Introduction to Yoga Anatomy

The anatomy of yoga consists of the subtle body linked with the physical body. The subtle body, according to the Bhagavad Gita, is the ego, intelligence and the mind. Together, they control the physical body.

The physical body is the collection of muscles, joints and bones that provide structure and the veins, arteries and organs that nourish the body. The anatomy of the subtle body is an array of focal points called chakras, which are connected through energy channels called nadis and which promote life-force energy called prana.

The link between the physical body and the esoteric subtle body is explained by the koshas – a series of five sheaths that start with the physical body and are peeled back to reveal the innermost layer of bliss. Together, the physical body, the chakras, the nadis and the koshas describe consciousness, health and wellbeing.

Understanding yoga anatomy can be difficult if you’ve only examined human anatomy from an allopathic point of view. Anatomy of the chakras, the nadis and the koshas demands a homeopathic perspective. Since these three elements and prana cannot be seen as clearly as organs, bones and muscles, a tangible explanation of their existence is a tall order. You cannot cut a human body open to see the exact location of the chakras; the moment you open the body, the chakras are obscured (Hurwitz and Ramaswami, 2004). But this doesn’t mean they don’t exist (you can’t see your thoughts either, but you don’t dispute their existence). The absence of tangible evidence of the chakras, nadis and prana does not obscure the value in examining anatomy from a homeopathic perspective and considering alternative strategies for health and wellness.

Understanding the correlation between the subtle body and the physical body is the ability to listen to the body and understand its application and use. The physical body and the subtle body are inextricably linked. Understanding both as part of an anatomical system is a template for examining the nuance of the physical and emotional self.

In this section, you will examine the link between the koshas (layers), the chakras (energy points), the nadis (energy channels) and prana (life force).