The Three Bodies Concept In Yoga
Ayurveda is based on the concept of tridosha (faults or humors), viz. vata, pitta and kapha that can be perceived by ayurvaids through the nadis (nerves or channels) in the pulse.
These can roughly be translated into English as wind, bile and phlegm. The point is not to eradicate them from the system but, rather to see that none over-rides or intermingles with the other.
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It is only when the tri-doshas are separated from each other and in a state of balance that the human body is in good health. And although it may sound idealistic, in reality it is possible to achieve. Likewise, Yoga has identified three bodies. And, for the maintenance of good 'health' at each of the levels, each requires treatment in terms of meeting their needs.
Sthula Sharira - Gross or Physical Body
It is the outer-most, or visible material aspect of a thing. Thus the 'coarse body' (Sthula Sharira) is the mortal physical frame.
We may know full well what foods do us good - or bad, for that matter - and yet, ever so often we make choices that adversely affect our health and well-being. And when we repeatedly make unhealthy choices, they eventually lead to a weakened body, lowered immunity and, finally, disease. Problem is the consequences of our actions are not manifest immediately. There may well be a time lag, but eventually, we reap the fruits of what we have sown.
Sukshma Sharira - Subtle or Pranic Body
It comprises the individual mind and intuitive level of mind, the entire psychomental complex that can exist independent of the physical or gross body. Even though not seen to the naked eye, yogis, through their higher level of intuition have been able to identify it. It has now, over the centuries been proven to exist as also its direct connection to our Sthula Sharira -Physical body. In matter of fact, it influences it in more ways than one. And just as the Gross body has nadis (three) this one too has its own nadis (nerves or channels). Roughly they are estimated to be in the region of 3,64,000. We routinely 'ingest', or 'breathe in' vast quantities of air. Likewise, sights and sound through the various media. Most of what goes on in everyday life feeds this level of our being. And, even though tough to quantify the effect such a diet has on the mind and energy, it is, in effect, far greater than we realise. Hence the importance of pranayama in cleansing the pranic nadis and channelizing the flow of prana.
Karana Sharira - Causal Body
Time and again, in the ancient teachings of Yoga and Indian Philosophy one encounters the concept of the 'beyond'. Here the absolute essence of the mystery of the jiva (individual soul) is hidden, known without words. Here the mystery of the absolute is represented as the infinite potential that permeates time and space. This is the essence of all essentials, the causal essence, that which embodies the seed of all seeds.
How Does The Philosophy Work?
The key feature of this belief is all three bodies either act in harmony, or they are disconnected (in a relative sense). When these connections are blocked or unempowered then stress, conflict, confusion, disease and other afflictions manifest themselves. Here it that is yoga helps, by opening up the pathways. The point of yoga is to clear up the passages, or channels, that have become obstructed, thus reactivate and harmonize this intricate network.
Since this is an intertwined system, all bodies connected to each other. The acts of the physical body are influenced by the more subtle functioning of the energy body (Sukshma Sharira) as well as the quality of the passages to the causal body (Karana Sharira) and vice versa. In other words there exists a two way street between all three bodies.
In the beginning we use hathayogic practices to tone up the muscles and internal organs. Then, through the practice or pranayama, we become aware of the subtleties of the Pranic body and start to cleanse the nadis (energy channels). In so doing, we reactivate the dormant circuits. Subsequently, they align more harmoniously via breath regulation. And, as the fruits of yoga fruits start to manifest themselves, it is purified, reactivated and re-empowered.
Likewise, when we meditate, we start from the subtle body. This allows us to clear out the most subtle pathways that lead to and from the causal body (the fundamental formless body). And, as the connections between the subtle body and the causal body are cleansed, there comes about a congenial harmony and attunement between all the bodies which then flows naturally without effort, will, or decision.
For optimum benefits, yoga therapy should be coupled with a balanced diet, Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Aromatherapy.