Appreciating the completeness of yoga solely by putting your body into a yoga pose is like hoping to experience the majesty of the Grand Canyon by looking through a paper towel tube, understanding the vastness of the ocean by observing a tablespoon of water, or trying to figure out the mystery of the cosmos by viewing a photograph of a planetarium. The more ways we can view something, and experience it directly, the closer we can come to understanding it. Yoga is a vehicle to view, and to merge with, the true self. The koshas are the different views (or lenses) we use. Kosha means veils, or sheaths, and the koshas are the veils of illusion that we view life through.
There are 5 main koshas, or lenses that we use to see the world. Knowing what kind of veil you are looking through will help you to make more sense about what you are seeing and experiencing. It's a bit like the "glass half full or glass half empty" scenario. When you know if you are more of a half empty or half full person, the way you perceive the world around you will make more sense and become more predictable. If it makes you unhappy (or the people around you unhappy) to see a half empty glass, you can actually start to see the glass as half full if you want to. It takes a change in perception. But before you change a perception, you might want to know what your perception already is, and you will probably want to know your other choices. This is not just about going around and saying things are great when you don't really think they are, or saying "it's all good" when it is not. We are not trying to "fake it til we make it".
This shift in perception is like taking off your far-seeing glasses and slipping on your cheater glasses in order to read fine print. If you don't realize that you are using the wrong eyewear to see something, you might feel helpless, hopeless, or get angry and frustrated because you can't read the text that you want to read. And if you can't read that text, you can't get what is needed, you will not have the freedom to choose because you don't really know what your choices are. Being someone who now has to cycle through both far seeing glasses and cheater glasses while wearing contacts, I find myself wondering what people did back in the olden days before corrective lenses were a thing. Did they think everyone saw things blurry the way they did? What were they missing in the landscape around them and from being able to read books, or from recognizing people they passed? Until I was in about 4th grade I thought everyone saw the blackboard blurry. Then I realized I needed glasses. I remember crying from this realization that I could do something about not being able to see. Similarly I wonder about people who are doing asana with just their body. What are they missing? I did asana for many years before I "plugged in" to the subtlties of prana and the koshas, and just like when I discovered I needed glasses, I cried with joy. My yoga practice took on a new and profoundly deep mean. So I do actually have an idea of what they are missing, just like I remember what it is like to not be able to see the blackboard in school.
In the seminar Asana Through the Koshas we are going to study the koshas and what it may look or feel like to be perceiving things through those koshas. We will use yoga asanas to experience the koshas and, this is the fun part, we will experiment with viewing the asanas through these different veils (or koshas). The lovely thing about learning to practice this way is that you will find a deeper level of connection with the practice and with yourself. You will find out you don't need to struggle through asanas in order to practice yoga.
Interested? Check out the workshop coming up this weekend, 3/5-6 AND the Subtle Anatomy workshop happening on Friday evenings 3/18 and 3/25. Find out what is happening beneath your skin.