Yoga says that the human personality has five aspects which are called koshas or dimensions. The first is annamaya kosha. Let’s see what is Annamaya Kosha?
This is the dimension in which a human being performs and interacts in daily life. We perform and interact with the senses, with the external world, with name, form, and an idea. The physical body is the medium or tool through which we are able to function optimally with the external world. Annamaya has also been translated as the dimension of matter of which the body is a part. Initially, it is the annamaya kosha which has to be harmonized.
If we look at our body from the perspective human anatomy and physiology we find that there are many systems in it which perform assigned actions in order to sustain life. The respiratory system performs its actions, in the absence of which we would not survive. The cardiovascular system also has its own functions, which are equally necessary for our survival.
Like this, there are many different systems of the body, each of which has a specific function necessary for life. According to the yogic physiology and anatomy, all these different systems form part of the annamaya kosha along with the experiences of the senses and the performance of the activity by the brain. So initially when we begin with our yoga practices it is the annamaya kosha which we try to harmonize and please remember that it is the physical harmony which leads to a complete meditative state.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the best physical state has been described in relation to the performance of asana. It is said in the definition of asana that the body posture should be comfortable, still and at total ease. When the body is in a perfectly comfortable state then there is a sensation of pleasure emanating from the body and affecting the brain.
Now if this is supposed to be the optimal state of the body, of the annamaya kosha, then let us compare it with the normal state of our physical structure – pain in the joints, pain in the lower back, stiffness of the shoulders and neck, lack of circulation in various parts of the body. Of course, these states do not represent the balanced state of annamaya kosha, so how do we come to the state where there is a comfort and where pleasure is experienced by the body?
People say that the practice of physical postures leads to this state of harmony in the physical body but actually, this concept is somewhat wrong. We practice asana with the understanding that it will create physical harmony and remove imbalances of the physical structure, but in some way, we have missed a very basic point.
The practice of asana begins with the practice of a very simple series of physical movements which are known as pawanmuktasana. These techniques of pawanmuktasana are of utmost importance because with this practice we actually meditate on each and every joint and part of the body.
The performance of asana should not become a practice of movement where we tend to lose awareness of the body and identify with the pleasures of the body. Normally we tend to involve ourselves in the pleasures generated by the posture. We tend to identify with the movement that is being performed during the asana practice, but the movement is a very superficial aspect of the asana. Creating a meditative state is the real aim of asana. Therefore, pawanmuktasana has to be the most important group of postures in yoga.
Awareness, relaxation, and activation of the energy in the body are what we try to attain with the practice of postures. When the mind merges with the body and they fuse into one entity, then that is known as the enlightenment of the body. This is the progression in yoga, it is not necessary that you do it today or tomorrow. One cannot isolate the body from the mind nor the mind from the body in the practice of yoga.
Not only the awareness of the external parts but also the awareness of the internal systems have to develop. These internal systems are in stress and tension because of misuse and overuse, and this internal activity has to be regulated. In yoga nidra, one aspect of the practice is to rotate the awareness from one part of the body to the next. That is just an example of how we have to train our mind to interact with the body.
So, when we try to balance our annamaya kosha we are actually educating the mind, training the mind to realize the potential of the physical body.
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