In yogic philosophy, our souls are comprised of five sheaths that begin at the periphery of the body, and move inwards to the most central core of our spirit. By practicing yoga, we dance our way through the interwoven sheaths, called koshas, which can be imagined like layers of an onion. The objective is to move from the outer layers of purely physical sensation, to the infinite interior of our spiritual center. While studies of the five koshas could last a lifetime, we’ll cut straight to the depths of the deepest one: Anandamaya kosha. This is the radiant core of our being “where unconditional love and communion with life arises.” (YogaJournal) Practicing yoga doesn’t alter Anandamaya kosha’s existence; it merely removes barriers blocking its expression in our lives. When practitioners pleasure in the taste of this sweet soulful nectar, the love affair with the yoga practice, the body, and most importantly, the self begins. This inner journey brings many back to the blessed yoga mat time and time again.
Recently, I forgot this was why I fell in love with yoga. My knowledge, skill, and dedication to this ancient ritual has grown immensely throughout the past year. But as I became more immersed in the physical technique, I grew further from the roots of yoga’s love. Then a simple question came to my mind and brought me back. Why do I love practicing yoga? How does putting a body into these shapes benefit my being?
Yoga introduces us to the depths of ourselves. It is through a grounded practice that one can uncover the abundance of love, presence, and magic of life in the human body. It takes one on a journey into that place available to all of us, the place of Anandamaya kosha. Although the work is physical, strenuous, confronting and often hard, the destination of the practice is always peaceful. While the anatomy, alignment, and technique are all very relevant, they are simply tools to bring us back to the place of beauty that radiates from our core.
To understand simply, yoga does not change us. It reveals the already existing gleaming glow of our glorious selves. It peels the layers of the energetic onion. There is only love at the root. This is me. This is you. This is all of us. This is Anandamaya kosha. It is neither an emotional feeling nor intellectual revelation. “It is peace, love, and joy beyond any emotional or physical qualities (soyayoga.com).” To further understand this concept, we must examine the path of the four preceding koshas to get there.
“The Yoga path of Self-realization is one of progressively moving inward, through each of those lampshades, so as to experience the purity at the eternal center of consciousness (swamji.com).” The koshas build off of each other. The starting point is Annamayakosha, the purely physical state of consciousness. From there, more subtle energetics of the breath are brought to light in the Pranamaya kosha, the energy kosha. The third kosha, Manamaya kosha, the mental kosha, connects the mind with the first two koshas. Digging deeper, Vijnanamaya kosha is the wisdom kosha, where a strong sense of knowing resides. These four koshas, are the building blocks to Anandamaya kosha. The bliss kosha at the center of our center.
Before I began practicing yoga I did not know that Anandamaya kosha was inside of me. I did not know that the self-destructive habits, lack of confidence, and fear of growing as a human were merely self-constructed barriers, blocking the beauty at the base of my being. In fact, I did not know that beauty was at the base of my being, period. Through yoga, I began to briefly taste this blessed bountiful bliss. What struck me in the early stages of my yogic journey was that these experiences were cultivated by me. I simply utilized my body, breath, and spirit. I was beginning to access parts of myself that I loved, and in turn, I began to love myself. It’s hard not to start experiencing self-love when one glimpses the beauty of Anandamaya kosha’s presence inside himself. Once one’s sipped this soulful, sublime space, something shifts. The focus flows from external egotistical material accumulation to consciously determined self-cultivation. Why seek things outside, when the truest love is inside? That’s where the efforts should be focused.
This blessing, the yoga practice I have been fortunate enough to find, keeps bringing me back to my mat because getting onto my mat continues to bring me back to myself, back to the Anandamaya kosha, and back to self-love. We never attain a permanent Anandamaya kosha state of being. It is a continuous process, and a beautiful endeavor that ebbs and flows with the cycles of the seasons. However, with increasing frequency, depth and appreciation of moments with the loving core, life becomes more loving. It becomes more joyous because when I love myself, I love everything around me. We are all in love with ourselves, the mysteries surrounding us, and the miracle of breathing. Our unconditional love blooms brighter than the barriers it basks beneath when the work of yoga is done. It is a magnificent journey that I would encourage all to embark on. You’re worth it.
This article was written by path leader Keith Allen.If you have something you’d like to share with out network please feel free to contact Sparkleberrylane@gmail.com, we’d love to feature you!
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