This week February 3rd - 9th, we begin our latest syllabus at HOA on the Five Koshas of the human system. Every Tuesday, starting February 4th we will be exploring a different Kosha or Layer that constitutes our Being, with the intention of gaining deeper insight into our inner landscape.
Yogic tradition regards humans as multidimensional beings comprised of many Layers that make up their unique individuality. Each of us are comprised of Five Koshas, meaning “sheaths” or “layers”, which are each encased within the next, similar to a succession of Russian Matryoshka dolls. The Koshas are interwoven, interrelated and interactive, which means that when problems arise in a person, they usually show up on multiple levels and may not immediately present the root cause of the problem. Starting from the outermost layer and moving though the layers to the core of the Self, each body is made up of increasingly subtler degrees of energy.
For our first week, we will be exploring the first and outermost Kosha of the human system, which is known as the Annamaya Kosha, or the Physical Body. This Kosha comprises of our organs, bones, muscle tissue and skin. Its name Annamaya comprises of Anna meaning “food” or “physical matter” and maya meaning “made of." This Kosha is where most problems noticeably manifest, where they commonly show up as chronic pain, discomfort or disease.
In yoga, we may have come across certain postures or exercises that have been said to address deeper layers of our subconscious Self. For example, we may feel an expected surge of emotion while practicing a hip opening asana. But why is that so?
When faced with a threat, the first instinct coming from our reptilian brain would be to curl up in a fetal position to protect our vital organs, which then creates tension and tightness in our hips. When we experience a strong emotional reaction that is not managed appropriately, our bodies become tense and over time may develop into a persisting physical condition. Psychologist Dr Thema Bryant-Davis has been quoted to say that trauma survivors are known to hold their breaths and their bodies tightly, bracing themselves for whatever is coming next. These survivors may remain on high alert long after their traumatic experiences have passed, and retain erratic breathing patterns and chronic anxiety that arise in a variety of physical symptoms ranging from back problems to wrist pain to digestive issues. These symptoms may seem completely unrelated and distant from what we would normally associate with mental stressors, but they aptly demonstrate the correlation between the physical body and the deeper Koshas.
As the most tangible aspect of the Self, we may think that we know our physical body very well; for example, we know where our limbs are, and we can will them to move. However, this “knowing” comes from our mental faculties, where our cognition resides. To truly know our body from a purely physical perspective is to consciously inhabit our body, to sense it so keenly from the inside. Injuries and accidents — and even eating compulsions and other addictions — often come from the tendency to move and use the body without feeling how it responds. If you have difficulty fully entering your physical body, you may feel ungrounded, spacey, and fearful. But once you learn to feel your body, to sense it from within, you will learn how to listen to its needs and equip yourself with the necessary tools to lead a healthy and balanced life.
To develop greater connection with the Annamaya Kosha, you may try this exercise:
Notice your feet against the ground. Tighten and relax the muscles in your calves. Touch your face and sense the contact between the fingers and the skin. Put your hand over your chest and feel your heartbeat, or feel the contact between the hand and the flesh. Then pick an inner organ — your liver, heart, or kidneys — and try to find it with your attention. Really sink your attention into that organ. Just as you would in meditation, notice when you become distracted by thoughts, and come back to sensing the organ. Notice the settling and grounding effect of this practice. Through focused meditation and yoga, we may gain access to deeper dimensions of our systems and examine our patterns of thoughts and behaviour that hold influence over our physical body, our energy and physiological functioning, our interactions and our relationships, and ultimately, our happiness.
Join us at HOA this week to explore the outermost Kosha and its links to the deep layers of your Being. Book your spots here!
February 4th, 7pm - 9pm
Week 1: The Physical Body, Annamaya Kosha
The purpose of this practice is to purify, strengthen, balance and relax the physical body with the sole (soul!) purpose, of transcendence. The aim of this practice is to explore this theoretically and experientially, through movement and breath and a long rest at the end of session with sound bath. The end result? A steady and comfortable body, leading to a steady and comfortable mind.
Cost: 2 sessions from package or drop in $56
* Cancellation for February 4th should be done 3 days prior or you will be charged for late cancellation.
Written by Izzy Liyana, content creator & writer for HOA