Subtle Energy

Figure of a meditating man whose heart is the center

Subtle Energy

Reading time: 6 minutes


Subtle energy is a loose term for a myriad of forces that may underlie our world. It often gets ascribed other names such as vital energy, ki / chi, qi, prana, mana, and many more. The choice of word is often determined by one’s culture.

For example qi is related to a traditional Chinese concept of subtle energy, and prana to a traditional Indian one. Within the new age community, the concept of subtle energy is often a melange of different influences where each energy type is merely a different conceptualization of similar forces.

Our Subtle Energy Pathway

Some postulate that subtle energy surrounds the body in a field called an aura. A common model shared by multiple East-Asian cultures is that this subtle energy flows through us in a vital energy system, not unlike our nervous or cardiovascular systems. The energy follows paths called meridians that go up and down the entirety of our bodies.

Often these paths intersect and these meeting points correspond with the acupoints used in much of Chinese traditional medicine. Ayurvedic philosophy has even larger meeting points called chakras, of which seven are found in the body. To function properly, all these must be in balance and our energy must flow freely.

Measuring Subtle Energy

There is an argument that this subtle energy is not a physical energy, but exists on a plane that we’ve yet to discover.

See How to Measure Subtle Energy with a simple device.

However, some healers claim that the effects of this energy can be measured. Kirlian photography is one example of this, even though some scientists have offered alternative explanations.

Kirlian photography, photo about a human hand
Some healers claim that the effects of subtle energy can be measured: Kirlian photography is one example of this.


Everybody is Connected

Some argue that everybody’s subtle energy is connected to each other. Therefore, everyone has the ability to influence the subtle energy of other people, in both negative and positive ways. This is something that many have experienced.

Imagine that rush you get when you’re a part of a large crowd celebrating something, or that oppressive feeling when one turns their anger towards you.

These types of phenomena have often been attributed to subtle energy.

One of the most well-known uses of subtle energy is through energy healing. Energy healing has a long tradition across a wide range of cultures. There is a belief that many of the ailments from which people suffer are the result of imbalances or blockages within our subtle energy systems. These ailments are not just limited to physical problems, but mental and emotional ones as well.

Different healing methods use energy in different ways. For example, some believe that various types of rocks have different effects on our energy. Other methods such as reiki, qigong, or quantum healing involve a healer who tries to manipulate the energy of another person. It is common for energy healers to not make contact directly with people, but hold their hands a few centimeters above the body so they are able to manipulate people’s auras.

Other practices such as acupuncture or shiatsu use physical touch, pressure, or needles upon nodes where our meridians meet to help our subtle energy flow more freely.

Start measuring today

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One can also use subtle energy to heal themselves. One such exercise is called a body scan. It is related to meditation. Either lie on your back or sit in a cross-legged position and imagine a light that starts at your toes and runs up the length of your body. Notice any places that feel a bit numb, tingling, or just not right. Now bombard that spot with light being carried in with your breath and breath out any black blockages from these points of tension.

In general, a lot of spiritual communities regard meditation and yoga practices as one of the best methods to improve the health of our subtle energy. Improving one’s energy pathways can have positive effects in all aspects of our lives, even increase our sexual prowess. There’s even some postulation that our energy is directly connected to our breath, even suggesting that energy is carried by the air.

Other Explanations for Subtle Energy

Keep in mind that a lot of the effects that people attribute to subtle energy may in fact have another explanation. Many of the energy-generating activities that have been listed above may be nothing more than your body releasing hormones in response to stress, relaxation, physical activity, and other situations.

This can lead us to believe that perhaps subtle energy is just one model to describe a number of other properly measurable phenomena. Our mind does have a particular control over our body, and we cannot ignore how power placebo effects can be.

Another hypothesis is that this subtle energy may be describing electromagnetic energy being given off by the heart. Some scientists have postulated that the heart may in fact be the center of an energy system within the body that is controlled by our emotions and can be influenced by other people. This may give some credence to the claims of energy healers. Research into this idea is still relatively new, but it remains an exciting track for exploration.

Electromagnetic energy given off by heart
Subtle energy may be describing electromagnetic energy being given off by the heart. Heart may be the center of the energy system within the body.

Subtle Energy and Mystical Abilities

There is some suggestion that by some yogis that by mastering the subtle energy of the world, we can tap into various magical powers such as levitation or telekinesis. Scientists have yet to convulsively measure such powers in a controlled environment. Even yoga scholars such as James Hewitt suggest that ancient claims of magic yoga power may be nothing more than an exaggeration of PR for spiritual groups.

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Discover more types of Life Energy

  • Auras are fields of energy that are thought to surround living things. There are numerous models and theories as to the nature of this field. Learn more...

  • Biofield energy is a postulated energy field that surrounds living things. The term was coined by a committee to give scientific credence to vital energy. Learn more...

  • Etheric energy is a term that can refer to a few different concepts including vital energy or an outdated element that comprises the heavens. Learn more...

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