Subtle Body

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Subtle Body Mean?

In the Bhagavad Gita, the subtle body is described as a combination of the mind, the intellect and the ego, and it is the subtle body that controls the physical. Through the subtle body, the yogi experiences pleasure and pain.

According to Hindu and yogic philosophy, an individual is composed of three bodies; the karana sharira (causal body), sukshma sharira (subtle body), and karya sharira (gross physical body).

The subtle body is considered to be the various energetic layers that make up a human being beyond physicality.

It consists of three out of the five koshas (sheaths) of human existence:

  • pranamaya kosha : the sheath of vital life force/energy
  • manomaya kosha : the mental or psychological sheath
  • vijnanamaya kosha : the sheath of wisdom and intellect

The subtle body is described in ancient Indian texts such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, in which it is described as emanating from the causal body, and manifesting and controlling all aspects of the physical body.

All three bodies are interconnected, and optimal living occurs when they are in harmony with one another. It is believed that the subtle body transmigrates after physical death, operating as a medium for reincarnation.

In addition to the Sanskrit name sukshma sharira, the subtle body is sometimes referred to as the linga sharira (astral body).


Yogapedia Explains Subtle Body

The concept of a subtle body is central to Yogic, Tantric and Taoist traditions, in addition to several schools of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Although it cannot be seen with the physical eye, subtle body awareness can be developed through the third eye. Moving outwards from the physical body, each layer of the subtle body is thought to vibrate at a faster rate than the one before it.

Along with the energetic, psychological and wisdom sheaths, the subtle body contains pancha jnanendriya (the five sense organs), pancha karmendriya (the five organs of action: feet, hands, rectum, genitals and mouth), as well as the mind, intellect and ego. Cultivating an understanding of the subtle body is therefore a means of understanding reactions, responses and a sense of self.

Each of the three bodies plays a role in transporting the Self along the path to liberation from suffering and the cycle of reincarnation.

Through yoga practices such as asana, pranayama and meditation, it becomes possible to manipulate the energies of the physical and subtle bodies as a means of connecting with the higher Self through the causal body.

Each body is associated koshas, or layers of awareness that hide the true Self. As the yogi discovers each layer and removes it, he/she moves closer to oneness with the universe and his/her true Self. The yogi peels back these layers in the subtle body through three of The Eight Limbs of Yoga: pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyhara (sensory withdrawal) and dharana (concentration).

As awareness of each body develops, one moves closer to understanding of the true Self known as Atman and forges a connection with universal energy, or Brahman.

According to the Yogic system, prana (vital life force energy) travels within the subtle body along pathways known as nadis, which converge at energy centers called chakras.

Any blockage or imbalance within this system can cause physical and mental discomfort, illness and disease. In traditional Indian and Tibetan medicine, the subtle body model is used as a map of the central nervous system function.

During These Times of Stress and Uncertainty Your Doshas May Be Unbalanced.

To help you bring attention to your doshas and to identify what your predominant dosha is, we created the following quiz.

Try not to stress over every question, but simply answer based off your intuition. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.


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