MODULE FIVE : ANNAMAYA KOSHA
The Physical Sheath of our Being
Where do you feel that in your body? This is a question I find myself asking a lot in my work as a yoga therapist. We are embodied human beings. And even though this is a plainly obvious fact it’s one we often ignore. When you are processing difficult emotions or trying to make a difficult decision, do you ever pause to ask yourself “where do I feel this in my body?” And when you feel something strongly in your body, do you ever pause to ask yourself “what is my body trying to tell me through this sensation?” If not, I encourage you to start trying it out. The body is full of wisdom, but we have to learn to direct our senses inward in order to hear the body’s subtle voice (alternatively you can ignore the subtle voice and wait until your body speaks in a voice too loud to ignore—sickness, anxiety, disease, etc).
One way to begin listening to the internal, embodied voice of wisdom is through the practice of asana. Asana is the 3rd limb of the 8-limb path of yoga practice. Asana means ‘comfortable seat’ and commonly refers to the postures of yoga. As you know, the tagline of my business begins with “yoga is so much more than postures…” and this is true. But postures are an essential part of yoga. My main yoga teacher, Gary Kraftsow, writes:
In normal behavior our attention is primarily focused outward, into the world. As a result, we are generally unaware of the mechanical and repetitive nature of our actions, both physical and mental. Thus, the starting point in breaking these cycles and changing the quality of our lives must be interiorizing our attention. This is the key to the Yoga process and the meaning of what I call personal practice.
This process begins with the discipline of body, breath, and mind, known in the Yoga tradition as asana practice. At the most basic level, this practice involves consciously moving the body into specific postures—asanas—remaining in these postures for some time, and organizing them together in particular sequences. Asana practice was developed as a means of purifying and restructuring the body, bringing to it the qualities of stability, strength, flexibility, stillness, and a sense of clarity and well-being. It does this by introducing some nonmechanical elements into our daily life, through which we free ourselves from conditioning and effect positive change.
Gary indirectly references Yoga Sutra 2.46 here, which offers two descriptions of asana: sthira and sukha. Sthira is the quality of being firm, stable, alert, and present. Sukha is the quality of being relaxed, comfortable, at ease, without pain or agitation. There is a wonderful story in the teachings of yoga about the serpent Ananta, who carried the world on his head and the Lord on his lap. I love the visual of this story. Ananta was alert and stable enough to balance the world on his head. But he was simultaneously relaxed enough and free enough from agitation that he could create a comfortable resting place for God.
The practice of asana gives us a tool to work toward the state of stable ease that Ananta demonstrates—if we approach the practice with full intention and conscious awareness.
If you’re like most people, asana is the aspect of yoga practice you’re most familiar with. I encourage you to use this module to help deepen and enrich your understanding of the practice. And to help you articulate and focus the intention you have in regards to asana. Most importantly, I hope this module can help raise your body-mind connection higher and higher into your conscious awareness. I hope it supports your efforts to tap into the innate wisdom of your body.
Before you dive in, you’ll want to print your packet.
Body Journal – Before you begin the study of this module I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on these questions.
Annamaya Kosha Art Piece – Remember the image of the five koshas from module 1? Well here’s an image of the Annamaya Kosha on its own that includes the text describing the physical sheath of our being from the Taittiriya Upanishad.
Glossary Page – A few new sanskrit terms for you to explore! Along with some super cute asana stick figures… As always I recommend you have this printed out and ready to fill in as you listen to the teachings.
Bhavana Art Piece – Here’s a quote from Donna Farhi inviting you into dialogue with your body. This is the intention we’re trying to cultivate through the practice of asana.
Bhavana Drafting Sheet – Remember the intention crafting worksheet from module 2? Well this sheet helps you work more specifically with your intention for the annamaya kosha.
Personal Practice Drafting Sheet – Once you have a clear intention you can begin to draft a practice designed to support you on the level of the annamaya.
Sun Salutation Sequence – A viniyoga version of this practice drawn out for you. If you’re not sure where to start with your personal asana practice, this might be a good place to experiment! Here’s a video of the sequence in action.
*please disregard the note about “your weekly class” at the end of this video. That program is no longer offered!
“Bringing Yoga to Life” by Donna Farhi chapter 8
“The Heart of Yoga” by TKV Desikachar chapters 3-5
You might also want to explore the “Hatha Yoga Pradipika with notes from Krishnamacharya” by A.G. Mohan & Dr. Ganesh Mohan
Before you begin to explore these teachings and the practice, I would like you to be grounded in your own relationship with your own body. If you haven’t already, please take 5-10 minutes to journal using the Body Journal (the 1st page of the packet—link above).
TEACHINGS : THE ANNAMAYA KOSHA
This teaching includes a review of purusha and prakriti. It has several reflection questions in it, so you might want to be ready to hit pause and do some journaling.
TEACHINGS : THE PRACTICE OF ASANA
This teaching includes a review of the yamas and niyamas and like the last teaching, includes several reflection questions.
I begin this teaching by revisiting the Pancha Maya artwork from Module 1 and looking at the Annamaya Kosha artwork found in this month’s packet. You’ll want to have those in front of you before you push play!
MODULE 5 PRACTICE:
This practice is all about connecting the BodyMind. Can your mind be embodied and your body be mindful? I will read you several quotes from the wisdom of Donna Farhi regarding asana practice and will give you plenty of time to really feel and be in your body. Remember, asana is a practice. It can’t really be understood intellectually. It needs to be understood experientially. It needs to actually be practiced.
You’ll hear me talk about students having 2 purple blocks and 1 green block. You’ll need two standard sized yoga blocks (purple in our studio) and, if possible, a thinner block (green in our studio). If you don’t have a thinner block, a normal one will do.
We’ll start lying down in a comfortable position. Feel free to prop yourself well!
We end with time for journaling in regards to personal practice. You’ll want to have the Bhavana Drafting Sheet and Personal Practice Drafting Sheet printed from the packet and ready to go. After the journaling time, there’s some discussion about exercise and the act of drawing out (in stick figures) your personal practice. It’s not our usual meditative end, but it’s a useful conversation and everything is wrapped up in the end with chanting!