Discovering Yoga and Koshas: at Age 18!
“I wanted a ‘flat’ stomach”, confessed Reed when I asked what brought her to my yoga class. Commendably, Reed was willing to commit time to making changes, and my class fit into her full schedule. Just out of high school, Reed was starting fresh in college.
New students tend to conceive of yoga as a series of movements focused on the physical poses. The postures are still prominently depicted in social and print media as standard “yoga”, typically the shapes are spectacular, and not so accessible to many bodies. Indeed the wonderful practices of yogaasana often provide benefits such as flexibility, strength, and balance. Many poses and sequences of poses diminish back pain, headaches and many more sources of physical suffering.
Yet, persistent practice leads to insight and relief of suffering beyond the physical. In the kosha model from the yoga tradition, koshas are sheaths or layers of our existence. The first layer is the outermost physical body(annamayakosha). The physical is often the entry into yoga practice, as it was for Reed. The next three layers are subtler. They include the life force layer or pranamaya kosha expressed through our breath movement and vibrations. Then the manomaya kosha consists of our mind and thoughts. The next layer is our inner wisdom or knowledge body called vijnanamaya kosha.
The innermost kosha is the bliss body, ananda kosha. I think of this deep layer as our inner light of love, joy, happiness and our pure, true self.
Of course there are many interpretations of the kosha model. I find it a wonderful way to view yoga holistically, acknowledging and experiencing its multidimensions.
Reed had not anticipated the psychological benefits from class. Harnessing the power of the yogic complete breath, Reed has learned to slow down her runaway thoughts.
“Yoga has helped with my anxiety. I just didn’t anticipate the mental aspect. I used to get worked up and overwhelmed easily. Now I notice my breath and thoughts more. I don’t beat myself up. I’ve personally experienced that I can even meditate!
Reed continues: “Yoga has helped me learn who I am in a positive way. I enjoy all of it-particularly the breathing, downward dog, which totally relieves my lower back tension and the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls. I would tell a student considering taking yoga: don’t have any preconceived notion about Yoga.”
Clearly, chronological age is not always associated with wisdom. 18 year old Reed beautifully proves that point. Her wise realization will support her wellness throughout her life.
A version of this article originally appeared on YogaTuneUp.com.