this chakra system. Each of the chakras corresponds to a particular organ and endocrine gland, as well as represents a unique aspect of ourselves- each are linked to an elementary force, sound, color, force, gemstone, deity, issue, herb, identity, psychological aspect, psychic function, and much more.  The endocrine system is the link. There is a direct relationship between one’s energetic and one’s physical body. The endocrine system is a system of glands that secrete hormones, affecting the physiological function of the body and how one feels. In this way it directly connects the subtle body and the physical body. Each chakra has a corresponding endocrine gland- root chakra and the gonads or adrenals, sacral chakra and leydig or gonads, solar plexus and adrenals or pancreas, heart chakra and thymus, throat chakra and pituitary, and crown chakra and pineal gland (Hartley, 208). Therefore the chakras take energy of a higher vibrational or subtle nature and transform it by stepping it down, communicating the information to a more physiological nature. This “subtle energy is converted into hormonal signals from each of the major endocrine glands that are linked with the chakras” (Gerber, 372). In this way the physical body mimics the energetic body, as the subtle body is the energy template for the physical. This also shows that any “changes in the physical body are merely the observable end result of physiological events occurring simultaneously on a variety of energy levels” (Gerber, 371). Having the endocrine system link the subtle body and physical body, explains why physical pains or disease manifest from blockages in the chakra system.

The blockages of chakras are defined as either energetically excessive or deficient. A deficient chakra is one that is closed, and thus little energy is flowing through it. While an excessive chakra is one that sucks up all the energy in the system, causing other chakras to be deficient. Childhood experiences, cultural and societal values and negative memories throughout our lives bring about blockage in our chakras (Judith Seventh, 17). When we internalize these things, we become stressed and this energy gets caught in a particular area, as we do not let the natural flow of energy spiral through our bodies. In a deficient chakra, this locked restrictive pattern may cause the blocking out certain external stimulation, showing up in the physical body as a stiff neck or ulcer.  The habitual pattern in an excessive state of a chakra “restricts internal energy from being expressed” as it is a “constant dominating force in the system as a whole.” For example an excessive energy pattern in the second chakra could lead to sexual addiction. (Judith Seventh, 13). Any imbalance affects the whole chakra system, creating blockage in one or more areas obstructs the central stream of energy through the body, not allowing for full flow on the path of manifestation on the way down or path of liberation on the way up.

In my personal experience with my own healing of migraines, awareness practices have helped me the most with understanding myself and provide healing and health in my life. As our own bodies have a “wealth of information,” yoga and meditation have allowed me to listen to my body and understand which parts hold tension or tightness (Juhan, 13). It has required me to focus on my breath, decreasing my anxiety and bringing me to the present moment. My meditative practices have been taken a step further with the knowledge of the chakra system- allowing me to be more aware of my internal body, my spirit and the different aspects of my true self.  During a “Wheels of Light” yoga practice, the instructor begins with a chakra-centered meditation, followed by an asana (posture) practice opening and activating each chakra. Visualizing each of the chakras, brings attention to the energetic centers located along my spine and enables me to experience the information within my own body. From this point begins the yoga practice, which is a vinyasa flow style with typical postures, but attention is brought to the chakras activated in that specific asana. By doing my physical practice with the knowledge of the energetic body, I am able to see connect the poses that I find challenging because of tightness as reflections of blockages in specific chakras. An example of this is malasana or yogic squat, which is a wide squat that helps open up your hips. It activates the sacral chakra, and since it is a slightly painful but enjoyable posture for me because of my tight hips, I can close my eyes and go inner to the sacral chakra. As the sacral chakra deals with expression of sensual emotion and sexuality, I can see that I have some blockage in this chakra and start to question where it came from and what emotional issues I carry in my hips. Thus “yoga works… by revealing the existence of the subtle body and enabling the practitioner to employ its latent energies” (Varenne, 156). Bringing breath and attention to a particular place of the body brings relaxation and awareness, which helps one understand their higher and healthier selves.

While yoga and meditation have provided stress release, physical strength, mental calmness, and self-awareness, they have brought consciousness to problems but have not provided a method of healing or undoing unconscious or subconscious memories or dysfunctions. Therefore I have felt that listening to my body has been valuable to bring awareness to certain areas or chakras but that some form of guidance is necessary to reveal unconscious memories engrained in one’s energetic body and which have manifested in one’s physical body. For the past ten years I have tried all types of practices, systems, and form of medicine spanning from Western prescription medications to chiropractic work to Chinese acupuncture to Naturopathic medicine, to try to heal my debilitating migraines. As it has led me on a path of listening to my body, growing spiritually, and knowing myself deeper, I have finally changed and opened to a healthier lifestyle and found a holistic system that has worked for me. In my personal experience, while massage or other body healing practices feel nice and provide relief from stress, if the energetic body still has negative patterning and blockages then that pain will continue to come back until the energetic body is healed.  One of the methods of energetic healing that has been the most effective has been working with a holistic and integrative personality profiling system called the Vibrancy Path (formerly called the ColorPrint) developed by Jamie Champion. This system ties in both eastern and western forms of philosophy, mind and body healing, and various forms of vibrational medicine, including a chakra system. Its main intention is to help people better understand themselves and their inherent gifts so they can live with more vibrancy and deeper passion.

I see the Vibrancy Path having much correlation with the chakra system, Laban Movement Analysis, and Feldenkrais method. The first step in the Vibrancy Path is getting one’s vibrancy signature- a blue print of the energetic currents in their body, found from a pulse analysis and kinesiology test. This personality system uses colors to explain the energy currents in the body, as a kind of language just as psychology does. Thus each person has a unique set of 14 colors resonating with their own personality traits and natural gifts. The five main aspects of ones signature are the environment, expression, intimacy, life force, and intention colors, which then allow one to more fully understand which environments feel the best to thrive in, what of their main talents should be expressed daily, how they deeply connect with the world, what is their main passion in life and what style works best to live their life in. This is very similar to a sector of Laban Movement Analysis called Movement Analysis. During a session, the client sits and interacts in an everyday conversation with a client, while the movement analyst take notes of their habits and patterns of holding and expressing themselves. Then the movement analyst gives the client their movement signature, which tells them their levels of attention, intention, and commitment, allowing one to better understand who they are and which environment they would thrive in for a career.  Thus in both of these systems, a client is given an analysis of their nature that is dictated by their personality and at the lowest level, subtle body.

With the vibrancy signature, Jamie Champion then can lead one through a specialized therapeutic system. During each session, Jamie taps into the unconscious through the patient’s energetic body. Different stressful events of the past have created negative thought patterns instilled in the energetic body and then have manifested in one’s physical body usually as some form of stress like pain or disease, interpreted as blockages in the chakra system or lack of integration in particular body movements in the Feldenkrais Technique. By finding where certain energetic currents have been stuck by past traumas or stories, Jamie has been trained to then be able to tell which colors and meridians have been affected, which ages the occurrence happened, what the issue was, and then move from there. Specific sounds and affirmations are attached to certain colors, and these are sang or said while holding the specific areas where the colors are localized in the body. Repeating affirmations and sounds retrain one’s unconscious to work in a new positive pattern, help clear out the old issue, and relieve the stress it had once caused in one’s body. This system of exercises is much like the Feldenkrais Method, which states that “compulsive patterns need to be removed from this habitual ready-made pattern, leaving one free to act or react, not according to habit, but according to the given external situation” (“Bodily”, 5). Therefore this method uses structured movement explorations to find habitual patterns, and certain lessons to provide more flexibility and less energy by repatterning one’s movement and thoughts of self image.  As these issues keep us in defensive modes, releasing them provides removal of stress and allows the individual to move through life with more ease and vivaciousness. Removing these holding patterns then allows the individual to open blockages and

All of these beautiful practices and systems overlap, build off, and grow out into various forms of healing techniques that use their own perspective or lens to understand the body and mind continuum and how to heal a person holistically.  The integration of these historical holistic fundamentals with modern implications and new forms of practices, formulate visionary systems of healing that our world desperately needs. The systems or practices are bringing more awareness of one’s body, mind, and their connection. This emphasis on consciousness, understanding one’s self, links them to their essence and higher self and completes a circuit of one as a microcosm and a macrocosm. Spiritual healing and humans letting go to old patterns of the past, allows us to each live with vitality and fullness of our own unique self and become part of a harmonious whole with nature. We are like water droplets as we return to the big ocean and each our om’s becomes one with the universal energy or vibration.

Bibliography and References

“Bodily Expressions.” Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais. Beringer, North Atlantic Books, 2010.

Dale, Cyndi. The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy. Sounds True, Inc: Boulder, CO. 2009.

Gerber, Richard, M.D. “The Chakra System.” Vibrational Medicine. Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2001

Hackney, Peggy. “What is Fundamental?” Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals. London: Routledge, 2002.

Hartley, Linda. “The Contents: Soft Tissues of the Body.” Wisdom of the Body Moving. North Atlantic Books, 1995.

Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. New York: Celestial Arts, 2004.

Judith, Anodea. The Seventhfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body and Spirit Through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1993.

Juhan, Deane. Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork.Barrytown: Station Hill Press Inc., 2003.

Varenne, Jean. Yoga and the Hindu Tradition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1976.

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