Science finds Overlays Between the Subtle Body and the Central Nervous System

In this linked comparative review, the validity of a traditional central nervous system model within this subtle body model is explored.

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The subtle body in the yogic tradition is the various layers of vibrating energy that makes up a human being beyond obvious physicality. Modern science has gone into some depth in understanding the physical body, yet its understanding of other aspects of human existence is still very limited. According to spiritual science, steeped in religious and yogic traditions, a living human being is made up of the following bodies; the gross body (sthūladēha); the vital body (prāṇa–dēh...a);the mental body (manodēha); the intellect or causal body (kāraṇdēha); the subtle ego or supracausal body (mahākāraṇdēha); the soul or the God Principle in every human being (ātmā). Whilst some see these additional bodies purely as a guide for yoga practice, other traditional yoga-scholar practitioners view it as a map of central nervous system function.

The subtle body is defined as that part of our being or consciousness that leaves our physical body at the time of physical death. It is comprised of the mental body, the causal body or intellect, the supracausal body or subtle ego and the soul. Included within this subtle body are the subtle sense organs (the aspect of our five sense organs with which we are able to perceive the subtle realm) and our the subtle motor organs (all activity in our physical motor organs is first initiated in our subtle motor organs).

In this linked comparative review, the validity of a traditional central nervous system model within this subtle body model is explored. This subtle body model is popularly known as the chakra system and was and is used as a map of central nervous system function in traditional Indian and Tibetan medicine, neuropsychiatry, and neuropsychology. This present study shows that the subtle body model can be cross-referenced with central nervous system maps. These truly riveting findings challenge both modern brain maps and existing meditation research, particularly around the idea of contemplative practices serving as an embodied, interoceptive neurofeedback aid.

To find our more about the subtle body and its overlay with the CNS, a great book is 'The Subtle Body' by Cyndi Dale published by Sounds True Publications; We will keep you posted as more research is released on this important and fascinating area. As with so many things in yoga, medical science is coming to find tangible, measurable markers for phenomenon we have known about for centuries without any physical 'proof' in a manner of speaking. You may feel such proof is needed or perhaps view it as being superfluous - experience is so often the most profound proof in our personal lives, yet such findings enable us as a yoga community to offer medicine and the medical-based model the evidence-based practice it so commonly demands.

Heather Mason

Founder of the Minded Institute, The Minded Institute

Heather Mason is a leader in the field of mind-body therapy and the founder of Yoga Therapy for the Mind. She develops innovative methods for mental health treatment drawing on her robust educational background including an MA in Psychotherapy, an MA in Buddhist Studies, studies in Neuroscience and a current MSc in Medical Physiology.. She is also a 500 RYT, a yoga therapist and an MBCT facilitator. Heather offers various professional trainings for yoga teachers, healthcare professionals and therapists, lectures around the world, and delivers training to medical students. She also develops protocols for different client populations by translating cutting edge research from the psycho-biology and neuro-biology of stress into yoga practices, breathwork, mindfulness interventions and therapeutic holding. Further she is involved in research on the efficacy of these practices, holds the annual UK yoga therapy conference and is blazing the trail for the integration of yoga therapy into the NHS