Anamaya Attitude Adjustment

Om Devatas,

Recently I have been revisiting my journey into teaching as my own students go through the YTT200,  grappling with their skills, desires and potential.  

For me, I had years of schooling under my belt before I ever even met a yoga mat… BS in Exercise Physiology.  Masters in Public Health.  Years of training aerobic instructors and personal trainers, running fitness programs, consulting for health clubs and hospitals, teaching anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, doing oncology research, speaking…  A whole 'nother life, it seems.


Then, I found my way to Yoga -- found my way to healing.  I found my way to practicing, and eventually to teaching.  Taking the template of all that academic study and placing it like a lens filter over what I knew about Yoga.

I did that for years.  Then in the last decade or so… I found that the most profoundly impactful and incredible classes I have ever attended were those where the teachers didn't speak once about a bone, a muscle, or make a single reference to alignment. They just lived their yoga.  They weren't wrapped up in choreography, asana, music, or even us students.  They simply brought a deep devotion to the yoga practice within themselves and modeled that with purity and clarity.

It was all about energy.

It IS all about energy.

We are not our physical bodies.  through the ancient lens of Yoga, the physical body is one of five bodies.  

1.  Anamaya kosha:  This physical form is the most gross… the most obvious… and the noisiest of the five bodies. It is literally translated as  the "modified food body".

Then, beyond the physical live the more subtle, less obvious four bodies or "sheaths".

2.  Pranamaya kosha (energy body):    This is comprised and accessed through the breath and its energetic contents.

3.  Manamaya kosha (mental body):  This is much like an operations manager, well-versed at giving orders, but still subject to getting caught up in delusions and emotional detours.

4. (Vi)Jnanamaya kosha (knowing or wisdom body):  This is adept at seeking higher practices, Truth, and conscious ways of being in the world.  

5. Finally, the most subtle, most penetrating of the five bodies is the Anandamaya kosha (the bliss body):   It is this which ultimately guides us to find peace, joy and bliss, simply by "being".

So, then… why all this focus on JUST the physical body in our yoga classes?  All this focus on "adjustments"  and protecting the physical body and keeping the body "safe"?   

Oooh.  I may have just hit a chord.  Might be a good time to say that all lineages and way of showing up on the mat have value, for all ways of teaching, practicing, and moving through life are worthy. just. as. they. are. 


Despite my BS in Exercise Physiology, and ongoing study of the human body, when I first started teaching yoga, I still felt uneasy around adjusting students, and knowing how to take the language I had been taught and translate it to the mat. (So I can only imagine what it is like for the thousands of teachers being pumped out of Yoga Teacher Trainings in the U.S. every year.)

So, now let's talk attitude.




noun: attitude; plural noun: attitudes

1.    {C}
a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something. typically one that is reflected in a person's actions.

2.    Synonyms:  view, viewpoint, perspective, orientation, approach, inclination, standpoint, stance, position.

So, we can talk attitude.  And we can talk adjustment.

Or, we can talk attitude adjustment. 

Here's a thought:

Over the 20+ years I have taken yoga classes, I feel pretty safe saying that most teachers in the west are about the choreography or flow of asana, keeping it fresh for students, being motivating, offering adjustments in the form of "spiral this bone that way" or "place this part here".  In my experience, most yoga teachers don't exhibit an understanding or exposure to the deeper and sustainable practices,  and many don't even know the direction in which Prana (with a capital P) travels in the body.  (I'm with you… it was more than a decade of teaching before I was shown something more than asana and hybridized pranayama on the mat.)  Truth is, most teachers don't understand that Sanskrit isn't just a language, but that each and every sound syllable is a name for the divine and that every asana--even the non-asana (do you know that one?) -- is a prayer.

Yikes.  Another chord?  If you wonder if this is true, close your eyes, and look back on your experience of yoga… from your heart… from that place of deep and subtle, present-everywhere sort of truth, and see what you hear.  You don't have to believe me.  In all honesty, I strongly suggest you don't.  But I do suggest you seek Truth with a capital "T".  Whether you are a teacher of yoga or a student.  Yoga includes the body… but it is the asanas that help us to truly and ultimately know Yoga.  And BTW… yoga is what you are -- not just something that you do.

I'm not saying teachers who fancy the realm of "modified food body" don't offer something of great value -- because they do -- for the "modified food body".  Yes… and I am also saying that if we think we are the physical body, then we WILL most certainly be let down.  This is the nature of the impermanent "reality" of the  anamaya kosha.  We will get sick.  We will suffer.  We will experience disease, old age and death.  None of us will get out of this alive. -- not a one of us.


Yat Bhavam.  Tat Bhavatu.  

As you worship.  So you become.  

Think of it this way; imagine your time on the mat as a road trip… in a vehicle with your most cherished loved ones.  But here's the catch:  On this adventure with your loved ones, the whole time you are journeying, you talk about…. the alignment of the wheels, and the trim package, and the sounds the car makes, and the interior finish, and the heated seats, etc.  And then you arrive home, walk in, close your door, take deep breath, sigh… and think, "Wait!  I just went on this amazing trip with all my loved ones and I think maybe I missed the point!  I didn't even hear about their lives?  What brings them joy?  We didn't talk about how amazing our relationship is?  What we bring out in one another?  Instead, we explored and discussed all the surface stuff..."  


So, here's the take-home message:

Go to the mat and let go of ALL that trim package stuff.

Follow these few truths:

1.  Breathe:  Breathe in a way that feels easy, open, spacious and brilliant… into all parts.  If the breath isn't finding its way into some part of some asana, then slow down, back up, and show up to your breath.  Ride with it into the dark places, the dull places, the sleepy places, until you feel the breath:  free and easy.  In time it will happen.  I promise.

2.  Relax:  Kaya Stirthya. Feel your steadfast, relaxed and easy body.  The best way to enter into your practice is relaxed.  The best way to be in your practice is relaxed, and the best way to exit your practice is through a relaxed, steady body.  If you stay committed to this from simple to complex asana, injury will not follow you.  You will float into the tough asanas, and you will not go "there" into that one scary asana if you are not relaxed… and therefore, you will nurture that which is beyond the body… strengthening that which creates a sacred space for your body to be and grow and invert and twist and flow.

3.  Long Spine:  Awaken the spine, sense spaciousness, shock absorbency, and grace… in and through this freeway through which energy, life, and bliss travels.  This physical spine houses the great mama of pranayamahas.  The maha pranayamah (calling all teachers and advanced students…. you want to know this one).  And it is this great maha pranayamah that holds sacred space for Prana to flow freely, nourishing all that it touches.

Oh, and if you didn't hear me before:  Don't believe anything I say.  Just take this home to your mat.  The truth is in there… somewhere buried in the anandamaya kosha.

Hung Kshung,