The philosophy of yoga states quite clearly that the body and mind are not separate. Whatever happens in the body will be reflected in the mind, whatever happens in the mind will be reflected in the body.
A person who is suffering from an emotionally traumatic experience will quite noticeably and unintentionally alter their physical posture in response to the mental trauma, the upper back will round, the shoulders rotate internally, they become stooped and very protective of the heart area. The physical reaction to emotional trauma blocks the flow of energy around the body, the blockage causes a stagnation in the body and further disease will follow or intensify.
The body and mind permeate with energy which in yogic terms is referred to as prana which translates as life force or life energy. The concept of prana appears in all the body-mind modalities, “ki” as in Reiki and “chi” as in Tai Chi.
Chakras (spinning wheels of energy) or energy centres comprise the model of the energetic and subtle body, this is where the vital life force (prana) gathers. They’re located along the spine from the pelvic floor to the crown of the head, each has a specific colour and spiritual quality and are associated with a corresponding psychological, physical and emotional states necessary for the development of the “whole” person.
The subtle energies of the body flow through the body via channels referred to as nadi’s which connect the chakras and move the energy.
It’s very important to note that the concept of prana, chakras and nadis is subtle, you can’t go to the Doctor and ask to have your chakras X-rayed or scanned, they don’t exist in a physical realm.
Hatha Yoga was developed to circulate, cultivate, control prana and channel energy around the body. It’s much more than a form of exercise, much more than being physically strong or flexible. In the western world the ideals of yoga have been distorted and focus on contortions of very flexible bodies. Asana or yogic movement aims at creating, developing and distributing subtle energy around the body. The physical attributes are a very beneficial adjunct.
The reason a yoga class is sequenced in a particular way, the time a pose is held and counter poses practised is about energy control and movement, there’s a lot more happening rather than stretching muscles, think about the subtle effects – the inner-cise. Challenge your teachers and ask questions about the class structure and how it relates to prana.
Hatha Yoga is a very complex science that draws on thousands of years of practice and philosophy which has enormous health benefits both physically and mentally.