the koshasBy James Hall

The ancient science and art of yoga is essentially for self-realization and for developing self-reliance. To this effect Yoga Therapy focuses on 5 constituents : the Pancha-Koshas:

1. The physical body needing to be nourished and maintained on food. That is the body derived from food. Annamaya Kosha – a gross, palpable, visible and perishable* vehicle; known as the “food sheath.” Purified by yoga cleansing practices (Shatkriyas) and harmonized by yoga postures (Asanas). *Perishable due to Maya.

2. Next is a vital vibrant sheath of bio-energy that is activating of all five sheaths: Pranamaya Kosha; In Yoga this bio-energy is called Prana. Alluded to in the West as ‘free energy’ or more specifically , Adenosine Tri-Phosphate*. * If we are active physically we use an amount of ATP close to our body weight. Sheldon Saul Hendler MD Ph.D.

[Oxygen Breakthrough – The natural program]. His excellent book focuses on breathing to reduce the oxygen debt, is for those with chronic fatigue, frequent infections, autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, asthma, panic attacks, anxiety and depression, and sleep disturbances.

Breathing consciously (and practicing pranayama) enables us to make the vital connections that helps us understand how oxygen debt may be contributing to fatigue. Yoga pranayama is a method of working with the active dynamic aspect of consciousness, called Prana, by way of breath control widening and lengthening the breath and through subtle breathing, ujjiyi.

It is the inner breathing of the cells that enables us to produce biological energy. Swara Yoga is the science of brain breathing. This induces a calming the mind; enables conservation and liberation of energy; and the innate ability to self-regulate and balance both sympathetic and parasympathetic behaviors (autonomic nervous system).

This is achieved by balancing Ida nadi and Pingala nadi, or mind and prana. The nadis are energy channels that conduct the breath consciousness and convey subtle sound vibrations. Paying keen attention to the flow of the breath in both nostrils, or employing Nadi Shodan Pranayama, equalizes the flow of the swara. The nadis are energy channels that conduct the breath and subtle sounds.

When Ida is flowing Manas Shakti – mental energy increases. When Pingala flows, Prana Shakti – physical energy increases. When there is equal flow of the breath in both nostrils, attention shifts to the whole brain (left and right sides) and the spinal cord that connects the brain to the body (central nervous system). When Ida and pingala are balanced the energy or Shakti flows in Sushumna; the spinal column. The spinal cord is Citrini and the energy or active shakti is called Kundalini.

Pranayama; the breathing practices in yoga corrects futile breathing, thereby alleviates anxiety (i.e. by addresses difficulties in breathing, such as oxygen toxicity and O2 deprivation). Asana and pranayama: All yoga poses and breathing exercises, practiced on a regular basis are effective in the management of anxiety and depression, and have a very positive effect on volition – Exercise overcomes depression to produce well-being.

Yoga Nidra*- or deep relaxation -those methods that have been around since time immemorial, enables withdrawal from the outside world; heightens awareness as well as conserves vital Energy. *Paramahansa Satyananda method of nyasa.

3. Manomaya Kosha refers to the intellectual mind – a perennial source of emotions and desires associated with the will, thoughts and counter thoughts, concerned with cognitive processing through ‘organs of knowledge’; ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose collectively called the gyanendriya.

Concentration (dharana) is on the subtle senses (tanmatra): sound, touch, sight, taste and smell…concentration can be on a mantra, the breath, a candle flame, or a symbol…or simply observing the appearance and disappearance of thoughts (mindfulness)… the inner practices of Raja Yoga help control the mind, along with the physiological balancing and organic effects of Hatha Yoga.

Moral and ethical values. Yama: peacefulness, truth, honesty, sense control and non-possessiveness are observed. Niyama are the disciplines: cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-awareness and ‘letting go’ or self-surrender (Ishwarapranidanani).

4. Vigyanamaya Kosha refers to intuition and higher knowledge; that includes the ‘higher mind’ concerned with discernment, reasoning and reflection. The ‘unbiased observer’ or silent witness. Antar Mouna meditation is a technique for developing detachment. {which requires some effort to develop} helpful for managing obsessive states and excessive mental energy and can be practiced anywhere and at any time. The art of being consciously present.

5. Anandamaya Kosha means inner joyfulness; with the removal of obstacles and obstructions through meditation the inner light dawns. The approach is not symptomatic but goes to the root of the individual’s psychological and physiological being. The purpose is not to cure a particular disease but to bring about self-harmony at a very deep level and to experience deep joy (Ananda). To this effect the 8 limbs of yoga are practiced daily. This is called Ashtanga which are clarified in the Sutras of the sage Patanjali (approx 300-400 BC).

Broadly speaking Hatha Yoga primarily caters and cares for the first two Koshas described above and Raja yoga for the remaining three, both with the same aim, namely self-realization, and for which purification and fortification of the five Koshas is extremely helpful. Ayurvedic medicine, which is complementary, focuses on the disease-proneness and constitution of the individual and is more of a treatment in the realm of natural medicine, while yoga is a way of taking care of ourselves.

Yoga Therapy is an ingenious and useful by product of the ancient Yoga Shastra but it should be noted that any health outcomes are an indirect effect of yoga practice. Yoga enjoins balanced healthy diet, benevolence, kindly actions, regular practice and a positive approach to learning (and unlearning) by working with the 5 constituents or Kosha, as discussed above.

For the purpose of self-realization Yoga means union with the individual consciousness and the supreme Consciousness. Yoga Therapy it is not about treatment but an altogether scientific and rational, commonsense way for self-care of the mind-body complex – maintaining good condition of body and taking care of the mind; that is the mind as an instrument of consciousness. The secondary meaning of yoga is to ‘yoke’ the mind and gain mastery of the body.

When the body-mind complex is in a balanced state something wonderful happens. Consciousnesses is self-illuminating. Its very nature is to shine – and when the windows of the mind are opened, that auspicious Light gives light to the intellect and the Buddhi (awareness). Some upon recognition of the inner spiritual light say; “I am that Supreme Light of Lights”. Others pray, or chant Gayatri: “May that Light guide our meditation.”

Hari Om Tat Sat

James Hall is a:

Aura 500 CYT

Independent Yoga Therapist

Registered Nurse

Reiki Level III Practitioner

He lives in Adelaide, South Australia and is on the SA committee of a Yoga Australia.

He is passionate about bridging the gap between yoga and healthcare, with a particular interest in Auto Immune Diseases.

He can be contacted on littleeagle1234@hotmail.com