What is the yogic approach to physiology? The ancient yogis believed that the individual was made up of 5 layers or sheaths of experience and these were called the koshas. These koshas explain our relationship and experience with the environment, the breath, the mind and higher levels of consciousness. They provide a way for us to find our way into the subtler layers of our being.
The first layer or kosha which we are most likely to be aware of is one called annamaya kosha or the body sheath. It occupies about 75% of our awareness. This is our relationship with the body, the bones, muscles, ligaments, organs and how we interact in our environment through the senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and feel. It concerns the foods we eat, the things we do, our sleeping habits, the media we expose ourselves to, the people in our lives and places we visit. You may notice that some people or places make you feel content, happy and positive whereas others make you feel anxious, exhausted, fearful. Similarly you may find that when you get regular sleep and take regular meal breaks with healthy food choices you generally feel better. The same goes for exercise be it yoga or some other form of physical activity.
Once we become conscious of these things we are able to use yoga to create a steady experience of annamaya kosha. Some things to consider may be setting a regular time for going to bed, making changes to our eating habits in terms of what you eat and when( you could even use Ayurvedic principles here). Making conscious choices about the people we spend time with, not just putting up with it. Establishing a regular yoga practice and taking time for stillness in meditation. Creating balance in annamaya Kosha creates a ripple effect to the higher koshas or layers affecting energy levels and or mental balance.
Yoga practices for harmonising the physical body include:
- asana by toning and strengthening the body,
- pranayama (breathing practices) by increasing breath capacity, physical energy and balancing the cerebral hemispheres
- meditation and yoga nidra to provide stress relief and balance the fight/flight response
- cleansing practices like neti, kunjal to keep mucus membranes and tracts lubricated and healthy
Some of the principles in the management of Annamaya kosha include:
- regularity of sleep, meals, yoga practice
- simplicity of food, daily routine
- moderation – not overdoing any addictive behaviours
- discipline – not rigid or suppressed but in developing the ability to control the mind
- awareness i.e.. consciously listening to the body’s needs
- tapas or sacrifice ..opportunity for fasting