Kosha Y'in Practice and Life
Yoga… is to develop a relationship with the self that exists deep within our core. In Sanskrit this is known as Jiv-atman (jiv means to breath and atman self or spirit which translates to living being). Now the path or practice of yoga is to unite, join or merge the living being (us) with the cosmic soul, ‘Atman’. However not everyone is ready or desires to connect with that higher source, many including myself want to fully understand the meaning of 'connecting with our inner spirit' and to me this is the first step towards a deeper transformation.
To begin with many of us (yoga teachers included) are unable to relate or understand this intricate process and quite frankly, have an even harder time connecting with our inner atman. We tend to tip toe around the subject or avoid it altogether. We loosely use Sanskrit words because it sounds intelligent or knowledgeable in a class or teaching setting, but truth be told its easier to follow the trend and masses then break away from it. Teaching yoga is not something to be taken lightly, as teachers we are helping practitioners develop a relationship with their most intimate self. A responsibility that should be handled with integrity.
Modern yoga is more about creating teachers without the proper tools to teach and practices that are based on instant gratification where the focus is heavily rooted around the physical and the latest trends. Yoga today not only leads to injuries but has become a dry, incomplete and superficial practice which stagnates the growth or expansion of one’s inner spirit. It is not about creating change or developing the human potential. It's inaccessibility distances people of colour, shapes, race and the forgotten women and men (my age group...... now that is another story) Most importantly it's refusal to address these issues or acknowledge its roots and support teachers of colour is disrespectful especially when these very institutions have been piggy banking on this ancient wisdom.
As a practitioner and Yin/Hatha teacher, I am keen to learn and understand how the Koshas can help and enhance my own connection of feeling, breathing, thinking, self-talk while in a pose and to experience its effects when releasing from it. For me the use of tangible experiences or examples are what works best and this builds a bridge of understanding my inner mapping. With this in hand I am able to navigate through life challenges. experiences and growth.
The Koshas known as layers or dimensions exist within the body. These sheaths are not separate entities, while each layer represents a certain field or experience they support each other in connecting to our true nature. Adapting a practice with the Koshas in mind can strengthen that bridge between the practitioner and the Self.
Annamaya Kosha: refers to the physical body. How the body is nourished, nurtured and functions. The growth and overall health of the body’s tissues. The shapes that my body can or cannot get into during a yin or hatha practice. Acceptance of my limitations due to my skeletal makeup and mobility. When I arrive into a pose I spend time adjusting the shape to suit my body, either through using props, the wall or finding the appropriate depth while relaxing or engaging the muscular system when required. Observing sensations that feel right and safe for my physical body both in daily activities and practice.
Pranamya Kosha: my life force that flows throughout my whole body. It is here where I notice my breathing. If a sensation is intense it will reflect in my breathing making it shallow, fast or erratic. If it is comfortable and appropriate then my breath will reflect a steady, slow and deep flow. In fact, my breath is the key or signal to what is happening within. It is my guide and teacher be it in my practice and definitely plays a vital role in keeping me alive.
Manomaya Kosha: ah! my thinking mind, the seat of my EGO. Here is where my self-talk shows its true colours. I find this layer to be daunting, challenging yet playful and interesting. My thoughts are all over the place and the ego uses this opportunity to control and direct not only the shape of my asana but my emotions as well. By acknowledging the nature of my mind, I no longer struggle or have a tug of war with it. This is where the practice becomes challenging and requires discipline of non judgement or attachment. Setting the ground work for the 4th layer.
Vijnanamay Kosha: in this deep layer lies my wisdom (experience, knowledge and intuition) It is here where the knower, knowing and known comes into play. Awareness grows and comes in waves and my intuition heightens. By resting in this state, free from the influence or attachment of emotions, thoughts and the Ego, I am able to listen with openness.
Anandamay Kosha: The bliss layer where we experience a deep joy and inner peace. To me this is where words cannot express how my body feels when it comes out of a long-held posture. We experience this layer in our everyday life but unfortunately we take it for granted! Being open to that feeling and to let it wash through my whole body and literally relishing each sensation from a cellular level. This feeling of sweetness and freedom is indescribable .
Our ancestors have left behind this amazing road map and to lose it would be detrimental to our spiritual growth. Change can only happen when we have the right tools and information in hand.