One particularly insightful view to contemplate when exploring yoga through a therapeutic lens is this: 

When you are in alignment there is harmony, where there is harmony there is freedom, where there is freedom we find joy and ultimately with joy, radical well being.

The alignment referred to here is not just concerning the physical body but addressing a timeless and beautiful teaching in the Upanishads, the Pancha Maya Kosha view of human embodiment.  The word “pancha” means five, “maya” all pervading and “kosha” layer or sheath.  This framework says that we have five all pervading and interwoven aspects to ourselves, the densest layer is our physical self and the others are  progressively subtler, more sublime and less easily perceived.  When we view our health through this lens we see that a truly holistic perspective of wellness is offered and Yoga becomes a therapeutic tool that helps us find alignment through all five layers of our five layered self. 

The next time you are on your yoga mat, use these contemplations to re-orient and re-align through each of your five layers.

Anandamayakosha – The all pervading layer of bliss.

At our very core, woven into every fiber our being and what is the ultimate fabric of our existence, is our true nature – described by the yogis as “tesase” - luminous, bright, “purnatva” - complete, full, and  “shri” – innately perfect just as we are in this moment with all of our blessings and all of our challenges. Take a moment to quiet the mind and re-orient your awareness to the affirmation:

“The Divine dwells in me as me”.

Vjnanamayakosha: The all pervading layer of wisdom body.

Term Vijnana is often translated as “knowing”.  Beneath the endless stream of thoughts, opinions, and emotions of our reactive mind is our faculty of discernment, intuition and innate intelligence.  It is through this layer of wisdom that we are able to access deep insights into our experience and reflect with clear seeing.   Intentionally affirm to yourself:

“I am fully awake to the innate intelligence in my body”.

Manomayakosha:  The all pervading layer of thoughts and the emotions

Our mind, thoughts and emotions have the ability to create our moment-to-moment reality.  Without our direction the mind tends to travel at the whim of our senses. We see something, it jogs a memory of a painful past event and we are reliving an experience that happened many years ago.  We hear something and our mind creates a daydream that takes us out of present moment reality and we pass our exit on the highway.  We smell something and pretty soon we have broken the pact we made with ourselves to stay away from sweets.  However, once we learn to harness this amazing resource our mind becomes the vehicle by which we manifest the life we so deeply desire.  Pause, breathe, and bring into your awareness this profound truth:

“I consciously create my present moment reality through uplifting patterns of thought”.

Pranamayakosha – The all pervading layer of our life force

Prana is our vital energy and most physically expressed through our breath.  When we are out of alignment the circulation of our prana becomes sluggish.  Just as when the flow of a river becomes stuck and the pool of water stagnant, so it is in our prana body that when they are blocks or tensions in both our physical body and mind our life force stagnates.  Use your breath, in yoga practice to bring healing thoughts to areas that need more light.

“My breath flows freely and infuses every cell of my body with life force”.

Annamayakosha – The all pervading layer of our food body

This layer represents the most familiar layer of our physical selves.  Interestingly, it is called the food body and implies that we are nourished by and created by what we eat.   When we move out of alignment physically either by eating in ways that deplete our life force, or through our habits of daily living “dis-ease” becomes more prevalent in our lives.  Each time we come to our practice mat, we have the opportunity to focus on creating balance, “sama”.  A well aligned practice helps you to quiet the dominant muscles groups, stabilize the hyper mobile ones, stretch and lengthen what is tight and strengthen what is weak.  In this way, with “sama”, an even quality of light (your consciousness) shines through every cell of your physical self.  

“With balance as my intention I create health throughout every cell of my physical being”.

 


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