Yoga Therapy Applying the Kosha Model to Yoga Therapy
The Koshas are distinct layers of our being. They can also be thought of an dimensions of ourselves that overlap and interrelate to one another. I apply them to my yoga therapy session to address and heal the whole being, not just our physical or psychological components. We practice yoga to have the Koshas become more transparent, porous and cleansed. Here is some information about how the Koshas apply to yoga therapy and their usefulness in your personal healing process. I strive to collaborate with the client's other care-givers, healers and members of the their medical team to facilitate integrative medicine and ensure the efficacy of the practice I teach and assign to the client.
Annamaya means “made of the Earth.” Since this Kosha refers to what is physical, it relates to the body. It can be cleansed with diet, loving touch, asana and other exercise. Massage and other forms of healing touch, by oneself or by others, is often a helpful way to take care of our bodies. I assign specific asanas (postures), self-massage and other physical exercise to address and heal the needs of the body I am working with. Depending on the needs of the client, the asana practice may be more langhana, meaning “to fast” or reduce. In reference to asana practice, it refers to the more relaxing postures, which slow down the metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and relax the nervous system. Or, it may be more brahmana, meaning “to expand”. In reference to asana practice, it refers to the more energizing postures, which stimulate the metabolism and energize the nervous system. What we eat is our best medicine. Though I am not a nutritionist, in my sessions I may make some general dietary recommendations, based on common sense knowledge.
Pranamaya Kosha is our energetic sheath. It can be replenished through pranayama (breath exercises), energy work, and prayers. To pray means to make a deeply sincere request for help or make an expression of thanks addressed to something greater than ourselves or an object of worship. In my sessions this often shows up as setting and intention for a specific outcome and a practice of invoking gratitude for an aspect of our lives. Different pranayama (breath exercises) techniques are applied based on the needs of the person. They may need uplifting breath work if one is depressed, or relaxing pranayamas if they are anxious or stressed. I also offer guided visualizations and meditations that encourage prana (life-force energy) to move through the body, bringing greater health and vitality.
Manomaya Kosha is our mental/emotional body. Devoting oneself to something greater than just our personal needs will help heal and sustain this part of our being. It can also be cleared with acts of service, singing/chanting, and prayer. Chanting or singing can be a powerful thing to do. Have you ever noticed how good it feels to sing from your heart, even if it's just following along with a song on the radio? For myself and my clients, I've spent years studying the areas of Buddhism and modern day psychology as a means to cultivate a practice of kind and compassionate active listening skills. I also offer mindfulness practices, vipassana meditation and other forms of meditation as a chance to experience for ourselves the ever-changing flow of the mind/body process. This awareness leads us to accept more fully the pleasure and pain, fear and joy, sadness and happiness that life inevitably brings. As insight deepens, we develop greater equanimity and peace in the face of change, and wisdom and compassion increasingly become the guiding principles of our lives.
Vijnanamaya Kosha is our intuitive mind, wisdom and clarity. It is uplifted when applying the yogic wisdom teachings and texts. My classes are influences by, and occasional refer to, these teachings. We can also develop this aspect of ourselves through visualization and meditation. As part of my initial client intake I look at the lifestyle of the client; what they expose themselves to, including the media, like TV, movies, and books, as well as, the people and conversations they are interacting with. I encourage placing one's attention on that which feels enlivening and supportive to their sense of well-being.
Ananadamaya Kosha is our sense of our own center. When all the other koshas are more balanced and cleansed the anandamaya kosha will follow. Since this sheath is the closest to the core of our true identity, it is experienced in moments of laughter and acts of compassion. To move people closer to their essential selves I offer a subtle meditation on non-duality and impermanence. When particularly useful I'll recommend a daily practice of Metta. Metta meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a loving-kindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. By opening up and exploring a conversation with my clients about what makes them laugh and feel happy we start understanding how to encourage this part of self-growth. Once I feel informed, I can support people in bringing more joyfulness into their lives by including these activities in their yoga therapy program.
If you would like to know more about how to take this information into your own personal development please send me a note, add a comment at the bottom or share this on facebook, twitter etc. and start a conversations with your community.