Koshas – The Layers of Ourselves

Another dabbling in the philosophical aspects of yoga.  This one is about the different layers of the body, all of which need nourishing and can impact our lives in multiple ways.  The Koshas were first described in the Upanishads over 3,000 years ago, yet remain relevant today.

In this post I will briefly describe each of the five layers and in future posts will delve into each layer and how I feel that the layer within me has been impacted through the process of yoga teacher training as well as practicing yoga in general.

  • Annamaya – the physical body, exactly what it sounds like
  • Pranamaya – the energetic body, breath that is our source of life
  • Manomaya – the mental body, our thought processes
  • Vijanamaya – the wisdom body, perhaps thought of as the philosophical mind
  • Anandamaya – the emotional body

All of these parts of our being need attention to live a balanced and fulfilled life.  As we are all individuals, nurturing some of these aspects will come more naturally to each of us than others will.  Some aspects will need more attention to become balanced and this can change depending on the seasons of the year and events of our lives.


Welcoming 2014

I know plenty of people are busily getting started on their new year’s resolutions or goals, and recently talked with someone that decides on a word that they want their life to embody for the year, such as “courageous” or “accepting” or “generous” which I thought was an approach with a slightly different twist that could be applied to many aspects of life.  I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, as I believe if you want to make a change or adopt a challenge, the present moment is usually as good as any.  This year though, I’m starting the year pondering my yogic path and contemplating the application of the eight fold path in my life.

As I re-read the eight fold path of Patanjali’s sutras and think about them, I am considering how some of them can seem to be conflicting – such as “do no harm” and “truthfulness.”  I think we often think that if we are to do no harm, we can’t always tell the truth and need to keep things bottled up inside of us.  However, if we keep things bottled up are we really doing no harm?  We may not harm others by withholding that specific thought, but we are possibly harming ourselves, our relationships and ultimately not being truthful, which can create bigger problems.

Mind you, I am not advocating for running off at the mouth with every thought that runs through your mind without regard for consequence, but it is important to remember that we all have different opinions, different backgrounds and values so eventually we will encounter someone who is offended by our views and world stance, or at least sees takes exception with our position.  This doesn’t mean we need to become enemies, or that our friendship has to end.  We can express our truths compassionately and accept differences graciously, minimizing the harm we might cause and creating a greater dialogue, even strengthening our relationships.

The world is short one man who truly embodied much of this.  A high school classmate passed away unexpectedly earlier this week.  While I haven’t seen Mike since we left high school with diplomas in hand, we had reconnected through Facebook. Mike was the cheerful face I knew from 7th – 12th grades, who seems to have been everybody’s friend .  Being alphabetically right next to Mike in the list of our classmates meant I got to see him everyday at our alphabetically placed lockers and I don’t think he ever let me return his cheery good morning with a grumbled one of my own, instead repeating his greeting until I responded with a smile.   Mike’s Facebook posts could express his views on political and cultural issues and create a thoughtful and thought provoking  discussion, not a series of finger pointing.   With his gentle, friendly, caring ways it’s clear to see that Mike touched many lives with his own applications of do no harm and truthfulness and won’t soon be forgotten.  I’ll continue to think of Mike and his gracious, caring spirit each year on our shared birthday as I wish his twin, Bernie, the best.

Patanjali’s Sutras

Yoga teacher training touched on the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga and specifically the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali.  Other texts were mentioned as well, but Patanjali provides a short and seemingly simple path.  I say seemingly because I’ve outlined the path below – eight things, you think, how hard could that be – as they are all items that deserve attention on their own.  This post will serve as a reference as more time is later spent on the various items and their interpretations and applications in my own life.

  1. Yamas – ethical standards, actions relating to external world
    1. Ahimsa – Do no harm
    2. Satya – Truthfulness, in word and thought
    3. Asteya – Non-stealing / coveting
    4. Brahmacharya – Abstinence
    5. Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness
  2. Niyamas – self-discipline, relating to ourselves
    1. Saucha – Cleanliness
    2. Samtosa – Contentment
    3. Tapas – Spiritual
    4. Svadhyaya – Study of vedic scriptures
    5. Isvara pranidhana – Worship of God
  3. Asana – the physical poses
  4. Pranayama – controlling the breath
  5. Pratyahara – detaching from senses, while remaining aware
  6. Dharana – concentration on a single point
  7. Dhyana – meditation
  8. Samadhi – oneness  with meditation object and  per Patanjali a state of ecstasy