There are many wisdom traditions that talk about the subtle body. This includes yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism and others. However, we need not ascribe to a philosophy to understand, utilize and appreciate the subtle body, which can be simply described as your felt-sense of aliveness, the energy you feel that settles inside the boundaries of your physical form. Think of your subtle body as the field of awareness itself.
Try this right now: close your eyes and tune in to the sensations of your body. Notice what your muscle, joints, skin, the pressure of your seat, or the feeling of your clothes feel like. Now drop inward a little deeper. Can you locate the awareness of your body? Like a glimmer of energy or pulsing, your subtle body resides beyond the tissue, bones and viscera. It may feel like a buzzing or a sheath or film. Can you find this awareness all over or only in certain parts of your body. Perhaps on one side but not the other? Or in your hands but not in your feet? Take a few easy breaths and relax, allowing the feeling of the subtle body to arise rather than making a great effort to find it.
For some of us this might be easy and but for most of us, it’s can be hard. Think what our movement experience – whether it is exercising, meditating, or strolling along – might be if we were able to connect with the subtle body on a regular and thorough basis. Would we be more likely to head off pain while it’s still lingering as discomfort, or enjoy both hard work and pleasure more?
There is only one way to find out.
Using subtle body awareness in your practice:
When to use this: This can truthfully work anytime but especially when you are nursing an injury, feeling some discomfort, or when you want to go further with your work.
Why do this: For the reasons described above as well as to build not only body awareness but body intelligence and proprioception. (The subtle body is often linked to chakras, meridians and the fascial system, which is highly innervated and largely responsible for proprioception.*)
How to begin: Do exactly what was described earlier and locate the awareness of your body’s very “aliveness”. Giving it a color or seeing it as a field of light can be very useful. Scan your body looking for areas where your awareness is brighter or more intense, as well as where it might be dim or non-existent. With each breath allow the brighter areas to expand and spread.
How to use throughout your practice/activity: Before you engage in a movement sequence locate your subtle body and move to maximize its presence (slower or smaller). Notice how and when you are mindful of this field and when it gets lost. Keep coming back to it over and over again just like you would with the breath.
To hear an audio recording of Chantill’s meditations, click here.