Yoga and Art of Subtle Body Experiences

The heart of classical hatha yoga (~physical yoga) is not asana: it is pranayama. In the traditional pathway of practice, the work that we do in asana is a platform to guide us towards more subtle engagement with our body with pranayama as the next step.

When we rest our attention on our breath, we become more attuned to the deeper sensations in our physical reality. In the initial stages, we feel the more superficial experiences of our chest and abdomen moving as we breathe. In time, we can feel the inner rhythm of the pulsation of the breath.

As the breath grows still, we can absorb ourselves in further deeper body sensations. The practices of the bandhas and mudras facilitate this absorption. Ancient yoga texts describe these inner experiences, often with varied and confusing terms. 

In modern language, we use an umbrella term “interoception” to refer to inner body sensations. We are only now realizing the importance of interoception to our health. Our deeper body sensations are vital to our physical well-being and even to our identity and mental health. If you can connect to your deeper body experience with a feeling of safety, structure, and positivity, you will find multiple benefits.

The best way to do that is to begin in asana. Move slowly and breathe mindfully. Give yourself time to truly feel your body in asana. When you are in quieter, more restful positions, draw your awareness deeper into your body with your breathing.

From such asana, you can progress naturally to periods of quiet breathing, where you feel the waves of your breath in your body. Remember: this inner absorption should feel safe, comfortable, and even enjoyable.

You can take an approach of gentle openness and kindness. As you feel your breath and your subtle body, bring a feeling of kindness to whatever arises in your body. Watch without judging, with a feeling of gentle interest. In time, you can settle your attention deeper in your body with stability and ease.

When we feel more safely, positively, and stably connected to our body, we benefit in multiple ways. The enhanced mind-body connection improves the co-regulation, integrated function, of both our body and mind.

This opens the door to further practice of meditation and hatha yoga. More importantly, it helps us navigate physical and mental imbalances in modern life, moving towards greater well-being and “well-feeling!”