It’s something I hear all the time. “Yoga has changed my life!” And I always try to ask, “How?” What amazes me is that the answers always reflect how practicing yoga has changed many aspects of a persons life, not just their body.
I hear things like:
“I’m more calm with my children.”
“I take better care of myself now.”
“I just feel happier since practicing yoga.”
“I have a better community.”
“I’m less stressed and more clear.”
“I breath better.”
“I’m more courageous.”
“I feel healthier, sleep better, eat better, ache less…”
These are really just a smidgen of the responses, and typically when I ask this question people can’t stop telling me all the many ways their life changed for the better and why.
I’ll be honest, sometimes people injury themselves, but usually they learn a lot form it (about their body or pushing too hard) and heal, and sometimes the paradigm shift can throw people into a period of confusion about how they’re currently living their lives. But I’ve seen again and again the most beneficial and profound breakthroughs come after the struggles, both physically and psychologically.
I know for me this practice and all I’ve learned from my struggles with it has influenced my life so deeply and beautifully I couldn’t imagine an existence without it.
So why does yoga change our lives so much?!
When we step up to a mindfulness practice like yoga, we’re never just working with the physical body. This might be where most of us start, and it may even remain the primary part of our practice. But the physical body is a gateway, a medium, for working with so many other aspects of ourself.
Traditional yoga philosophy says we have five bodies or layers, not just the one physical body. Each time we step to the mat or cushion we’re working with all five layers of ourselves, and the ripple effect into all parts of life is undeniable.
The Five Layers of Ourselves
- The Physical Body — Annamaya Kosha
- The Energy Body — Pranamaya Kosha
- The Mind Body — Manamaya Kosha
- The Wisdom Body — Visjnanamaya Kosha
- The Bliss Body — Anandamaya Kosha
Our most obvious or gross body is the physical body, the annamaya kosha. It’s our tissue, skin, organs, bones, blood, lymph. The matter that creates our form, carries us through space and performs our deeds or desires.
This the layer we often start with in yoga. Anna in Sanskrit means food, so this is also called our food body, and manifests into form all that we’re ingesting. The thing to remember about the yogic and Ayurvedic system’s is that we ingest not just through our mouth, but through all five of our senses (sight, taste, smell, sound, touch). So what we eat through our mouth, but also through our experiences, will be reflected in our physical body.
Through practice we’re aiming to create balance and get rid of stagnation.
As we work with our physical form, increase awareness of what the body really needs for balance and move through the stagnation within it, we feel and process experiences and begin to notice which foods actually make us feel good.
The clearer and healthier our physical body gets the more we can sense the next more subtle layer called our pranamaya kosha, or the energy body.
Prana in Sanskrit means energy, and when we work with breath in yoga it’s called pranayama. Breath is considered the carrier of life force energy through us. Seems logical, when we stop breathing we die.
The breath is also intrinsically related to our nervous system. When we’re triggered into a stress response the breathing become more shallow, when relaxed we breath deeper and more fully. While the nervous system state can effect the breath, so too can the breath influence our nervous system. Simply by taking deep breaths we trigger the “rest and relax” state, or parasympathetic nervous system, and this begins to elicit feelings of calm, peace and harmony.
As the body and breath begin to harmonize we’re able to observe and work with our next subtle layer, the mind body called the manamaya kosha.
One of the greatest benefits of any breath body practice is that it calls the mind into the present moment.
Our mind loves time traveling into the future or past, but our breath and body only ever exist in the present. When we breath deeply and move it’s like we’re telling the mind, “Hey, pay attention, life is here and now!”
This starts to clear the mind body of it’s chattering, worrying, planning, regretting, anxiety building hobby of time traveling. And then we start to feel REALLY good!
When we balance mind, body and breath a quietness arises within us.
In this quiet space that we’ve created through practice we’re able to hear more clearly the next subtle layer of ourselves, the wisdom body called the visjnanamaya kosha.
Traditionally the mind, body and breath practices of yoga aim to ready us for meditation, and meditation is the ability to concentrate and connect to our highest self, our wisdom and the wisdom of the universe.
The more we do this the more our actions come from a place connectivity, we feel empowered, supported and clear about what we’re supposed to do. Living from this places improves our relationships, our creativity, our performance at work or sport. Really, it improves all aspects of our lives, and for me I’ve noticed it heightens my sense of purpose and ability to act on that purpose.
When we live in alignment with the wisdom in and around around us we feel blissful.
The more we balance our body, breath and mind, listen to our wisdom and live from that place, naturally our last most subtle layer arises, our bliss body called the annandamaya kosha.
And this my friends is why yoga changes so many people’s lives for the better. That simple.
How has yoga changed your life and connected you to your bliss body? Give me shout for yoga!