Your Heart Chakra is your fourth chakra in a system of seven, counting up from the base of your spine. It is located at the very center of your chest, and is commonly thought of as the bridge between your lower three chakras and your upper three chakras. The lower three chakras are considered centers of physical energy whereas the upper three chakras are more spiritual in nature. The heart chakra is located directly in the middle and provides balance for your physical body and your spiritual self. The Sanskrit name for the heart chakra is “Anahata” meaning “unstruck” or “unhurt”. When in balance it is perceived as a bright emerald green, the healthier the chakra the more vibrant the color. It can also be visible as various shades of pink.
Anahata Chakra at a Glance
Location: heart region of the vertebral column, the cardiac plexus
Color: Bright Green (sometimes represented as pink)
Lotus: 12 petals
Bija Mantra: YAM/YANG
Anahata is your energy center for love, compassion, calmness, serenity, friendship, romance, and unity. When your heart chakra is in balance you feel connected to those closest to you, you feel cared for, and you feel love for yourself and others. You will also feel equality, joy, and passion. Having a balanced heart chakra is incredibly important for your quality of life.
Your ability to love not only affects your emotional and mental state but your physical body as well. The heart chakra is connected to your Thymus gland, which is located in the center of your chest. The Thymus gland is part of the immune system and correlates to our emotional well-being, it functions at its best when we are happy, loving and joyful. An underactive Thymus gland may be the result of emotional trauma, heartache, loss and more. Your heart chakra is also connected to your physical heart, lungs, arms and hands.
When your heart chakra is out of balance you may find yourself angry, depressed, jealous, resentful, and envious. If you’re feeling detached from those closest to you, losing hope, or having problems in your relationships these may be signs your heart chakra needs a little extra love.
Nature walks, time spent with pets, time spent with family, practicing gratitude, and acts of self-care are all ways to nourish the heart chakra. As well as wearing green clothing, green essential oils, green gemstones, and eating green foods.
Yoga for the Heart Chakra
A well rounded yoga practice can also be helpful to balance the heart chakra. Some heart-healing asanas include
Meditation can be a very powerful tool in balancing not only your heart chakra but your other chakras as well. Visualizing a glowing, bright green orb in your next meditation while repeating heart opening affirmations (either silently or out loud) is a simple yet effective way to open your heart chakra. You may visualize this orb in the center of your chest, slightly in front of you, or washing over your whole being. Pink is also associated with the heart chakra, and you’re welcome to incorporate various shades of pink to intermingle with the green.
Practice Metta or Loving-kindness meditation daily. Loving-kindness meditation is a Buddhist meditation technique where one practices sending love to all beings in stages. Learn more about metta meditation here.
The seed sound of the Anahata chakra is “yam” chanting this mantra internally or out-loud before or after your meditation is another way to connect with your heart chakra. While chanting “yam” place your left hand on your heart with your right hand on top. You may also practice a heart-opening mudra while meditating, chanting or during your yoga practice.
Mudras for the Heart Chakra
A mudra is a sign or hand gesture that has been known to affect different parts of the body by engaging the nerve endings in our fingertips. Mudras direct energy flow from the fingers to the brain and help the body communicate with itself. Some heart opening mudras include; Padma or Lotus Mudra, Apana Vayu Mudra, and Ganesha Mudra.
To practice Ganesha Mudra, place your left hand palm up in front of your chest and bend the fingers inward. Place your right hand over the top of the left, so that the palms face each other and the fingers grasp together.
Apana Vayu Mudra
On each hand, bend the pointer finger to touch the ball of the thumb. Touch the tip of the thumb with the tips of the middle and ring fingers and extend the pinky fingers outward.
Begin with the hands at Anjali Mudra (prayer pose), keep the thumbs and pinky fingers and the bottoms of each palm touching and flower open the rest of the fingers.
Do you want to learn more about all of the chakras? Join the Ambuja Yoga Newsletter and I will send you our free Chakra Guide. You can sign up in the side bar or on the homepage. Easy Peasy!
Yoga has gained a lot of popularity worldwide because of what the majority says. Most people would say, including me that “I feel so calm and relax after the class”. For those who haven’t tried it and heard this comment, it would sound so intriguing right? Yes, it has been proved that yoga can help you relax but what does it do to your body? What goes on inside the human system? How does yoga affect the human body?
How Does Yoga Affect The Human Body?
Effects of Yoga on the Skeletal System:
The skeletal system is the hard framework that is mainly composed of the bones, associated cartilages, and joints. It plays an important role in protecting the organs inside our bodies. Imagine the human body without the skeletal system? We’d for sure look like jellyfish.
Recent studies had shown that some yoga poses had improved the health of joints by stimulating the release of synovial fluids. Synovial fluid is responsible for reducing friction between articular cartilages. It helps joints flow smoothly during movements. The synovial fluid is significant for delivering oxygen and nutrients to hyaline cartilages that don’t have any sort of oxygen. Regular yoga practice can make practitioners move around more smoothly and easily.
Even though Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise like running, weight lifting, walking, etc. It is less risky than other exercises because it creates tension on the bones and helps them lengthen and align.
According to a study conducted by California State University in Los Angeles, they said that yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol (known as the “stress” hormone) which in result may help retain calcium in the bones.
It is a fact that as we age, our bones start to weaken or even deteriorate and a consistent yoga practice can help improve our strength and coordination.
These are some poses that can help strengthen the bones:
Table Top and alternate lifting and extending opposite arms and legs
Effects of Yoga on the Musculoskeletal System:
Yoga helps strengthen the joints and support the muscles. The isometric poses of yoga train the smaller muscles surrounding our joints to endure longer holds for balance or coordination. Over time, with regular stretching, the muscles become more flexible. Flexible muscles are far less susceptible to damage in the future and put less strain on the body’s joints. Less stress on the joints means less damage to the joints which reduces the chance of developing osteoarthritis. Also, because the muscles are warmed and stretched during a yoga practice, yoga improves recovery of muscle tissues.
Muscles function properly because of the increased blood flow.
Yoga improves flexibility and strengthens postural muscles. Poor posture can cause a lot of injuries in the future. It can result in discomfort, pain, or degenerative disease like arthritis of the spine.
As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension. It might be in your tongue, your eyes, or the muscles of your face and neck. If you simply tune in, you may be able to release some tension in the tongue and eyes. With bigger muscles like the quadriceps, trapezius, and buttocks, it may take years of practice to learn how to relax them.
Effects of Yoga on the Nervous System:
Alternating sympathetic and parasympathetic activation. Regular practice of yoga, slowly invites the nervous system to shift out of patterns of chronic stress back into the body’s natural rhythm of activation from sympathetic to parasympathetic.
Yoga stimulates the vagus nerve. This is the 10th cranial nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve of the body. It connects to vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, colon, spleen and other parts of the abdomen.
Practicing yoga also increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is commonly known as the “happy” neurotransmitter, serotonin is mainly found in the brain, intestines and blood platelets.
Yoga influences the rate of thyroid hormone secretion. Yoga asana, especially Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), by increasing the protein bound iodine and rehabilitating the thyroid gland it may be effective to treat underproduction of thyroid hormones. Various stretching, twisting and compressing yoga asana provide nourishment to the cells, improve blood circulation, massage the thyroid gland and stimulate it to release thyroid hormones.
Yoga decreases cortisol hormone. According to a study conducted by Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Yoga Research Society, a 50-minute yoga session performed for seven days- which included postures such as Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Halasana (Plow Pose) – significantly reduced cortisol levels.
Practicing yoga also stimulates growth hormones. The body’s diminishing supply of growth hormone is responsible for the frailty that comes with aging. If you want to increase the level of growth hormone being secreted, consider asanas that are of moderate aerobic exercise. Studies have proved that moderate forms of exercise can increase basal levels of growth hormone in humans.
Stepping on your mat and flowing through class also ups oxytocin, the “LOVE” hormone. It plays a role in sexual reproduction, sexual arousal and is released by the hypothalamus when you have an orgasm.
Yoga also balances Dopamine “the reward” hormone. A clinical research from the J. F. K. Institute in Denmark published in Cognitive Brain Research found that Yoga Nidra– a guided meditation that produces deep relaxation- increases level of dopamine in the brain by 65 % on average.
Practicing yoga also balances melatonin “Rest-Sleep-Heal”. Researchers at Rutgers University discovered that melatonin levels for meditation practitioners were boosted by an average of 98%. Incorporating meditation into your life can be your much needed physiological re-balancing tool.
Performing pranayama or simply breathing deeply activates the prefrontal cortex and that results in an increase in cognitive function.
Yoga also increases endorphin levels. Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters. Endorphins are the body’s internal painkillers. Endorphins are known to cause euphoria, produce a feeling of pleasure, reduce stress, increase relaxation and are highly effective in pain modulation and management.
Spending time on your yoga mat also improves GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter secretion. GABA is a known major inhibitor neurotransmitter in the brain. This chemical can cause some common problems like: anxiety, nervousness, phobias, restlessness, and insomnia. In 2010, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that a 12-week yoga intervention was linked with greater improvement in mood and anxiety and increased levels of GABA than a metabolically matched walking exercise.
Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs.
Effects of Yoga on the Cardiovascular System:
Deep breathing ignites the sympathetic nervous system, causing the heartbeat to slow and reduces blood pressure. Relaxation exercises found in yoga help increase blood flow throughout the body which also improves oxygen circulation in the body.
Many yoga flows can also increase your heart rate (like Ashtanga Yoga) may lower the risk of heart attack and relieve symptoms of depression. Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise—all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. One study found that subjects who were taught only pranayama could do more exercise with less oxygen.
Effects of Yoga in the Respiratory System:
Deep breathing in yoga can increase lung capacity while reducing breaths per minute. It improves the supply of oxygen to the lungs.
With ‘Pranayama’ breathing exercise in yoga, you can increase your intake of oxygen up to five times. The more oxygen-rich blood that flows to the brain, heart, lungs and digestive organs will enable these organs to work better and further bolster one’s health. Moreover, deep breathing can help you to improve the flow of your lymph system thereby helping the body to get rid of toxins. And it is found to strengthen the diaphragm.
Even the use of chanting sounds such as chanting “Om” can even help soothe the sinuses.
Effects of Yoga in the Digestive System:
Yoga encourages the adrenal glands to produce less cortisol which can reduce cravings for fatty foods. Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This effect can reduce the risk of diabetic complications like heart attack, kidney failure and/or blindness.
Having a regular yoga practice also reduces stress, which can alleviate ulcers, IBS, and constipation, and other digestive problems. Yoga may also be a good method to help the movement of waste to move smoothly out of the body. However, there are some conditions for which using asana for exercise may not a good idea, such as severe cases of diarrhea or constipation, or for someone with an acute bout of pain related to their digestive disorders. In such cases, we recommended turning to other yoga tools, including stress management and relaxation.
Twisting poses can serve as an internal massage of the digestive tract. The massage effect ensures more blood and oxygen and strengthens the muscles of organs.
Asanas that affects the gastrointestinal tract:
Setu Bandha Sarvagasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Static poses that strengthen and stretch the abdominal area help tone the abdominal muscles that house and support the majority of the organs of digestion and may assist in the movement of material through the system. Dynamic poses that fold, stretch and twist the abdominal area can improve blood and lymph circulation, and create a squeeze and release effect on your organs.
Yoga and its many practices have numerous benefits for the human: body, mind, and soul! What’s keeping you from getting on the mat? And if you already practice, please share in the comments how yoga has influenced your life!
Rosalee Oxford is a passionate seeker of happiness and adventures. She just finished her 200 hr YTT with Ambuja Yoga as well as her 20 hr AYRx with Jen Healy. She’s on an ongoing quest to discover all the joys life has to offer and is excited to share her love for yoga with others. With this desire, when she’s not practicing yoga she’s either swimming, scuba diving, pole dancing, or chasing her brown goldendoodle around the house. Her classes are a combination of Hatha and Vinyasa flow that accommodates all skill levels."
A common question from retreat attendees is “how do I prepare for a yoga retreat?” For most of us, we don’t practice yoga 2+ hours each day, let alone 5, 6, or 7 days in a row so I think there is a bit of fear and apprehension that comes into play during the lead up to a yoga retreat. Don’t sweat it. You’ll be fine whether you practice once a week or everyday…. an experienced yogi or a newbie. The following are my tips for how to prepare for a yoga retreat, whether it’s your first retreat or your hundredth!
1. Prepare for a yoga retreat by keeping your yoga practice up.
Make sure to keep your practice up and add a class or two if you have time. But most importantly keep your yoga practice balanced. If you always practice vinyasa add a yin or restorative class or vice versa. Your body will thank you when it feels strong, open, vibrant, and relaxed on retreat.
Two weeks before your retreat is not the time to start practicing headstands/handstands/advanced postures if you’ve never done them before. Trust me you don’t want to injure yourself right before your retreat. Just wait. If those postures are on the agenda at your yoga retreat you will have plenty of time to explore them in a mindful manner.
2. Trust the process and your teacher.
Booking a yoga retreat is a pretty courageous act, especially if it’s your first retreat or with a yoga teacher you don’t practice with regularly. Assuming you’ve done a bit of research to get to know the teacher a bit better, have chatted with them on the phone or via email and connected on social media it’s time to relax. An experienced retreat leader will make sure you receive all of the necessary information before you need it.Let go of the need to micromanage your life for just this little bit… you’re going on retreat aren’t you? Let your retreat leader guide you on your journey.
3. Be willing to put in 110%.
I’m not just talking physically here. Be willing to open up, to let go of old habits and preconceived self-limiting beliefs, to let down your walls and to connect with others. You already have a lot in common with the other people on the retreat, so be yourself and enjoy new friendships.
4. You don’t need 20 pairs of yoga pants, your hair dryer or your makeup.
I’m completely guilty of overpacking yoga leggings and I’ve seen it many times from my students too. You don’t need as much as you think. Likely, you will end up wearing the same couple of outfits over and over simply because it’s easy. And there is no need to primp during a yoga retreat. We will happily accept you as you are. Sweaty, crazy haired, and glowing.
5. Prepare fora yoga retreat by ask yourself “What is my intention?”
Get clear about your intention or sankalpa for the retreat. What are your goals? Why are you attending a yoga retreat in the first place? Is it to deepen your yoga practice? To learn meditation? To relax and rejuvenate? To connect with yourself? To heal emotionally, physically, spiritually? Whatever your intention don’t be afraid to honor that. Sometimes honoring your sankalpa means skipping a yoga practice to sleep in or journal or walk the beach. Sometimes it means being bold and letting down all the barriers you’ve built up. Sometimes it means trying something completely new.
6. Eat mindfully, so you don’t “shock” your system.
Healthy eats! Raw vegan wraps. Yum!
Most yoga retreats have amazing, healthy meals with minimal processed food, meat, alcohol and caffeine. You can prepare for a yoga retreat by beginning to cut processed food and toxins out of your diet a week or two before the retreat. Ease your way into a new healthy radiant you.
7. Practice on your travel mat beforehand.
If you’re bringing a travel mat, or even a new mat, make sure to practice on it beforehand. A slick mat, or one that stretches in downward facing dog is annoying at best. Test it out beforehand and if it doesn’t work out pack your old standby. A “crappy” mat can make for a frustrating yoga retreat. You don’t want something as simple as a yoga mat to detract from your experience.
8. Learn about your destination.
Where are you going? What is that part of the world known for? Do you have time for extra excursions? Prepare for a yoga retreat by doing a little research beforehand. It will get you pumped up about where you’re going and it might even get your friends excited enough to tag along. Sweet!
9. Set aside all expectations.
Manage your expectations. As you prepare for a yoga retreat make sure to ask your retreat leader questions about things you want clarity about…. transportation, food, excursions. Get the answers you need and want… and then let it go. The nature of retreats, especially international retreats, is that sometimes things need to change to bring the best experience to the students. Maybe the teacher has had to rearrange excursions due to whether or even swap them out completely… maybe instead of going on that jungle hike you’ll get a lovely massage instead. Don’t worry about it. The instructor wants you to love the experience as much as you want to love the experience, so roll with the punches, go with the flow, ride the wave. It will be amazing.
“To explore what it would mean to live fully, sensually alive and passionately on purpose, I have to drop my preconceived ideas of who and what I am.”
What happens when you get bored with your yoga practice? I know that it happens to me. When I fall off the yoga wagon, especially as a yoga teacher, I begin to have feelings of guilt sneak in. Feelings of “I’m not good enough” or “How can I teach yoga if I’m not practicing?” So I want you to know that I’ve been there. I feel your frustration, your dismay, your guilt… I’m here to tell you to “let it go”. I’m not going to tell you to stop practicing, but I will encourage you to let your yoga practice take on a different form. Here are my tried and true tips for getting over your boredom and feeling good about your yoga practice again.
Take class with a different teacher. I might get some flack here from other yoga instructors for saying this, but it’s okay to explore. It’s okay to skip your regular class and drop-in to another teacher’s class. Each teacher has their own style, their own way of cueing, and their own way of formatting their classes…. going to another teacher’s class gets you out of your rut and out of autopilot. You will likely experience different poses (woohoo!) and different benefits and alignment cues that you can bring back to your regular classes. And hell we all suffer from avidya (ignorance), which means that our own teacher can give us the same message every class and we may not be ready for it, so we don’t hear it… well you might be ready for it in another teacher’s class… or they may word it in a way that it is more relatable to you.
Incorporate more pranayama, meditation and chanting. For most of us, myself included, we get stuck in asana land. I love asana land! It’s fun and pretty and challenging, but sometimes we forget about the other parts of yoga like pranayama, meditation, chanting. Learn some new pranayama (kapalabhati, brahmari, sitali, ratio breathing, etc.). Kick start your meditation practice. There are so many meditation resources out their now (including apps that make it ridiculously easy to practice). Or delve into the world of Bhakti and learn a new chant or two.
Go on a retreat. Attending a yoga retreat (or teacher training) is a great way to get your asana in gear! It’s okay to spend a little extra money on YOU, on YOUR development, on YOUR growth. Don’t feel guilty about it. Go on a retreat with your favorite teacher OR one you’ve been following on social media OR be bold and courageous and book with someone you find online in a destination you’ve always wanted to check out (I would recommend doing some homework before you hand over your hard earned cash though).
Try a new-to-you style of yoga. If you always practice Bikram, try vinyasa. If you always practice vinyasa, try yin. Maybe delve into the world of Ashtanga Yoga… why not? Be adventurous in your yoga practice.
Change your environment. If you always practice in a yoga studio head on over to the local gym and try one of their classes. Or find an outdoor class at a local park or lodge. Seek out SUP yoga (yoga on stand up paddleboards)… you’ll get an awesome work out, be challenged in new ways and likely you’ll get wet… at least at your first class.
Schedule up some yoga playtime. Connect with one of your yoga buddies and schedule some time to just play… maybe play with a little Acro yoga or partner poses or help each other work on those inversions and arm balances. Likely you’ll have fun in the process and make/keep a good friend too.
Karma yoga. Okay it’s not asana, but it’s equally important. Find a volunteer gig at a local community center, teach a yoga class for underprivileged kids… even better get your yoga buddies together and do a little karma yoga as a group.
Find another hobby. Eek! I know I said it, but it’s okay to branch out. I would recommend finding another active hobby like mountain biking or tennis… something that gets your body moving. Being active in other ways will make you appreciate your yoga practice that much more… especially when your muscles start to get tight and that range of motion you used to take for granted is gone.
Read a yoga-ish book. I recommend How Yoga Works by Gesne Michael Roach and Christie McNally
Take a trip. Allow yourself to be inspired by giant trees, mountains, lakes and even the hustle and bustle of a new city. Strike a pose and have fun with it. Put your feet in the dirt. Swim out to that tiny island in the lake. Enjoy the sun on your skin.
Get a new mat or yoga leggings. I know, I know. Not very yogic of me, but whatever. Buy yourself something nice. Get a new Manduka mat in a fun color or get those wild and crazy patterned Liquido leggings you’ve been eye-ing forever. Give yourself a little extra incentive to get on your mat.
Change your playlist. Okay this only applies if you practice at home, but music can have a huge impact on your practice and your mental state.
Sign up for one of the online yoga class platforms. Create a home practice, try new teachers, practice when it works for you. Love it.
Join a social media yoga challenge. A fun way to connect with other yogis, see new postures and new variations of familiar postures. Have fun with it.
Focus on a specific body part or type of pose. Perhaps strengthening or lengthening the hamstrings. Focus on backbends or inversions. Perhaps focus on opening up your hips. You get the picture. Give yourself something to explore and also something to work toward.
Schedule up a yoga and wine night with your friends. Why not? Yoga doesn’t have to be in the studio to be wonderful. Take turns teaching and follow it up with a glass or two of wine and some snacks.
Practice shorter practices. Set a timer and allow yourself to be present on your mat for 5, 10, 20 minutes. Keep it simple so you don’t get discouraged.
Go on a weekend yoga getaway. There are so many options these days. Go to a festival, conference, workshop or retreat in a different city or state. You’ll have the opportunity to get your practice back on track, explore a new place and make new yoga friends.
You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to practice 5 times a week. It’s okay to be inspired by other things. Your practice will always be with you. Know that your practice doesn’t need to look like everyone else’s practice. Remember it is YOUR PRACTICE. It is yours and yours alone AND it is a practice. Don’t beat up on yourself. Dig deep find that inner fire. It’s there. We will see you on your mat when you’re ready.
Yogis do you have any other tips or tricks you use when you get bored with your yoga practice? I’d love to hear them.
The pancha maya koshas are the five sheaths of human existence according to Vedantic philosophy and the ancient Tantric Yoga text the Taittiriya Upanishad. You can think of the five koshas as layers of an onion and at its center is Atman, the true self. Working our way through the layers we begin with the gross (physical body) then move through the subtle body toward the self.
The five koshas are:
1. Annamaya kosha (the physical body) 2. Pranamaya kosha (the energy or vital body) 3. Manomaya kosha (the mental body) 4. Vijnanamaya kosha (the wisdom body) 5. Anandamaya kosha (the bliss body)
Unlike the layers of an onion that can be completely peeled away from one another the koshas are intertwined, inseparable with each kosha influencing the state of the others. We will begin our exploration of the koshas with Annamaya Kosha, the food/physical body, and continue from there to Anandamaya kosha, the bliss body. We can look at these sheaths, improve our awareness and explore our inner landscape as we begin to answer life’s big questions like, “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?” We also work with the sheaths in yoga nidra, working through the layers methodically and patiently in hopes that we will one day be fully aware of our true self.
Annamaya Kosha (the physical body or food body)
The physical body is just that, physical. It’s made by the food and water we consume. When we are not in tune with our physical body, annamaya kosha, we may experience a sense of being ungrounded or unstable, we may lack appropriate proprioception and bump into things. Also, when we are not clued into our body and the needs of our body we may not be aware of how the food we are consuming is effecting our body and therefore every other aspect of our lives (remember all of the koshas are intertwined).
When we are attuned to our physical body we may experience a sense of balance and ease. Because our body is functioning more smoothly, it’s happier (and therefore not a distraction) so we can begin to focus on the other koshas. The physical body or the Annamaya kosha is the realm of the unconscious mind.
A simple exercise that you can practice to begin bringing more awareness to annamaya kosha is to find a comfortable seat or perhaps lie down on your yoga mat and bring one hand to your chest. Bring all of your awareness to the hand on the chest, becoming aware of your heart beat in the chest and in the hand. Be aware of where the hand meets the chest and become aware of any sensation that arises, the sensation of touch, heat, movement, etc. As you begin to feel more comfortable with this exercise you can begin to shift your awareness to other parts of your body. For example, your feet meeting the Earth, your liver, stomach, lungs, mouth/jaw and the muscles of your back. Be specific and stay with it for at least three to five minutes. Feel free to journal about your experience afterward.
Pranamaya Kosha (the energetic body or vital body)
Each of us has an energetic signature and it is contained within the pranamaya kosha, our energetic body. Pranamaya kosha is the vital force (prana, energy) that animates our physical body, annamaya kosha. We consume prana via our breath, the food we eat and the sun. This life force is carried throughout the body via channels called nadis (the most important nadis being sushumna, ida and pingala) and controlled via the chakras (energy centers). When we work with pranamaya kosha and the prana vayus we affect all seven chakras. The pranamaya kosha is the realm of the subconscious mind.
To work with pranamaya kosha begin to incorporate more pranayama (breathing exercises), bandhas (energetic locks), and pratyahara (sense withdrawal) into your practice. Practicing these methods will teach you how to increase prana and channel prana through the body. As you begin to work with prana you may notice heat, a sense of calm, a vibration, or many other sensations. Experience each sensation fully. Once you feel connected to the pranamaya kosha you may desire to work deeper into the koshas.
Manomaya Kosha (the mental body)
Manomaya Kosha, the mental body, creates meaning out of the world around us. It is the portion of our being where thinking, daydreaming and fantasizing reside. It is also where the beliefs, emotions and opinions from our culture and community reside. It is the repository for our unconscious mind. This kosha guides our emotional responses and is also home to the jnanendriyas (organs of knowledge, ie. our sense organs). Manomaya kosha is also the home of Ahamkara, the ego.
Manomaya kosha is the abode of our samskaras. Samskaras are the grooves of our mind, they are set paths and they are created by repetitive thought patterns. “I’m worthy/not worthy.” “I’m too fat/skinny.” “I choose love/fear.” These are thought patterns that occur often without us even acknowledging them. These samskaras color and shape all of our experiences.
A wonderful exercise to begin to work with these thought patterns and change your samskaras is one that Byron Katie teaches. Byron says to ask ourselves, “What would I be without this thought?” This is an excellent opportunity for self reflection, growth and journaling. I encourage you to keep a journal or small notepad with you at all times, so you can really see how often you experience these thought patterns. This is where big change can happen. This is the realm of the conscious mind.
Vijnanamaya Kosha (Wisdom Body)
Vijnanamaya kosha is the home of Buddhi, higher knowledge, intellect, intuition, judgement and discrimination. Ahamkara appears in vijnanamaya kosha, but as a higher knowledge of self. Our human qualities like gentleness, serenity, humility, non-attachment and bliss are also apparent in Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnanamaya kosha is the realm of the superconscious mind. To reach Buddhi and Vijnanamaya kosha a regular meditation practice is recommended. A regular meditation practice allows one to cultivate the power and knowledge gained by being the witness and the observer.
Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Body)
Anandamaya kosha is the innermost of the koshas and therefore the closest to Atman. The bliss in anandamaya kosha, is more than just an emotional state. Ananda (bliss) is peace, joy and love achieved through contact with the Atman (ultimate consciousness) and is a direct experience of the divine. By not identifying with the lower koshas we gain access to the higher koshas of vijnanamaya and anandamaya, where we may eventually move into that bliss state.
Interested in working with your koshas more? Join me for an upcoming Yoga Nidra class or on retreat where we will have the opportunity to practice yoga nidra multiple times.
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.