Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where the body can take us . . .

My last post focused on BKS Iyengar’s yoga beginnings: a purely physical practice. The physical body is that which we first understand and see in a yoga practice. But why in a practice designed originally to help us sit in meditation longer is the physical practice the first (and sometimes only) association people make to yoga in the west? The yogis have helped us here as well. Yoga principles/philosophy talk about the koshas or “sheaths.” They are our five “bodies” and can be likened to the layers of an onion - each one revealing something deeper within us.

The five koshas are: 1) Annamaya Kosha (physical body), 2) Pranamaya Kosha (breath body), 3) Manomaya Kosha (mind/mental body), 4) Vijnamaya Kosha (wisdom/meditative body), and 5) Anandamaya Kosha (bliss/divine kosha).

I have written before about how my time in Yoga Teacher Training helped me see the depths the physical practice can take us and how important a teacher the body really is. Each day, I struggle to understand how what is happening to me physically affects me emotionally. But then I go further: In workshops I present to lawyers, as well as my yoga classes, I talk about how the breath is our greatest teacher. When the breath is shallow, we are not living our full potential. A shallow, quick breath often reflects a flitting mind, one unable to focus and be at its fullest potential.

What I did not realize is that I was understanding the koshas without naming them. When the koshas are in balance, we function at our best and act from our deepest potential. Yoga, as an integrative practice, allows us to utilize all of them together, flowing from one to the next, opening us to our deepest spirit and greatest way of being.

Thus, the body is the entryway to the deeper parts of our being. The physical practice leads us to understanding our breath, which begins to quiet the mind, which allows us to be in meditative stillness for longer and longer periods of time, which eventually leads us to our deepest sense of being. When a part of the body is not working to its fullest potential, sometimes the only remedy we need is the breath. Sometimes, we need to revamp our entire way of being and connecting with the world. The closer our koshas are to alignment and balance with each other, the more able we are to know what it is that will bring the body itself back to balance.

But just as going deeper allows us to understand the body, the body helps us understand our deeper self. Iyengar, a very sickly child, came to yoga to cure his physical ailments. As he describes it, that led him down a path that completely transformed his life, and his life has been about yoga, in all its forms ever since that time.

The next posts are going to continue this discussion about the koshas and their balance, but I would like to hear from you what brought you to yoga. Was it for exercise? Stress relief? Fit in your schedule? Friend? Please share your stories in the comments.

Blessings and Namaste!

© 2010 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved

1 comment:

  1. Really fascinating the way the 5 koshas link together. Are these related to the chakras? Thanks for the insight.