Friday, March 13, 2009
The 5 Koshas
What is self realization?
First of all, you don't have to have your serious face on to ask this question.
What does it have to do with learning how to do Downward Dog more efficiently or lying on the floor at the end of a sweaty yoga class?
At first it may seem like a lofty spiritual goal to ask this question, but I think that it is as much a part of your everyday life as washing the dishes and walking to work.
It may not seem feasible at first, but yoga is a way to tap into an uncovering of the layers that are superimposed over who you truly are. Yoga encompasses many other things than just asana (posture) practice. However, for practicality's sake, we start with that. We start with the tangible - our body.
In Yogic philosophy there are 5 sheaths (or bodies) that enshroud the true self. They are called the 5 Koshas. You can visualize them as the skins on an onion or the rings inside a tree's core. We will look at them from the most obvious or gross to their most subtle.
Annamaya Kosha: This is the anatomical body. It is the most obvious (like feeling your hamstrings in your first forward fold!). This body is composed of muscular and connective tissue, and bones. Anna means food. This body needs food for it's maintenance.
Pranamaya Kosha: This is the breath body. It is also the subtler aspects of of the energy body. You could call is physiological. It encompasses moving the air to all the vitals and bringing the anatomical body (your own skin bag!) to life. It also contains the nervous, lymphatic and endocrine system.
Manomaya Kosha: This is the mental body. It is how you perceive the world through your 5 sense organs. Eyes, ears, nose tongue and skin. It also involves your feelings, emotions and how you organize your experience.
Vijnanamaya Kosha: This is the intellectual body. Also called the wisdom body. This body takes the mental body one step further by being the framework for how you make decisions. Past karma (your actions) and environmental and social conditioning influence this body.
Anandamaya Kosha: This is the most subtle body. The inner ring of the tree and the closest to who you really are. It is the causal body and is responsible for the cause of everything. It is like a blank projector screen that remains blank even though the movie is playing on it. It is untouched, unchanging, and the only real truth. It is the sense of contentment that you feel when you are laying on the floor in savasana and everthing aligns, even for just a moment. It is the one breath that you can follow completely, all the way through inhale and exhale. It is the feeling of watching a sunset and actually being the sunset. It is vast and unexplainable.
Ever experienced this before??
Yoga asana (posture) is a way of connecting all of these bodies that make up you. After some observation there is the realization that all of these bodies interpermeate. The breath affects the mind. The mind affects the breath. The body affects the decision making. When you look deeply into the past conditioning you find anxieties that make knots and grooves in the body and the psyche. When all align, there is a moment of pure clarity. Right?
Try a sitting practice and checking in with the 5 Koshas. 5 minutes of checking in with the internal landscape. How does this affect your knowledge of your self?
Try aligning virabhadrasana 2 and checking in with the 5 Koshas. How does this influence your posture?
Remember in these explorations you don't have to come to an answer. You don't have to be right. You can hold many different vantage points and postures.
Let your yoga practice take you closer to who you are. Daily.
The Yoga Studio Squamish