Teacher Training: The Subtle Body

We’ve got our muscles and our bones, our organs and our connective tissues, but in our yoga teacher training, we learn about a whole other type of body composition: the subtle anatomy. The subtle anatomy refers to energy in our bodies, such as chakras, that yogis and many others believe to be part of our physical existence, even though, unlike bones and organs, it is energy that cannot be seen.

I entirely believe in the subtle anatomy, although many Western scientists have yet to be convinced of its existence. Nevertheless, it is the existence of the subtle body that supports acupuncture and other Eastern schools of thought. If you are one of the millions of people who has gone to a yoga class and felt physically and emotionally transformed, even though all you were doing was a bunch of different postures, then you probably believe there is something to the idea of unmeasurable energy existing in our bodies.

In teacher training, learning the details of the subtle body, such as the seven chakras and the three ayurvedic body types, is like learning anything in school. Basically, we need to memorize each chakra’s name and it’s meaning. Then, we need to connect what we’ve learned to the postures we are studying and will eventually teach. For example, Ustrasana (Camel) is a perfect pose for the fourth chakra, the heart chakra, for obvious reasons: your chest and heart are open, and thus, it is encouraging your spirit to welcome in and be open to love.

Would a cardiologist recommend Ustrasana as a cure for heart disease? Well, yes and no; some might. Certainly yoga has become an accepted part of treatment in many health and wellness programs, but most science relies on the benefits of exercise, deep breathing, and meditation, which has been shown to lower heart rate and improve other aspects of cardiovascular health, not to mention improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as other physical ailments. The science hasn’t yet reached the level of subtle body energy and anatomy.

In our teacher training, we learn a lot about energy and anatomy, including the muscles that are used in each yoga posture and how we can keep our students safe and help them get stronger and more flexible. At the same time, we also learn the ways practitioners believe yoga also helps our spirits, which are also unseen, but felt. The teacher training gives us information so that we can teach in our own personal authentic manner and I hope to connect the seen body with the unseen body.


photo: Katie Agin

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