Sat Nam, and Welcome in!
A old friend, not a student, asked me about this blog..."What do you write about?" I answered that I write think pieces about whatever happens to be interesting to me at the moment. She asked "Why don't you write about Kundalini Yoga?" Good question!
I am on the subscription list for a few good yoga companies who write fabulous newsletters and blogs. They each have their own strengths. Ravi Singh, one of my teachers, often includes a mini-practice in his newsletters. He also answers readers questions.
I would enjoy answering your questions. Problem is I don't get them. Leave comments or inquiries on a piece if you feel moved to do so...inspire the next article.
Currently, I am teaching the kriya called "Awakening to your Ten Bodies." It's a simpler kriya, and although it uses breath of fire right out of the gate, it's a great one to use with both seasoned yogis and brand new students. It has all the greatest hits, so to speak.
But last week I was asked, "What are the 10 bodies?" I gave a 1-minute explanation; but it's pretty complicated.
So here's a primer on the Ten Bodies! It's not meant to be exhaustive; there are a lot of sites with in-depth analysis of the teaching if you want to go down the rabbit hole.
The 10 Bodies are fashioned from traditional yogic teachings...but to be clear, Yogi Bhajan made these up. They are tied to the practice of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.
See if they make sense to your experience of being Human.
When we are out of balance in one or more of our bodies, we experience suffering to a greater degree than we might if we were consciously aware of all that we are, of all that we have always been.
I've numbered these, but they are often referred to as, "the first body," "the second body," and so on.
The Soul Body (Sat Nam)
The essential part of you is your soul body. It is the immortal part of your essence and you have access to it at all times. It is the part of your awareness that is always present. It is unaffected by your age, your gender, your environment, your experience. It remains constant. This is your Sat Nam. This essential nature was never was born and will never die. It is your connection to Infinite Awareness.
The next three "bodies" are actually all about the Mind.
2. The Negative Mind (obedience and discipline)
The Negative Mind is the part of all of us that sees the negative consequences of all action. Its purpose is to keep us grounded, safe, and sensible. It's a way to determine if the karma (cause and effect) involved in any activity is worth the experience of the activity.
3. The Positive Mind (playful, joyful optimism)
The Positive Mind is the part of all of us that sees the positive consequences of all action. Its purpose is to allow our creative imagination show us the possibilities of evolution and growth. If we can overcome our fears, the possibilities inherent in the human condition will endlessly evolve.
4. The Neutral Mind (service to all, compassion for all, integration with all)
The Neutral Mind develops as the person becomes aware of their conditioned responses to opportunity. Some of us are predisposed to see the negative aspects of our future selves. Some of us are predisposed to only see the positive outcomes of our behaviors. It takes a life lived very consciously, with a lot of time for meditation, to learn to regulary utilize the neutral mind to aid in decision-making. Most of us who are not yogis never really figure this out. Breaking free of the conditioned mind is Spiritual Awakening, the highest form of consciousness for a human being. It's much more common now than it was in the past, but it's still relatively rare.
5. The Physical Body (the Teacher)
This is the body you were given to inhabit, the material body, complete with all of its systems, including the brain, which is responsible for giving us the energies of the mind(s) as well. According to materialists, staunch atheists and most mainstream scientists, the brain has evolved on Earth, from a single-celled organism, to such a degree that it has given rise to consciousness as we know it. In this world view, YOU ARE YOUR BODY/MIND, and when that dies, poof. All gone.
There is exactly ZERO evidence for this. There is a mountain of evidence for the idea below.
According to those people, writers, thinkers, philosophers, dreamers, neuroscientists, teachers, and ancient sages who actually have direct experience around this question, here is the Truth:
The brain does not evolve and give rise to consciousness. Consciousness cannot arise; it just IS the ground. Consciousness gives rise to all forms. Consciousness is the ground of all beings, all space, all time, the whole shebang. Things come up out of it. It is eternal. It stands before everything else. It alone exists without needing support. Asking where it came from is a good question, but it is one that cannot be answered from within our dimension, our ability to understand. Even the concept of "eternal" is beyond our ability to understand; it's not a function of the mind to perceive or conceive of it. Perhaps the consciousness that is the ground of this universe is not the first consciousness to give rise to a universe, or a multiverse. Perhaps the consciousness that we arise from has evolved, and will continue to evolve. I don't know. Nobody knows. Too much thinking is what the mind does to avoid being quiet.
In class you may have heard me say, your mind will lie to you. Don't automatically believe every thought you think. But your body...learning to listen to your body without prejudice is a gift. This is the meaning behind ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO.
The body doesn't lie to you the way your mind does. If your body is talking loudly to you, LISTEN and do what it tells you to do. This is why the Physical Body is the Teacher. Learning to listen to it was the forte of ancient Indians who devised the system of Ayurveda. Keeping body and soul together in the most healthy way possible was the highest goal.
6. The Arcline (manifest justice, protection, and project peace)
We have two; from nipple to nipple and from ear-tip to ear-tip. These are lines of energy your body sustains for protection from the environment. For example, it allows you to sense when something is falling from above you, or if someone is staring at the back of your head, or if you somehow need to protect yourself or someone else.
7. The Auric Body (the container of the other 9 bodies)
This is the electromagnetic force field that surrounds all of our bodies extending in all directions. Some folks can read "auras" as colors. You might know from knowledge about particle physics that nothing really touches anything else. It's the fuzzy force fields that repel each other that stimulate the electrical generators in the body that signal the brain that touch has occurred...right? This is that.
Energetically, if your auric body is strong, you may act as a "forklift," elevating others as you yourself are elevated. Be the lighthouse, be a forklift, these are Kundalini Yoga sayings. A strong auric body is important in Kundalini Yoga but it's the part that can get teachers in trouble if they don't have humility and wisdom. Read a bit about Guru Jagat, the almost heir-apparent, had she not died, of Kundalini Yoga. I say the universe stepped in to prevent another "tragedy of a person" from becoming the leader of this form of yoga. She is a prime example of how a person with an out-sized ego, a felt sense of entitlement, and delusions of grandeur deals with the perceptible powers that you can achieve doing this form of yoga. Yogi Bhajan fell to this. Many many yoga teachers fall to this, in fact. Kundalini yoga isn't special in this aspect.
All powerful enterprises carry risk.
8. The Pranic Body (fearlessness, the warrior within)
This is the part of you that is making you feel ALIVE to some degree. It's a mixture of the earth (food) you eat, the water you drink, the air you breath, the way that you breath that air, the digestive fire you possess, the energy and heat from sunlight you process and the place of the space you take up. The 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) converge in a different way every second of your life...your pranic body is constantly changing, and it is the one you can manipulate the most with kundalini yoga. When you feel "lit up," that's your pranic body.
9. The Subtle Body
This body helps you see beyond what you can see with your body/mind; beyond what can be perceived by the brain (hunger, pain) and felt by the senses (see, hear, touch, smell, taste.). This is the body that arises in deep meditation, when one is beyond the mind. Also, for instance, the subtle body carries the soul body during astral projection, or Near Death Experiences, as I understand it. The feeling of "youness," as you leave your physical body behind, as your soul body does the traveling, the subtle body carries the sense of separation, so you can have an experience as "you." But clearly this is pretty esoteric. Don't worry too much about it.
Do you know some people who, despite having physical bodies that are not perfect, or even healthy-appearing, are graceful and seem fully in possession of themselves? They seem like Masters and you can sense this just by being in a room with them. There is no overt emotional attachment to experiences, like exuberance, anxiety or depression. They are wise and do not need to feel understood. Their subtle body is in balance. I've only known a couple of people like this in my life. One of them was my father. When I grow up, this is the body I want to master. But for now, I am having too much fun dabbling in attachments.
10. The Radiant Body (Soul Body plus your radiance)
When you have Radiance in high amounts, there is nothing that you cannot do. You have the courage to act in accordance with your value systems, which are tuned to the highest levels of truth and wisdom for all ages! You shine with the light of your ancestors who gave everything for you to be here right now. You appreciate all that you have been given to experience life to the fullest extent possible and you make your life count!
You have zero time for self-pity, but you are always there with an outstretched hand for those who are not as clear-eyed to grasp. Don't get too caught up in this explanation, either. It could be that Yogi Bhajan just didn't want Nine Bodies and so he came up with this one.
Kundalini Yoga has meditations and exercises for each one of these bodies, so that you can specifically strengthen the one(s) you want to focus on. There is a kriya for everything! You can see the marketing possibilities in this right? LOL. Teachings are just pointers, remember. Don't fall in love with teachers, or teachings. Fall in love with yourself. Because, my dear reader, you are IT.