The Foundations of Yoga Therapy
ANNAMAYAKOSHA (Physical Body)
This layer relates to all the systems of the physical body as well as the five elements of the physical body; earth, wter, fire, air and space. In terms of health, the Annamayakosha relates to balance in the physical systems as well as balance in the elements. The elements are balanced through an understanding of the Ayurvedic doshas. (see below) Yoga postures are a main vehicle for balancing the physical body and Ayurvedic doshas.
PRANAMAYAKOSHA (Energy Body)
This layer is the subtle energy systems of the body, including the chakras (energy centers--see below) and the Prana Vayus (main energy currents--see below). In terms of health, the Pranamayakosha relates to balance in the energy systems as we; as the intake and flow of prana throughout out being. Prana is the source energy that gives life to all of creation. When prana is blocked or stagnant, disease can occur. Yoga postures remove constrictions from the chakras and open the energy channels.
MANOMAYAKOSHA (Psycho-emotional Body)
This layer is associated with the basic drives and emotional responses.These include the fight or flight response, survival and reproduction, social roles and personality. The Manomayakosha relates to psycho-emotional health. Blockage in this body manifests initially as stress and eventually as physical or mental illness. Hatha Yoga Postures are a main vehicle for relieving stress and allowing relaxation.
VIJNYANAMAYAKOSHA (Wisdom Body)
This is discriminative wisdom and intuition, and the insight to detect patterns of living which are emotionally painful and shysically harmful. It is through the Wisdom Body that we are able to become the Witness or observer of these patters and eventuall transform them. Yoga postures develop the clm concentration essential for the Wisdom body.
ANANDAMAYAKOSHA (Bliss Body)
The true Self, which is more fundamental then the personality The nature of this Self is one of inner directness, bliss, stillness, and contentment. Experience of the Anandamayakosha tends to be temporary, and through a process of deepening awareness of our true nature, we come to relaize ourselves as complete and whole in each moment. Yoga postures are a doorway to awareness of this true Self.
THE PRANA VAYUS
Prana is the universal creative energy that also circulates throughout the body and regulates bodily functions. Prana is divided into different forms called vayus or winds, each with its own area of the body and key health functions.
UDANA VAYU is the vital life force centered in the throat and head, described as a circular energy moving in a clockwise direction. It allows for thought, communication, singing and making sounds. Udana is related to the functioning of the senses including hearing, sight and smell. It is also responsible for the intake and swallowing of food. Udana draws energy from the base of the spine to the brain. It is seen as a doorway to higher states of consciousness. It is blue green in color and the main element is air. Blockage of this area is related to inability to communicate, difficulty in reaching higher states of consciousness in meditation and conditions of the throat such as hypothyroid. Udana imbalance is also related to problems with sight, hearing, taste or smell.
PRANA VAYU is the vital life force centered in the heart, chest and lungs and, by extension with the nose and mouth in their function of respiration. It is responsible for drawing life force into the body through inhalation and for the movement of the heart and lungs. It is also associated with the general upward movement of energy, with inhalation, and with the overall energy level in the body. It's color is golden and the elements are fire and air. Imbalance in pranavayu is associated with conditions that affect the heart and lungs. Constriction of pranavayu is evident in conditions such as coronary artery disease. Diminished pranavayu is also a factor when there is lethargy, reduced energy or conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
SAMANA VAYU is centered in the abdomen and is associated with digestion and maintaining the balanced functioning of the abdominal organs. The predominant elements are fire and water and the color is white. Samanavayu is related to the word sama meaning same or in this context, balance. It is the balance point between prana and apana. Samana is the home of agni, the digestive fire; this is its fire element. Samana also has a light and cooling aspect which is its water element. The water element keeps the fire in balance and provides a medium for the assimilation of nutrients to the body and imbalance in the digestive organs such as liver, stomach, spleen and pancreas. The movement is toward the abdomen on the exhalation and expansion out in all directions on the inhalation. Samana is also described as a sideways movement of light like the swing of a fast moving pendulum.
APANA VAYU is centered in the lower half of the body and is associated with exhalation, elimination and the reproductive system. Its color is yellow dust or smoke and its elements are earth and water. It is responsible for downward movement and is heavy in nature. Imbalance can result in intestinal and sexual disorders. Balanced apanavayu is essential for healthy elimination, menstruation and child birth. It is experienced as a deep down flowing movement on the exhalation centered in the intestines.
VYANA VAYU pervades the entire body and is especially active in the limbs. It is associated with the nervous system and especially states of activity / inactivity mediated by the autonomic nervous system. Vyana distributes energy derived from food and breath to the arteries, veins and nerves and regulates the balance between prana and apana. Vyanavayu is also responsible for the muscular action of the extremities. The color is sky blue and the element is ether. The movement is in toward the center of the body on the inhalation and outward to the extremities on the exhalation.
THE CHAKRAS SYSTEMS
Seventh Chakra - SAHASRARA Location--crown; Element--beyond; Color--crystal light; Issues--spiritual separation; Belanced--Unity Consciousness;
Areas of body--brain and nervous system; Health problems--separation from source; Posture category--inversions
Sixth Chakra -AJNA Location--thirdeye; Element--all; Color--violet; Issues--dedication to spiritual path; Balanced--calm and focused;
Areas of body--the senses; Health problems--sense related; Posture category--balance poses
Fifth Chakra - VISHUDDHA Location--throat; Element--space; Color--blue; Issues--intuition, communication; Balanced--inner directed Self;
Areas of body--throat, mouth; Health problems--thyroid, speech; Posture category--forward bends
Fourth Chakra - ANAHATA Location--Heart; Element--air; Color--green;
Issues--depression, pessimism; Balanced--unconditional love; Areas of body--heart, lungs, shoulders, arms;
Health problems--heart, respiratory; Posture categories--back bends, lateral bends
Third Chakra - MANIPURA Location--solar plexus;Element--fire; Color--yellow;
Issues--self esteem, social roles; Balanced--healthy social roles; Areas of body--stomach, liver, small intestine;
Health problems--digestive; Posture category--twists
Second Chakra - SVADHISTHANA Location--4 fingers below navel; Element--water; Color--orange;
Issues--intimacy,emotions; Balanced--healthy sexuality; Areas of body--reproductive and pelvic area;
Health problems--reproductive; Posture categories--hip openers, stabilization
First Chakra - MULADHARA Location--base of the body; Element--earth; Color--red;
Issues--survival and fear; Balanced--groundedness and safety; Areas of body--eliminatory system, legs and feet;
Health problems--joints, skeletal; Posture category--standing poses
- A comprehensive "body/mind/spirit" model for disease prevention, self healing, and stress reduction.
- A system for understanding and balancing the psycho-physiological "energies" that are set in motion by our daily lifestyle practices.
- Teaches us to identify how these same energies make up our innate nature, or "constitution."
- Empowers us to choose an ideal diet and daily regimen that keeps our "constitutional" nature in balance.
- Emphasizes gentleness and discipline as attitudes for affecting change.
- Integrates Yoga and Meditation for the psycho-spiritual component of "wholeness."
- Teaches that all life is sacred, and that all food is medicine if used appropriately.
The Gunas are cosmic energies that pervade all of nature, including the human mind. The gunas reflect the polarities in nature with one pole that is static, a second that is active and a third representing a point of balance. All activity in nature is an expression of the gunas and their constantly changing rhythms. In human beings, these changes are our ups and downs, mood swings, and changing point of view from minute to minute, throughout the day and over the span of months and years. The gunas are archetypes of mental states in much the same way that the doshas are archetypes for the physical body. Yoga brings awareness to the gunas and thereby offers freedom from their domination.
Rajas - the energy of activity, change, evolution, and development. In the mind it is the energy of attachment, wanting, grasping and desire. It is the drive to hunt and obtain food through conquest, competition and winning. Rajas is the fight aspect of the fight or flight response.
Tamas - inertia, or a lack of movement. In the mind it is a resistance to change, stubbornness, apathy or a feeling of being "stuck." It is also the shadow side of our nature; emotions that lie dormant and repressed. Tamas represents another aspect of the fight or flight response, which is the freeze or "play dead" response.
Sattva - the point of balance between rajas and tamas. At the level of the mind, sattva is a quality of balance, clarity and light. Sattva is a feeling of peace, balance and harmony, a sense of being enough, doing enough and have enough
Langhana / Brahmana The practice of Yoga creates a state of balance, reducing both the extremes of rajas and tamas and facilitating the state of sattva. To obtain this balance, it is important to understand which postures are appropriate for balancing different states of the body/mind. A useful model for this is the Ayurvedic principle of Langhana and Brahmana, which allows us to understand the relative effects of the poses from relaxing to energizing.
Langhana literally means to fast or reduce. In the context of Yoga postures, it refers to practices that slow down the metabolism, relax the nervous system and create parasympathetic dominance, cool the body and tranquilize the mind. These practices are especially helpful when rajas predominates in the body/mind.
Brahmana literally means to expand. In the context of Yoga postures, it refers to practices that speed up metabolism, stimulate the nervous system and create sympathetic dominance, warm the body and activate the mind. These practices are especially helpful when tamas predominates in the body/mind.
By balancing the extremes of rajas and tamas through an understanding of the Yoga poses in relation to the principles of Langhana and Brahmana, we enter the sattvis state which is not an end in itself but a doorway to knowledge of the Self which transcends all three gunas.
Mudras are gestures of the hands, face and body that promote physical health, psychological balance and spiritual awakening. Our fingers and hands are like antennas in that however we connect them determines the wind currents within the body. The Sanskrit word mudra, with the emphasis on the final "a," can be translated as "gesture," "seal," "attitude," or "signature." Mudras are gestures that evoke psychological and spiritual attitudes, each with its own specific quality or "signature." The word mudra is derived from two root words; mud, which means "delight," "pleasure" or "enchantment," and rati, which means "to bring forth." Mudras bring forth our own inherent delight and enchantment, which are always present and waiting to be awakened.
Prana if the vital life force that pervades all of existence. It is the source of life and an expression of divine spirit. Prana is also the energy that circulates through the body and regulates all bodily functions. Prana is distributed throughout the body through a series of channels called nadis of which there are said to be 72,000. There is a main channel within the spine called Sushumna and two secondary channels on either side called Ida and Pingala. The seven energy centers orf chakras could be likened to lakes through which the prana energy flows and is stored. Blockage within any of the channels or within the energy centers is related to imbalance at the physical, emotional and spiritual level. Prana is intimately linked to the breath. The breath is both a major source of prana and serves as a vehicle for regulating the flow of prana throughout the body. For this reason, the science of breath is called pranayama, the channeling or expansion of prana. The Sanskrit work pranayama can be translated in two different ways. PRANA+AYAMA=expansion of the life force; PRANA+YAMA=channeling of the life force.
Bandhas are energetic locks that channel and direct the flow of energy in the body. They assist the Yoga postures in directing the flow of energy to achieve the optimal benefits of the pose and also channel the Prana Vayu.
Jalandharabandha--located at the throat, is engaged by drawing the chin down toward the sternum to seal energy between the torso and the head. This bandha seals the top of the container of energy. In many poses, such as inversions, it prevents excessive energy from moving up into the head.
Uddiyanabandha--located in the abdoment, is engaged by drawing the abdominal wall back toward the spine and upward. In relation to the body as a container of energy, this bandha seals the sides of the container and controls the volume of energy within the container. Uddiyanabandha provides powerful structural support for the abdomen, waist and low back. It prevents disc injuries in your yoga practice.
Mulabandha--located at the perineum, is engaged by drawing the pelvic floor upward into the body. If the body is viewed as a container with energy both entering and leaving, the amount of energy in the body can be increased by closing the bottom of the container through Mulabandha which strengthens the abdominal floor, providing support for the reproductive organs. It supports your yoga practice by providing a strong foundation.