Yoga therapy works with our five Koshas, aspects or bodies of living. Effective, deep and skilful Yoga therapy is an art successful where other modalities fail. It’s effectiveness lies in working with the Koshas.
According to Yogic philosophy, we’ve got five bodies, and in some traditions, even seven. I’ve been trained, meditate upon and experience five Koshas, so I’ll stick to that theory.
Let’s dive in.
The Koshas are our different sheaths, or aspects of living. Our different layers of receiving, perceiving, experiencing, expressing and responding. These sheaths are physical, energetic/emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual. Taking into consideration not only the desires, abilities and needs of these layers, but also of our personal, family, social, work and culture. So Yoga therapy is personalised and wholistic.
YOGA THERAPY IS EFFECTIVE WHERE OTHER MODALITIES FAIL
Yoga therapy is different from a general yoga class, read about the differences here. Also known as medical yoga, Yoga therapy gets to the root of conditions. Improving our quality of living, wellbeing and health, because it works with all aspects of living. Exploring and integrating our physical, emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual aspects, Yoga therapy not only treats the dis-ease but helps us understand the underlying cause and how we can affect it. We can create long lasting beneficial effects, long after the work between client and therapist ends.
Yoga therapy teaches the tools for the why, what and how of the challenge. It’s personal development of body, mind, emotions, psyche and spirit. Using observation, intention, motion, breath, and knowledge as tools. Yoga therapy has become a bit of a craze right now amongst Yoga teachers and medical researchers searching for alternative medicine. This is because we use the Koshas as the foundation it integrates body, emotions, mind, psyche and spirit, through the Koshas and activates our natural healing system throughout.
HOW YOGA THERAPY WORKS
Yoga therapy is about uncovering and bringing to light the conscious, subconscious and unconscious patterns of body, emotions, mind and psyche. From this discovery, the client and therapist, develop an accessible daily practice together over a period of weeks, months or years.
The practice is physical, includes movement that honour the energies/emotions at play, sets an intention for the mind to return to again and again, and builds toward a goal for the psyche to identify with someone/thing to motivates and inspires us to grow. Even though it’s subtle, the practice has aim, dynamism and remains objective to guide the client through their challenge and develop their personality.
It’s a wholistic approach, making sure of success by creating a practice that’s sustainable long term, and on a daily basis. Yoga therapy works with the attitude, stance and posture of the five Koshas. The bearing of our physical, emotional, mental and psychological bodies. So that we embody, empower and embrace each layer of ourselves with strength, adaptability, beauty and confidence.
The development of this practice ensures that, in all these layers, our fire burns up impurities. Our willpower is ignited. And our radiant intelligence softens our natural healing system. This way our energy begins to flow again. Our Koshas are integrated and we sense our inherent wholeness. We embody our wellbeing.
THE FIVE KOSHAS AND YOGA THERAPY
We honour the five Koshas when we listen to their individual needs, desires and abilities. If, we oppress these natural urges too often, we cause imbalance, which eventually results in dis-ease. Either in one, or more, of these Koshas and aspects of living. Desire is labelled as ‘Witch’, devil or step mother. But She is change, and the power of life flowing to initiate the transformation. Desire is just Prana, life-energy, asserting Her creative power wants to flow in a certain direction. If we can hear Her yearning and open up the channels, without greed or force, Life flows through us. Wellbeing. This is the art. Knowing and hearing the silent messages of the five Koshas.
Literally means our food body, or physical sheath. Nourished by food, water, exercise, massage and all the physical sensations that feed our physiology. Health of this body is honoured when we pay attention to our natural biorhythms, our need for sleep, hunger and pleasure, our menstrual cycle and just plain physical desires, needs and abilities. We can influence it by asanas, movement, breath and mudra.
Is our breath and life energy body. Also our emotional body. When energy is allowed to move through us uninhibited, we feel well. We’re moved by our natural intelligence, the desire of our soul. Breath and emotion are intimately connected. The same place in the brain that regulates our breathing is also full of neuroreceptors for mood enhancers. We can influence it by asana, breath, mudras, mantras and movement.
Is the mind body. It is formed by our memories, thoughts, fantasies, dreams and the mental impressions left by our perceptions based on these. The mind body is a tool that loves movement and change, it’s versatile, agile, and calculating. Manomaya is the realm of logic, the known, busy comparing, analysing, and measuring. Our mind body is fed by impressions from visual, audio and emotional sensations, that are repeated. We can influence mind with mantras, mudras, breath, concentration, meditation and mindfulness.
Wisdom body or intelligence body. Vijnanamaya Kosha is the psyche that knows our connection to something bigger; a complete sense of self. It identifies with archetypes, heroes and heroines. It connect our consciousness with the sub- and un-conscious. It’s intuitive, unlimited and knows our inherent wholeness underneath all challenges and changes. We can influence it by the people we associate with, aspire to and the goals we set for ourselves.
Is the bliss body, the causal body. The essence that starts our journey as conscious beings. Our will to fully embody our core desire to live, love and flourish. The part of us that has a unique gift that only we can bring into this world. The serve and thrive aspect of our being. Our bliss body is affected the by the clarity and wholeness of our other Koshas. We experience different aspects of bliss whenever one of the Koshas feels clear and whole, in relation to our level of consciousness.
INTEGRITY OF THE FIVE KOSHAS
Like a seed, we all start life as whole beings. In our natural state we grow in our entirety. Nourished on all levels of existence we become healthy, whole and integrated humans in the field of life. A seed’s protective husk contains the energy of vital sustenance and within that kernel, the embryo, our potential of divine existence. Similarly, our soul, protected by our physicality, directs our experiences and expressions, through different bodies of perception, to live fully.
Our physical body, holding the bodily systems, Body Beauty, our emotional body directs our energy, our mental body houses our memories, thoughts and perceptions, , and our psychology influences who we hang out with and want to become.
Each sheath, like a husk of grain, encases the deeper and richer sense of who we are. When we start working with all the bodies, we begin to touch our divine and whole sense of self. That gives us access to the only healing energy any of us need.
Take a moment now and ask, “Which aspect of my life is most delicious, giving me a feeling nourishment, warmth and wholeness?” Go into that feeling recall the memory of it, bring it back again and again until that is the pattern of your mind, memories and let your body soak it in. Which Kosha or layer of life is most stressful or feels a struggle? What’s one thing you can do, read a book, do a course, speak to a friend or therapist, to improve your experience of that layer? Leave a comment below, share your insights, feelings and knowledge.
Love to all your aspects of being, all your beautiful, blissful bodies,
Oh Shira I am learning so much from your informative easy to read and ‘dead on subject’ articles. I feel privileged to say I know you personally . Keep up the good work for us new and learning Yoga Therapists who need lots of love, support and information that we can easily assimilate into our work that is clear, practical and traditional.
Thank You Karen!
What a beautiful and deeply felt compliment 😉
I’m also very grateful to have You in my life.
You always know how to shine your light and
Reflect to others their Amazingness.
What a great gift!!
Love to You Karen