Peel back the yogic layers and let the authentic teacher within change lives forever.
By Michelle Nicklin
As yoga teachers you know there is so much more to yoga than the physical. You understand the sthula, the subtle body and work intelligently to balance the energies in each class. Your students expect to feel after class, often without even knowing why. You are a magician, not only of their bodies, but also their emotions and levels of optimism too. As they start to warm up and peel off their new yoga hoodie you are probably already working through the energetic layers of their bodies at the same time. And you suddenly remember the real reason you went into teaching yoga: to heal others. Layers are good!
I believe the koshas should be an intrinsic part of both Anatomy & Physiology and also Physic Philosophy in every 200 hour course. Understanding the 5 sheaths of the subtle body helps us as yoga teachers to share life-changing practices. Firstly we must accept the premise from traditional teaching that the self as we understand it is surrounded by layers, just like an onion. It is by peeling back these layers through yoga that we can work towards the true goal of yoga – to yoke or unite – the individual soul with the higher consciousness, or ‘God’ if that helps you.
The five layers of the body work outwards in and I have always encouraged the yoga teachers I train to use different techniques to touch, stimulate, rebalance and almost liberate each kosha. Think Russian doll here – with the most subtle & aloof of them all hidden deep inside. Given the varied yoga tools we have it is possible to loosen these layers but the deeper ones take more time and more practice and more dedication to free.
· Annamaya kosha – the outside physical layer of the body Asana (posture) work impacts this layer. Bodies are becoming more flexible. Injuries are healing.
· Pranamaya kosha – the energy body. Pranayama (breathing) practices direct life force positively around the energy pathways (nadis) in the body to increase our feeling of well being. Sleep is better. Anxiety starts to ease.
· Manomaya kosha, the thought body. Pratyhara (sense withdrawal) techniques such as yoga nidra and also visualisations & affirmations helps to remove negativity. Our students minds become rich like fertile soil so positive seeds (thoughts, habits, etc) once planted grow abundantly. People are starting to become more confident & positive. They get their mojo back but this time it is their authentic mojo.
· Vijnanamaya kosha; the wisdom layer. I believe we all have the capacity for wisdom. Chanting mantras and concentration exercises (Dhyana) such as Tratak can help our students to hear that internal voice inside. We are now changing people’s lives here. They start to have faith. Anything is possible and you as a teacher made that happen.
· Anandamaya kosha; the blissful layer, the layer where we lose our attachment to our self and our own ego and become one with God. The point of union. Meditation and bhakti yoga can lead us to this point. This is spiritual in nature but it is absolutely fine to think of the higher consciousness you are connecting to as the universe or mother nature. These moments may be fleeting. They may require practice but they are ultimately the most life-enhancing points of synchronicity we will ever feel. We now feel fulfilled, connected & we have a purpose in life, a dharma to fulfil.
Wow big job this yoga teaching isn’t it? It is not your job to bring your students to this point every lesson. It is your job to explore your koshas and open the door for your students should they wish to pursue.
Just enjoy every lesson you plan and as you put on your layers in preparation for teaching your next class give the Koshas some thought. You may just realise a whole heap of stuff about yourself whilst enjoying the journey towards enabling others to remove layers for themselves. Go weave some magic guys. This is where we are alive. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
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