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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: SUBTLE ANATOMY 101

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or not it's of any practical use, well, we'll leave that up for you to discover! For now, if you like, you can think of the Yogic subtle anatomy system as just another piece in the overall puzzle; to really understand the practice of Hatha Yoga, it's important to put together all the pieces so you can see the bigger picture.

Hmm...well before we go around kicking and counting each others' energy bodies, let's have a look at exactly what we're talking about, shall we? This section is divided into five parts: Prana, Vayus, Nadis, Chakras, and Koshas.

Prana

Prana is a Sanskrit word which means "life force" or, alternately, "breath". Interestingly, several ancient cultures around the world developed this same lexical oddity - the early Greek pneuma, the Hebrew ruah, the Chinese/Japanase chi/ki, and the Polynesian mana all share this dual meaning1. Think of it as the energy that distinguishes a live body from a dead one - something is there in us from birth onwards that keeps the heart beating, the organs functioning, the mind chugging along day after day. That's what the Yogis call prana.

Within the human body, besides being connected with the breath, prana is also concentrated in blood, semen, and menstrual fluid. Prana isn't just found in the human body, though. There is prana in the air, in sunlight, in water, in food - there's prana in just about everything. Even colors and places have particular kinds of prana. Yoga believes that humans normally absorb and exchange prana through the intake of food and drink, and through exposure to natural elements like sunshine and fresh air.

The word prana actually takes on a few different meanings, depending on the context. For instance, in the Upanishads (ancient texts of esoteric Indian philosophy), sometimes Prana is another name for the Goddess who danced the universe into being2. And, as we'll see in the next section, prana can actually be

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sub-divided into different parts when talking about how this general "life energy" gets down to the specifics of bodily functioning and maintenance. Usually when you hear or read someone referring to prana, though, they're talking about this broad understanding of prana as the juice that keeps us going.

If our prana is in good shape, say the Yogis, then our bodies, hearts, and minds will be in good shape too. And just like in the last section, where we talked briefly about the relationship between mental activity and the movement of the breath, in the same way, the state of the body's prana reflects the inner mental state: if the prana is agitated, the mind can't be still, and vice-versa. That's a pretty important tenet of Hatha Yoga, as the whole approach of this branch of Yoga uses various aspects of the body - breath, energy, and so on - to work on the deeper layers of the mind. That's why prana is such a big deal.

Vayus

Prana is what keeps the body alive, but how does it account for the many specific bodily functions? This is where the concept of the Vayus comes in. There are five sub-types of prana, sometimes called the Five Pranas, but more frequently referred to as the Five Vayus. Vayu is Sanskrit for "wind", and here it is used to describe the different types of movement in the body. The Five Vayus are as follows:3

Prana vayu

Governs the beating of the heart, as well as breathing. Seated in the area of the chest.

Apana vayu

Governs elimination of waste products, and, more generally, all that which pushes things down and out from the body (giving birth is also facilitated by Apana vayu, for example). Seated in the area of the pelvis.

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