Align and Shine with the Koshas

As we gradually add on the layers for autumn and winter, i felt inspired to share the layers of the Koshas, the 5 layers of our human BEing.

Each week (in real-time) i share a kosha (a layer) in a YouTube video and add some commentary to this blog. I call the series Align and Shine, as aligning ourselves with the Koshas helps us feel well in our BEing on every level. When we are aware of these different layers we can, in our yoga practice move from our physical BEing to our core BEing, in to our true self. And take that with us off the mat into our every day life.
It’s easy for a dynamic flow-like yoga practice to only feel physical, but the whole purpose of it (in my opinion) is to connect in to who we are because when we are connected to our true self,  we shine our authentic light.

The kosha system comes to us from the Taittirya Upanishad, (an ancient Vedic text written thousands of years ago) and it’s a wonderful way to journey from the external to the internal, to align and shine who you are and feel well in your BEing on every level.

The 5 koshas are:

Annamaya kosha = our physical body, or also referred to as our food body.
Pranamaya kosha = our energy body
Manomaya kosha = our emotional body
Vijnanamaya kosha = our wisdom body
Anandamaya kosha = our bliss body

You will notice during this 5 part series that we aim to practice each kosha separately but know that they don’t operate separately. They are all connected. During a well designed yoga practice we affect every layer with the various aspects of the practice.

This is a big topic that we are only skimming the surface in this series but i hope you get a sense of each of the koshas as you go through the videos and that this can be the beginning of an interesting journey through the layers of your human BEing.

Initially all of these sanskrit words might feel intimidating, but please stick with it, as you do the words will feel like second nature.

Please let me know what you discover along the way.
I always love to hear from you.

Align & Shine,
Anita Goa 🙂

 

Note:
The practices in this series are inspired from my own personal practice, and from the Bihar School of Yoga and the Viniyoga tradition of Desikachar.

 

[the 1st layer]
THE ANNAMAYA KOSHA
// Grounding Slow Flow for Physical WellBEing

In this practice we focus on the first layer; the annamaya kosha, our physical food body. The aim of this practice is to ground and root to find comfort in being supported by our physical body. I offer a slow flow and mini-vinyasas to give time to feel where tension, tightness, disconnection might reside. It’s impossible in my opinion to feel when we move fast.
We start off in what’s called a constructive rest position to soften and hydrate the psoas muscle (illustration below). This is a muscle that connects upper and lower body. It is often referred to as a hip flexor, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a fight or flight muscle as it absorbs our emotions and trauma. This muscle has a huge impact on how we feel in our physical and emotional body. It can cause fear and anxiety if it gets too tight. It’s important to slow down to down-regulate the nervous system in order to nourish this muscle so it can help us rest and digest tension, tightness, mental/emotional distress. When we do, it supports us in feeling secure, grounded and that promotes physical wellBEing.

THE PSOAS MUSCLE
I don’t know who owns this illustration. I found it on Pinterest.
If you know please let me know so i can give credit.

As you rest over time in the constructive rest position for 10-20 minutes each time; you’ll start to notice how the muscles in your pelvis that are over-active start to soften and the muscles that are under-active kick in to support the whole. As this happens you’ll feel the “state” of your psoas more. It’s a deep muscle so it takes time to feel it.

I titled this particular practice a slow flow yoga practice for grounding during transitions, but you can use the practice at anytime, of course.

Notice whether you feel a connection between feeling comfortable and secure within your physical body and feeling yourself more relaxed and trusting of yourself and others.

This is also an opportunity to over time develop a more loving and nourishing relationship with your physical body. Our culture has a way of sending us messages that we are not good enough if our body looks a certain way. We condition ourselves to believe we should be at war with our physical body. Notice over time whether the pressure you put on your physical body is from society or from yourself and see how you can over time nurture a more loving relationship to your annamaya kosha.
Remember, it’s a practice. Yoga is here to remind us that we are perfectly fine exactly the way we are right now and as we remind ourselves we avoid staying stuck in the physical and move deeper into the other layers of our own human BEing-ness.

(Some of this practice is inspired by the vini-yoga tradition of T.K.V Desikachar).

 

[the 2nd layer]
THE PRANAMAYA KOSHA //
Vitality Flow for Mental WellBEing

In this practice we focus on the second layer; the pranamaya kosha which is our energy body. I offer this as a moderately paced flow for vitality and mental wellBEing. I build upon the manomaya kosha practice.

Prana translates as life force energy. It’s the sanskrit/yoga equivalent to the chinese chi, and it’s what animates our movement. We can live without food and water for several days but we can’t survive without breath.
In our vinyasa yoga practice we connect the breath with the movement (or asanas). The key here is to not move faster than we breathe, or breathe faster than we move. Our aim is to syncronise the movement.
For that we use different breathing (pranayama) techniques to harness our prana (our life force energy) and we use the different asana to balance the 5 sub-division of our prana; the vayus, which translates to wind.

THE 5 PRANA VAYUS
Illustration by sequencewiz.org

 

Prana vayu covers chest and head
Udana vayu covers throat
Vyana vayu covers the entire body
Samana vayu covers the abdomen
Apana vayu covers the pelvis

 

 

 

 

Let me give you an example of how this works on a practical level:

The prana vayu takes in food/impressions/experiences.
The samana vayu digests the food/impressions/experiences.
The vyana vayu distributes whatever is needed to nourish the body/mind/emotions/spirit.
The apana vayu lets go of what is not needed.
The udana vayu supports growth in whichever way is needed.

This is what happens when our human BEing functions in a balanced and harmonious way!.
If we get over-worked, over-stimulated, eat too much and are not able to digest and let go we can end up feeling physically and mentally constipated. The prana isn’t flowing.

This is where knowing about our pranamaya kosha and the 5 sub-divisions of prana come in handy to remind us not to take in more than what we can digest and let go of what we don’t need so our energy and vitality can flow and our mind can feel calm.

In this vitality flow i take you through a Goa (vinyasa) flow that is specifically designed to help you focus on your breathing and connect to your own vitality through the pranamaya kosha. I share with you various pranayama techniques so you can feel how you are nourishing both your annamaya kosha with your pranamaya kosha and how it affects your mental wellBEing making you feel calm and connected.
Breath and mind go together.
Managing your breath helps manage your energy. It’s energy management.

Practicing finding what is the right amount of energy to use for total wellBEing. Not using too much energy. Not using too little energy. Just the right amount. That’s a practice for a life time 🙂

 

72 000 NADIS
(I don’t know who owns this illustration.  If you know, please let me know so i can give credit. I found it on Pinterest).

Nadi = energy channel.

As we breathe and practice pranayama and pay attention to the 5 vayus we affect the 72 000 nadis in our body. The more harmony and balanced we feel the more vital we will feel.
It’s not about doing more, but rather about doing what supports and nourishes you in this phase of your life so you can live your life to your fullest potential, whatever that might be for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of this practice is inspired by the Viniyoga tradition of Desikachar and also from the Bihar School of Yoga.

 

[the third layer]
THE MANOMAYA KOSHA // Chakra Flow for Emotional WellBEing

In this practice we focus on the third layer, the Manomaya kosha; the mental/emotiona body. I take you through a flow that connects you to each of the 7 chakras. I call this practice Chakra Flow for Emotional wellBEing.

 

{ I created this chakras diagram }

The chakras are energy centres (spinning wheels) along the spine. They each have a specific location, colour, meaning and bija (seed) mantra.

Chanting affects the manomaya kosha and it’s something i love doing in my group yoga classes at the Life Centre where i teach here in London. We chant specific mantras in a call-and-response way.

The chakras are affected by our thoughts, emotions, experiences. They can be out of balance by being either over-active or under-active. Yoga asana, chanting and breathing (pranayama) together with inquire can help to balance out the chakras.

Knowing their meaning can help you when you feel mentally and emotionally out of balance.

 

 

{ I found this illustration on Pinterest } 

At the end of the practice we do a pranayama (breathing technique) called Nadi Shodhana (nerve purification) that cleanses and balanced our nadis (nerves). This technique also balanced out the ida nadi (sun channel) and pingala nadi (moon channel) that intersect the chakras (as you can see in this illustration) and helps to draw the energy up the sushumna nadi (the main channel).

When the energy flows through the sushumna nadi we feel calm and present with who we are.

This might sound and feel a bit esoteric initially but as you practice and become more familiar with how the various aspects of our yoga practice affect our koshas and chakras you might start to feel a subtle vibration in a way you’ve never felt before. When we are aligned with our koshas and chakras we feel balanced and can shine our brightest light.

 

[the fourth layer]
THE VIJNANAMAYA KOSHA // Wisdom Flow for Spiritual WellBEing

In this practice we focus on the fourth layer, the Vijnanamaya kosha; the wisdom body. We go through a short flow to prepare ourselves for Bhavana (spiritual cultivation) and a series of pranayama exercises and inquiry-based meditation. I call this practice Wisdom Flow for Spiritual wellBEing.

The vijnanamaya kosha is the wisdom body/layer. It’s where our inner wisdom, intuition, intellect and personality resides. The chakras we focus on here are the 5th and 6th chakras, the Vishuddi chakra as we explored in the Manomaya kosha represents communication and personal truth, and the 6th chakra is our intuition and inner wisdom centre.

Our personality largely determines how we experience the world around us.
As you have seen within this series we can influence and align ourselves with our physical body, energetic body, mental body and emotional body with asana, pranayama and mantra. We can also influence our personality through the wisdom body by practicing inquiry and meditation.

I believe everyone can change, if we want to. 
It takes awareness and practice because the normal state of the mind fluctuates between distraction and attention, fuelled by internally conditioned patterns and external stimulation.

Meditation is a practice that develops a subtle and deeply internalised level of perception until, at the deepest level, it breaks the external connection altogether – and the mind takes on the character of who our true nature is. When this happens we live in better alignment with our truth, and we shine our light from our true nature. There are, of course many steps between our normal waking consciousness and our deepest level, but the steps are within our practice and by paying attention to our thoughts, behaviour, action and overall wellBEing within all the layers of the koshas we progressively move from the external to the internal, from the gross to the subtle.

Also the pranayama exercises support our mental and emotional body by progressively reducing mental agitation. As it happens we start shifting our attention away from what distracts us and what doesn’t serve us to linking our attention to what serves us better.

One distraction that can inhibit us from moving deeper into our true being is judgement. It is human nature to judge. We all do it. I learned years ago, something to the fact that within 7 seconds of meeting a person we make 11 judgements about that person. This always blows my mind.

We might not look at ourselves as being a judgmental human, but you’ll see as you start to pay attention to it how judgemental you might be. I know, it feels insulting but this is something we all do.
Judgement can many things, but a few are jealousy, comparing ourselves to others and talking negative about others. Why do we do it? For different reasons; and this is something you can ask yourself, why you do it; but ultimately what judgement does is separate us from others and our true nature. And since yoga is about connection; connection with ourself but also connection with others – the act of judgement inhibits connection and spiritual development.

I have heard judgement being compared to cholesterol. There is a good form of cholesterol and there is a bad form of cholesterol. Just as there is good judging and bad judging.

What we want to practice here is adding discernment to our judging. That is good judgement and will lead to spiritual connection and spiritual development.

“Discernment is an inner knowing sourced in genuine truth, while judgement is sourced in fear.
Discernment is a spark of intuitive knowing, an inner voice of principle and certainty that align us with our path, purpose and inspiration”      ———

Like i said, when we judge others it separates us from others and from our true nature. When we are connected to our true nature there is a sense of feeling interconnected. When we feel a sense of spiritual connectedness and practice discernment we start to want for others what we want for ourselves.

In this wisdom flow i offer some inquiry regarding judgment to become aware of how [much] you judge others – and yourself. Often we are fearful of being judged by others and this can inhibit us from living our life to our fullest.

I think of this self-reflective meditation as a potent judgement detox to align with our true nature so we can shine our brightest light.

Yoga always advocates that we have all the answers within ourself. By quieting the mind and turning inward we access our own inner wisdom. Also deep inner wisdom tends to come with experience and getting older. We understand that everyone is fighting their own battle, so better to not judge anyone too harshly. Right?

Be truthful with your self, have faith and practice consistently. Know that you are not unique in your judging. We all do it. Become aware of your judgemental mind and how it might be creating suffering (dhuka) within you and inhibiting you from sukha (joy) and a deeper spiritual connection to your true self and the human BEings around.

 

[the fifth layer]
THE ANANDAMAYA KOSHA // Bliss Flow for Shining Your Light

Our journey has lead us to the deepest layer of our 5 koshas – the Anandamaya kosha. Ananda means Bliss, Divine Joy. I call this practice Bliss Flow for Shining Your Light.

This layer represents our heart, in terms of what we are seeking, and the part of us that gives our life purpose and meaning. At the anandamaya kosha layer it’s important we root ourselves in our heart. This is what we have worked towards layer by layer.

Yoga philosophy always talks about how our heart is more powerful than our head. How important it is we merge head into heart, and in my Goa Flows we remind ourselves to do this by touching our forehead and heart with the Anjali mudra. We remind ourselves that it doesn’t serve us to only lead from the head or only from the heart. A combination of the two is best.

When our heart chakra is weak we can become full of doubt and confusion. When we are firmly rooted in our heart, we feel stronger and more confident and as a result it will support us in how we nourish our life. I find there to be more trust, openness, humility and compassion.
It can take some time to feel the alignment, and this is where the koshas are so valuable in helping us to gradually do the inner work that is required as we work our way from the outside gradually inward (from the external to the internal). We also work from the ground (root chakra) up towards the crown chakra. Over time we feel the connection, or alignment between our physical reality and spiritual bliss.

Ananda exists within us at all times. We might not feel it all the time, but when we move beyond judgement and practice discernment; we might feel ourselves filled with fearlessness (instead of fear), courage, light, wisdom and a deeper love for our own human BEing and all human BEings around us.

I always open my public yoga classes with this chant

This is where we constantly have to remind ourselves daily and create circumstances where we create deep connection with all beings and free ourselves from our own suffering (dukha). It’s essential we focus on nourishing all of the other four koshas because they create the foundation for this deepest anandamaya layer to emerge.

A personal practice of ritual(s) is important because it can support us in evolving our human BEingness so we can shine our authentic light in everyday life.

It’s important to integrate ingredients that remind us of what we value the most, to focus our actions toward achieving our goals, and create space for us to move deeper into our heart. It’s a practice that supports us to awaken to spiritual awareness, move toward our highest potential but at the same time move us beyond our own self-importance. As we find that deeper love and connection for ourself it should also extend to other human BEings, which is the essence of the opening mantra above and this peace mantra, which i also chant in my public yoga classes:

Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu

May everyone everywhere be happy and free,
and may the thoughts and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for All.

 

PERSONAL PRACTICE & RITUAL

Like i said earlier in this series we are multi-dimensional human BEings. We need different ingredient in our personal practice to support and align with the 5 koshas. We need ingredients that nourish our physical body (annamaya kosha), energetic body (pranamaya kosha), mental/emotional body (manomaya kosha), wisdom body (vijnanamaya kosha) and bliss body (anandamaya kosha).
Here are a few suggestions to create a multi-dimensional practice. Adapt to your own needs and interest.

What ingredients gives your life meaning?
What allows you to feel confident within your own heart and help you shine your authentic light?
How can you practice discernment and wanting for other human BEings what you want for yourself?

Ingredients to cultivate a deeper connection through the Anandamaya kosha:

RELATIONSHIPS – It’s important to have people in our life that inspire us and bring the best out in us, who share our deepest aspirations and orientation. It can be teachers, therapists, parents, mentors, spouses, friends, religious leaders/teachers/guides etc.
NATURE – Spending time in nature, gazing at the stars, space. For me my connection to the moon is my biggest teacher and inspiration.
AN EMOTIONAL QUALITY like love, kindness, courage, compassion, wisdom.
A VALUE like honesty, integrity, a form of the Divine which resonates deeply in your heart.
YOGA PRACTICE Asana, pranayama, chanting, study, meditation, prayer, ritual, silence, writing.
SYMBOLS & OBJECTS that resonate and have meaning to you.

I like to surround myself with inspiring images and words

Life is challenging. All humans experience suffering (dukha), but the wisdom is recognising our own suffering. The Rishis (the ancients seers) said that suffering is a wake-up call. If we pay attention and listen to our suffering there is a tremendous opportunity to learn. Suffering can lead to knowledge. The recognition of the suffering, and the knowledge of the cause of that suffering.

Through practice and ritual we engage in a process of action where we begin to understand ourselves and what we value. This can lead to a re-focusing of our direction, what we spend time on and whether it serves us realise our highest potential and shine our authentic light.
Life is ebb and flow and we often seek the ananda (bliss) in the flow but the Rishis ask us to look for the light, the bliss in the ebbs of life. Where can you find the sukha (the joy, ease) in the moments of dukha (suffering)? How can the ingredients of your personal practice ritual support you in this moment to connect to your own wisdom and inner bliss?

This is one version of my evolving wellBEing corner where i have symbols and objects that have meaning to me

This is why it’s important to create your own personal practice in a language that speaks directly to your heart. You are in the drivers seat, taking on and letting go of what serves your human BEing to live your life to your fullest potential.
Believe it with all your heart. Practice daily so it becomes a part of you to seek guidance in whichever area you might need it.
It serves you. And it serves everyone around you.

I hope you have learned something from this Align-and-Shine-with-the-5-Koshas series. I have felt inner bliss sharing it all with you.

4 Comments
  • Petra
    Posted at 05:14h, 01 November Reply

    I must admit I rarely read blogs. Something pulled me to reading this one though (I’ve already done all the practices). It is a great read and I think well worth repeating in the future, often. Thank you for all the effort you’ve put into explaining things a bit.

    • Anita Goa
      Posted at 09:00h, 13 December Reply

      oh that is wonderful to hear, Petra. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed putting this together and sharing the series. xo

  • Christina Cruz
    Posted at 04:35h, 28 November Reply

    Hi Anita, Thank you for all that you share. Your videos are an inspiration to me in my home practice. As I teacher of yoga I very much appreciate being able to turn off my own thoughts and simply follow a beautifuly led yoga session. I am grateful and feel renewed and refreshed every time. Your classes are full of love and wisdom and a wonderful sprinkle of humor. Thank you thank you thank you!!
    Cheers and Namaste
    Christina

    • Anita Goa
      Posted at 09:01h, 13 December Reply

      Thank you so much, Christina. I appreciate you taking the time to share this. I agree, as a yoga teacher it’s important to fill up your cup. Well done for doing that. xox

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