Many of us begin a yoga practice to improve our physical condition and relieve stress. Then the after-class euphoria becomes more and more noticeable, and we start to ask, “Why do I feel so good? What is happening within to generate this feeling of well-being?” Val Spies shares her thoughts on the chakra and kosha systems of the yogic tradition, and how attuning these systems can help us find bliss.
The Doorway to Bliss
Through purifying, healing, and strengthening our physical bodies in the postures of Hatha yoga, we start to notice subtle shifts in our ability to connect with inner peace. Through practice, we build a precious relationship between our physical bodies and the mental, emotional, and spiritual layers of our being. As our awareness strengthens, so too does the desire to dive deeper into the studies that bring balance and bliss into our lives, inviting us to explore the subtle aspects of this beautiful yoga practice. This doorway to bliss begins to open when the inner and outer layers of the self start to find balance and equanimity with each other.
Chakras: The Subtle Body Experience of Yoga
For thousands of years, the yogic tradition has understood the subtle layers of reality that exist beyond our physical perceptions. There are two subtle body teachings that help us understand the magnificent possibilities of happiness: the chakras and the koshas. Both the chakra and kosha systems are like maps that help us more effectively navigate our experiences, from the physical to the mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of ourselves and our lives.
Chakra is often translated from the Sanksrit as “wheel”: the chakras are the energy centers that emanate from within and around our bodies. In many traditions there are said to be seven primary energy centers that run along the spine. Each center relates to an aspect of our lives. In order to find balance in the mind, body, and spirit, the emotional and physical aspects of the chakras listed below must be clear of blockages.
- Sahasrara – Crown – connection to the infinite / divine
- Ajna – Third Eye – wisdom / intuition
- Vishudda – Throat – communication / truth
- Anahata – Heart – love / compassion
- Manipura – Solar Plexus – power / strength / leadership
- Swadhistahana – Sacrum – passion / creativity / intimacy
- Muladhara – Root – home / earth / security
The chakra system is deeply rich and complex, just like the richness and complexity of our human experience. This brief overview is a glimpse into this remarkable field of study. Through study, practice, and self-reflection, the chakra system offers us a wonderful map to discover so much about our lives, and how to achieve a greater state of harmony.
Koshas: The Sheath
The second study focuses on the koshas, the layers of the self. Often translated as “>sheath” from the Sanskrit, the five koshas navigate our human experience from the physical to the spiritual dimensions. We can begin to explore them from the physical body inward, through sheaths of prana (life force, energy), the mind, the witness consciousness, and the spiritual core (universal bliss). Just like the chakras, the koshas are an incredibly rich piece of yogic philosophy. Understanding and harmonizing these sheaths is a study worth exploring!
Learning the divine play of inner exploration and the surrender to higher consciousness is our calling. Once your eyes are opened to this calling, you’ll find yourself on a fascinating path that leads you through a more elevated experience of life.
Deepen Your Experience
Practice yoga, meditate, chant, enjoy nature, and begin your exploration of the subtle body with teachers who devote their lives to being your guide on this magnificent journey. Join me, Val Spies at The Art of Living Retreat Center.
Let’s start here. Atha Yoga Anushasanam. Now the Inquiry of Yoga.
Val Spies is the owner and director of the Lotus Pond Center for Yoga Teacher Training.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.