By JACCI GRUNINGER, MS, C-IAYT
Phew! It’s been a busy few weeks sharing information about some of my new services new website and new name – High Mountain Wellbeing. We are now back on track to continue talking about the Koshas.
And, Thanksgiving is the perfect day to dive into Annamaya Kosha, our physical body. First, take a moment to be grateful for the amazing body you have. This thing that carries you around from place to place.
As a reminder, the Koshas were first discussed in the Taittiriya Upanishad composed about the 6th Century BC. The Koshas (meaning sheath) are five layers leading from the external to the internal body. Each Kosha is a more subtle energy/body of the prior one. Using the Koshas as a model or tool, we can create better health and wellbeing for ourselves.
Today we’ll look at the first Kosha – Annamaya Kosha. “Anna” means food or physical matter while “maya” means made of. Maya can also mean illusion. In Pranakriya Yoga we call this layer our physical container, this body that we carry around with us or that carries us through our days.
Annamaya Kosha is our most superficial body and the one we might be the most familiar with. It is also called our ‘causal body’. It includes our muscles, bones, organs and matter. Take a moment now and run your hand down one of your arms or along your leg – say hello to your physical body – Annamaya Kosha.
This Kosha is connected to our base needs such as survival – think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – food, shelter. How we choose to eat and drink, sleep, move and play affects this sheath. The healthier we are the more easily we can drop into the more subtle layers.
From a yogic perspective we work this sheath through our asana or posture practice – moving with awareness and mindfulness. We can also focus on the Yamas and Niyamas (the ten observances of interacting with others and the world and how we interact with ourselves).
Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras (2.46-48) says, “The seat used in meditation, as well as the physical postures of hatha yoga, should be firm, steady, and pleasant. The method for this is called effortless effort, perseverance without tension, and results in the experience of the infinite. In this way, the dualities of physical existence can be transcended.”
The next time you practice (or go for a run, walk or hike) you might ask yourself this question – Can you perform your asanas (or movement) in a way that is firm and steady, yet pleasant?
Yoga and Anatomy instructor Gary Kraftsow describes health in this Kosha as “No aches and pains, a feeling of lightness, the ability to withstand change, and a sense of stability and ease”.
Here’s a fun way to work with Annamaya kosha – crawling. Yes, crawling. Plus, it’s good for your coordination and balance.
- Take table position (hands and knees with abs pulled up).
- Look up at the horizon.
- Begin to crawl forward (alternate hand and knee moving forward) in the space you have.
- Crawl backward.
- Do this for 2-3 minutes.
- Notice the work in your physical body.
- Crawling Elevated:
- Take table position.
- Look up at the horizon.
- Come up onto your toes, keeping your knees an inch or two off the floor.
- Crawl forward, crawl backward for 2-3 minutes.
- Notice how your physical body feels.
You can also consider other ways you care for yourself – the food you eat. Really notice your food – what does it smell like, what texture does it have in your mouth, what does it taste like? What’s the taste after you swallow (this is a great experiment with whole food v. processed food).
Also consider how you take care of your skin – do you ever try dry brushing and then using oil or moisturizer. How about your teeth – are you a flosser and brusher?
Another time we’ll talk about the Shat Kriyas and 6 ways to detox the body.
For now, enjoy your body, move it daily, feed it well and keep exploring Annamaya Kosha.
Happy Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to those of you who read my weekly articles.
Jacci Gruninger is a Certified Yoga Therapist, Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Focusing Coach and Facilitated Stretch Practitioner. She regularly helps clients manage the ups and downs of life with yoga, meditation, breathwork, focusing, stretching and bodywork. Her Wellness Center is at 190 Central Park Square #212. For her in person and online teaching schedule and information on other services, visit www.highmountainwellbeing.com.
Crawling is not just for babies! It is a great way increase coordination and balance as well as feel pain and ache free. Courtesy image