Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Understanding your 5 sheaths of consciousness is vital to any inner healing work. Working from the first Kosha (layer) and then building from there helps us to move at our natural rhythm and ensures that we don't push ourselves even further out of balance by not taking the time to lay a strong foundation. Inner work takes time, dedication, and strength; allow this and follow the path that has been laid out by so many great teachers before us.
According to Yogic traditions we have 5 layers of consciousness (kosha's), which are essentially 5 bodies that all need to be in balance for optimal well-being. The first layer is referred to in ancient texts as annamaya kosha (Anna = 'made of', Maya = 'food' or 'physical matter' in Sanskrit). Keeping annamaya, our first body, in balance is vital to maintaining the health of our other, more subtle, energy bodies. Tending to our physical health is the first step to ensuring that our emotional and spiritual health remain strong and stable. Without the balance of our mind, body, and our spirit, it is impossible to maintain full health and mental well-being.
Through my personal experience of teaching yoga, I could see that despite the countless benefits of the asana practice, people were coming and going from a 2 hour practice per week (maybe more) and feeling better (for a few hours) before going back to their homes and falling straight back into old habits that were causing them emotional and physical pain. This is not what we want from our yoga practice. We want to be able to use the tools that we learn in class throughout our lives to feel better consistently, we want to free our physical and mental bodies from tension so that we can react differently in trying situations.
It is vital that we create a relationship between our physical and spiritual bodies and nothing does this quite as perfectly as a daily yoga practice, but only if it is understood and carried out properly and consistently. The first step towards this is to bring balance to our physical body: annamaya.
Practicing asana (physical postures) is deeply nourishing spiritual work, it works on releasing our physical bodies from stresses and tensions so that we can do the work that needs to be done in the world (our dharma) without the restrictions of physical pain. Though, I believe, if we do not approach this practice in the correct way - we are essentially wasting our time and our money on another wasted health fad. To first understand the depth of the yoga practice, we need to be balanced in our food body, and how do we do this? Through the practice of yoga, ayurveda, and pranayama.
Before we move into a high chakra practice like yoga we need to have built some form of foundation and stability to ensure that we can practice safely and mindfully. Using the tools of Ayurveda to bring balance to our physical bodies (and in turn our spiritual and emotional bodies) is the first step towards real growth. It is a lot more difficult to be kind and compassionate to others when we are suffering from our own pain, be that physical or emotional.
Ayurveda's view of disease is seen as any form of discomfort in the body ranging from bloating and gas or just feeling off all the way through to more complex illnesses. These are then classified into an imbalance in one of three dosha's (default energies), Kapha (heavy, dull, sticky), Pitta (fire, anger, irritation), or Vata (anxious, fearful, inability to focus). Once we recognise our physical and mental imbalances, we can begin to shift to lifestyle and nutrition changes that counteract this imbalance before it manifests into something bigger.
Here, I will discuss a few things that we can do to help us get back to balance when feeling disconnected to the health of our physical body. They are practices that I have had a personal experience with and everything that I suggest will have been successfully trialed by myself. As usual, take what feels good to you and leave the rest. Follow your own intuition over all else, notice what is happening in your mind and your body and work with this to help bring yourself back to center.
1) Grounding Meditation:
We've heard it all before, I know, but the number one way to balance these feelings of fear have been through the daily practice of meditation.
Meditation wears many different hats and despite what we may have heard it is practiced with each breath we take and not only at the time we are sitting at our mats. Meditation is a process and it is only through viewing our lives as meditation that we can truly gain the most from it. That being said, taking time each day to sit quietly and follow your breath is one of the most effective practices to bring our mental bodies back into balance.
Any feelings of anxiety, fear, or worry stem from our thoughts. Just by bringing your awareness to your feet and your physical connection to the seat, floor, or chair (depending on how you've decided to meditate) is enough grounding to bring your mind at ease. Continuing to return to the breath softly each time your mind begins to wander. Using visualizations and following the breath gives your mind something to focus on, and also increases the energy flow to those areas.
In addition, when we are too much in our heads it is important for us to return to our bodies with grounding massage oils such as coconut (pitta), sesame (vata), and almond (kapha), the ingestion of balancing herbs, and making informed lifestyle and food choices.
2) Small Nutritional and Lifestyle Changes
Understanding what might be causing aggravation in your body and mind is important when trying to deal with challenges (mental or physical). Ayurveda believes that the food that we eat can act as medicine or poison. There is a huge amount of depth that goes into understanding the individual gunas (qualities) and the post-digestive effect Vipak that food has on our bodies. Knowing that certain foods may have a cooling guna, yet could also turn heating once processed in the digestive system. An example of this is mint, cooling to our external senses and body but with a heating Vipak once internalized. Once we can begin to understand deeper the processing of our food we can eat according to our current state of imbalance.
In Ayurveda there are 7 dhatu's (tissues) in our body, there are referred to as Rasa (skin), Rakta (blood), Mansa (muscle), Medas (fat), Asthi (bone), Mjja (bone marrow), and Sukra (seminal fluid). Once we have taken any herbs or drugs (food is classed as a drug in Ayurveda), the qualities of these take 5 days to go through each dhatu. So once we begin our change in diet/lifestyle/herbal remedies, the herbs begin to process in the first layer (Rasa) after 5 days, and then to Rakta after 10 days, and continuing until the cycle is complete.
This means that we can start seeing improvements in our skin tissue from 5 days and within 30-35 days we will have completed one full cycle in our bodies. Though for deeper imbalances we will need more than one cycle to bring our body to full balance.
3) Daily Practice
Keeping to a daily routine that is supportive of our well-being is one of the most simple ways to regain composure and balance. Ensuring that you take enough time to spend the first of your waking hours in silence, splashing your eyes with cold water, tongue scraping, oil pulling and giving yourself a daily Abyangha massage will be more than enough to remove toxins from your body and create a safe and loving internal environment. Practicing breath-work and gentle yoga postures each morning will also help to process any stagnant emotions or tensions out of the physical body. Just be aware of your digestion, if it is not balanced then it is better to be gentle with yourself until you can evacuate naturally each morning. It is important that we aren't using our reserves of energy with exercise when our body needs that energy to properly digest our food.
If you want to know more about your imbalances or get some advice; send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can schedule a consultation.
Sending you love,