1. Annamaya kosha
Through the physical body, which is the most tangible aspect of ourselves, we begin to get a more refined sense of what is going on inside ourselves.
Lie on your back, palms open and eyes closed. Relax and release your body into stillness. Begin to scan your upper body, one part at a time – eyebrow centre, back of the throat, right shoulder, elbow, wrist, palm, and each finger. Now scan the left hand upper side. Then your spiritual heart centre, behind the sternum, and down to your solar plexus, between diaphragm and navel, and the Svadisthana Chakra, below the navel. Scan the right hand lower side: hip, knee, ankle, foot. Now scan the left hand lower side. Come back up to the space below the navel, above the navel, your heart centre, base of throat, and space between the eyebrows. When you’re ready, roll to the right side, and slowly rise to seated.
2. Pranayama kosha
The pranic body is essentially an organisational field that holds your physical body together. This field is your life energy.
Sit comfortably, chest open and lifted, with support under the hips. Close your eyes. Begin with a few cycles of slow deep breathing through your nose. Repeat, adding a brief pause at the top of the inhalation, then return to your natural breath rhythm. Notice the breath at the tip of your nose, the temperature of your breath, the sensation of the air passing within the nose. When the mind wanders, bring it back to this anchor, the sensation of breath. Complete in your own time, open your eyes gently, and move slowly on with your day.
3. Manomaya kosha
Now we move deeper: this is the layer that comprises our passing thoughts, emotions, and perceptions - like waves in the ocean.
You may like to set a 5-minute timer. Sit comfortably, with support under the hips. Choose a simple mantra like OM to repeat in your mind - OM is reflective of the infinite nature of the universe. Close your eyes. Withdraw, relax your breath, and repeat the sound of your mantra in your mind at a pace that feels good. If thoughts arise, do not resist them; when the mind wanders, simply come back to the mantra. Trust that, over time, this experience is refining your attention, enabling the mind to turn inward. When the timer goes off, allow yourself another few minutes in stillness.
4. Vijnanamaya kosha
The word Vijnana means ‘knowing'. It is the sheath of true wisdom underneath the thinking aspect of the mind, and is associated with the higher intellect, real discernment and reasoning.
Sit, with eyes closed. Inhale deeply into the belly, up into the chest, pause at the top, and exhale. Repeat. Then return to your natural breath.
Notice that something within you can observe your physical body, but that observer is not the body. Can you, as the observer, be aware of your thoughts? Your mood? How your body feels? The observer knows all of this, without having to get involved in it. The observer is objective, simply witnessing, without being attached to any meaning or outcome. Can you recognise, in this state of stillness, that you are not your reactions, thoughts, or habitual ingrained behaviour? And that these are all layers that you have built up around your deepest sense of self to get by in the world? Rest upon the peacefulness of your deeper wisdom and knowing. Bring your awareness back to the breath and body, resting in stillness, observing. When you're ready, open your eyes and move the body gently.
5. Anandamaya kosha
Ananda means bliss. It is the most hidden layer, surrounding the eternal centre of our consciousness, and perhaps the hardest to experience. The bliss referred to is different from that experienced in the mind: it is a state of deep peace and love, beyond the mind, independent of external influences. It is a stepping away from the ego and even our deepest intellect.
Sit, and allow the body to fall into deep rest, the mind to quieten. Reflect on the feelings of joy, love, tenderness, and peace without association to any external stimulus. Bring your awareness into the centre of the chest behind the sternum. Feel the energy of deep, unconditional love, a state of peace resonating from this centre, filling the rest of your body. Imagine this energy, radiating from your spiritual heart, is a soft golden colour, like the rising sun. Visualise this golden light moving outward from your heart centre, through your skin, fingertips, toes, shoulders, neck, and around your head. Now allow the light to draw slowly back inward to your spiritual heart and rest there, as a reminder of your true nature. Allow yourself the next few moments to enjoy resting in this beautiful state. When you feel ready, open your eyes, and move gently.
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