Yoga practice was originally devised by the Vedic Seers and is an ideal method for taking care of our physical and spiritual wellbeing.
To understand how this works and why it’s important to us nowadays, we need to start to see ourselves, and our energetic anatomy, from a different perspective.
According to their observations, the Vedic Seers found that the human being is composed of three bodies, the physical body, the subtle (or astral) body and the spiritual (or causal) body. These consist of five sheaths or kosas. Two further planes make up the spiritual consciousness, and transcend manifestation, giving seven planes of consciousness in all.
They concluded that all human beings move within the first three states of consciousness; the body (annamaya), life (pranamaya) and mind (manomaya). These relate respectively to the waking, dream and deep sleep states. Identification with the body-mind complex as ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is called avidya or wrong knowledge. Avidya is very deceptive as it is knowledge that is incorrect but that we are convinced is true. It is thus a form of confinement in a very convincing, and mostly uncomfortable, misperception.
Various schools of Yoga use different routes to awaken us from these three lower levels of consciousness: to move from bondage to freedom. Atma Vidya is knowledge of the soul, the aim of all Vedic knowledge, liberation!
Each practice of Yoga is a key to accessing the various kosas of consciousness.
Practices for the physical body, Annamaya kosa, include eating a moderate diet of vegetables, fruit, dairy and grains. Daily bathing, regular oil massage and control of sexual activity are also recommendations. With these in place we are in an appropriate state to begin asana (postures) with integrated breathing. Controlled breathing, known as ujjayi, is used in order to link the pranamaya kosa to the asana practice and begin the process of purification. This prepares us for the next practice, pranayama. The initial purification is essential to ready the system for the effects of the increased prana concentration.
The anatomy of the pranic body is studied in Yoga for self-healing and self-realisation. In Yoga we focus on the seven chakras, fourteen nadis and eighteen of the marma-sthana. The chakras are energy centres, the nadis are channels through which prana moves and the marma points are sensitive energy points in the body. So the life force (prana) is moved through the body via these channels using Yoga practice. This keeps them all clean – in a state of good health
Once a competence in asana is attained and the practitioner can sit comfortably for a long time, pranayama becomes the focus.
The practice of pranayama and associated bandhas (physical locks of the body – notably in the throat, abdomen and perineum) can only be done on an empty stomach so the ideal time for practice is early morning.
The first phase of practice cleans the nadis and marmas and balances and increases the chakra function. Yoga practitioners who want to follow Hatha Yoga then concentrate the prana by using bandhas and ensure its movement through the chakras. In this way, the life force ascends through the seven chakras to the highest plane of consciousness, often equated with Shiva (Pure Consciousness). The seven chakras relate to the seven planes of consciousness mentioned earlier.
According to Sri T Krishnamacharya, Pranayama focused on the chakras brings caitanya sakti (vital power) and bestow’s the following benefits: virility, vitality, physical and mental health and fortitude, longevity, divine insight, intuition and finally God-realisation.
Following the ancient teaching of the Vedic Seers, we are gifted with a straightforward, self-sufficient method to attain vitality and awakening.
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