• Asha Venkatarao

What encompasses a Yoga Practice? 5 Layers/ Koshas of your existence

In our contemporary world, practicing Yoga has become a common activity. There are approximately 20 million people practicing Yoga is US and growing exponentially by the month.

Yoga has been proving its versatility in maintaining health & flexibility. It has proved that it's not enough to just use the body; it's quite essential to keep the joints mobile, muscles lengthened & pranic energy moved to all the parts of the body.

Is that all what Yoga is? In making the practice of Yoga to focus only on the physical body, we are losing the essence of the journey.

The practice of Yoga is meant to connect all the different aspects of one's being ; like Mala beads on a delicate strand; like uncovering the layers of the body & soul to discover the inner core of goodness. The Trittriya Upanishads explain that there are 5 layers to our existence;

The Physical body / the Annamaya Kosha ;

The Pranic body / the Pranamaya Kosha;

The Mental layer / the Manomaya Kosha;

The Intelligence / Wisdom layer / the Vijyanamaya Kosha;

The Bliss Happiness layer / the Anandamaya Kosha

What are these layers? Do each one of us have them? How do we experience their existence? What can we do to maintain harmony & balance between these layers?

- Physical body / Annamaya Kosha - This layer is the most tangible layer that which we experience the world; our body; its imperfections ; its quirks ; our life in its 10,000 joys and its 10000 sorrows. In our usual way of living Life, we are more in our minds than in our bodies; thinking, analyzing; working. We forget to eat right; we sit for long hours in front of electronic devices; we get sudden, random pains & spasms. This signifies a disconnection from our bodies. We can begin to rectify these issues by noticing our bodies better.

- Today, can I eat at the right time ? the right kind of nourishment?

- Today, can I take frequent breaks ; walk, stretch, breathe, hydrate

- Can I take a few minutes to do these practices daily?

- Pranic Body / Pranamaya Kosha - This is the Vital Energy layer which is in & around us all the time. When we feel happy, dull, listless, lethargic or calm; these are all attributes of the vital energy body. When we practice Pranayama or Breath Awareness techniques, we are trying to maintain and balance the flow of Prana within us. You can try any Pranayama technique daily; a few minutes at the beginning of the day to align yourself and your pranic flows better.

- Mental Body / Manomaya Kosha - This is the layer of existence that comprises of our thoughts, daydreams, plans, regrets. This creates meaning out of the world we live in. There are superficial levels of thoughts and there are deeper mental grooves called Samskaras. These are the beliefs, assumptions we have accumulated from our families, our culture and our own lives as we are living it. When we sit in Meditation, we can observe these thought patterns more clearly. Jack Kornfield, my Vipassana Guru, calls them the 'Top ten tunes of our mind'; these tunes play incessantly, loudly, without stopping, unless we change the emotional energy behind them.

- Wisdom Layer / Vijnanamaya Kosha - This is the layer which runs deeper into our existence. When the outer levels of discord & chaos settle down, we can access this layer of Wisdom / Awareness or Insight. We find creative ways of solving a problem; we apply ideas which are new to find solutions; we have access to intuition. When you become engrossed in writing, painting, math or coding, you are accessing this layer of deeper knowledge. You become a witness to your unnoticed thoughts, you can train your mind to become more receptive to new ideas & thinking patterns.

- Happiness & Bliss layer / Anandamaya Kosha - The bliss body is the most hidden part of our existence, accessible through deeper Meditation/ Dhyana. Its subtle presence is felt as the visceral feeling that Life is worth living; that to be Alive is good! When we are in touch with this layer, we know beyond doubt, that we are part of the Divine; not separate :) Tall order to experience that:)

The Practice of Yoga is meant to awaken each one of us to these layers of consciousness. It's definitely a daunting task to undertake, but a journey which has manifold results.

Yoga wasn't meant to be an acrobatic session of muscle movements; but a deep reach into muscles, pranic flows, mental patterns, emotional currents towards a deep connection with oneself and our Divine Self :)

A single Asana can teach us all this!

Are you up for the challenge of this lifetime?

See you on that mat :)


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