“The role of the yoga teacher: take the hand of the student and lead them back to themselves.”
I just love this quote and idea of being a yoga teacher. I know for myself that the various yoga teachers I’ve had, have really done just that. Given me a space to be with myself and practice for myself to find what truly matters to me.
This was the opening to Workshop #4 of my yoga teacher training. We covered nine asanas that encourage us to work through the GROSS body. Feeling the muscles, joints and connective tissue. This is only one level of yoga practice.
What we dove into next was the SUBLTE body. I know I’ve said it before, I feel quite connected to my body. But really what I am saying is that I am connected to my gross body. The subtle body, not so much. And thus, I fully appreciated the discussion, dare I say lecture, about the subtle body.
How did we reach the subtle body?
Through the Koshas.
This idea and topic was new to me. I can’t say that I have ever heard about the Koshas before. Essentially, the Koshas are translated to “sheath”, meaning that they each fit within the next. I’d like to think of them as a matryoshka doll, also known as a Russian nesting doll, one fitting into the next with the largest being the physical, gross body. The Koshas are interconnected and are each made of increasingly finer grades of energy.
Here is a quick list of the five Koshas:
1. Anamya Kosha
2. Pranamaya Kosha
3. Manomaya Kosha
4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
5. Anandamya Kosha
Now, let me dive a bit deeper into each Kosha. The first being more of the gross and the last more of the subtle body.
- the physical body whereby we obtain energy from food sources. It is the Kosha where the root of suffering comes from.
- the energy body that is made up of 72,000 points or meridians (think acupuncture) which allows prana (or sometimes called Chi) through the body. This Kosha is key to pranayama practice. Since this Kosha is our life force which regulates the unconscious physiological processes such as breathing; if it shuts off then our physical body does not survive.
Sidenote about prana that was discussed at this workshop was that prana is present everywhere, present in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the sun we absorb. It rides into the body on the air and it is not the air itself.
- the mind body where our thoughts and emotions live. The Samskaras also reside in this Kosha. Meditation and/or using a mantra helps keep this body functioning at its best by decluttering the excessive negative energy that may be bringing us down.
- the intellectual body which encompasses the higher consciousness including conscience and will. The Yamas and Niyamas fall nicely into this Kosha as a reflection of free will and acting with a moral conscious.
- the bliss body is the most subtle and spiritual of the Koshas. Generally, the average person has an underdeveloped connection to this Kosha and it is left to the sages, saints, and genuine mystics who have done the work to connect with this Kosha. Being the thinnest veil, this Kosha is what is standing between our ordinary awareness and our higher Self.
Reflecting on the five Koshas, really helped to reinforce the quote at this beginning of this post. Yoga works not only the gross body but more importantly, the subtle body. And the responsibility of a yoga teacher is to guide students to find the Koshas for themselves, potentially not even labeling them as such.
The final quote from this beautiful workshop is…
“Yoga are not the doer. Yoga will come through you.”
Reference: The Koshas: 5 Layers of Being
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.