Thursday, 20 November 2014

Pancha Maya Koshas

From the Hatha Yoga Retreat "Embodying Insight" October 2014. Conducted by Swami Krishnapremananda and Madhuri

Course participant comments: "Madhuri and Krishnaprem delivered the intended course with great sensitivity and skill.  Allowing for different levels of experience and emotional holding."

"I enjoyed the balance between practice and theory.  I liked the Pranayama exercises very much and that there was a choice of strength exercises.  I enjoyed the early morning Hatha Yoga combined with awareness exercises."

A Meditation with Swami Krishnapremananda on the Pancha Maya Koshas given during the Retreat
The inspiration for this practice comes from Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati.

Bring a spacious, relaxed yet alert attention to the practice.
Annamaya Kosha
Become aware of the physical body, the physical vehicle of your embodiment. Feel the contact between the base of the body and the ground… and the shape and position of the body in space. Take the awareness inside the body, sensing it from the inside. Sense the skeleton… the major organs… the heart beating… the channels of blood, nerve, lymph. Feel the physical sensations of the body – warm… cold… comfort… discomfort…openness… restriction. Feel the physicality of the body, created and sustained by the food you eat. It is a miracle, so complex yet so finely tuned. Feel the body, this vehicle through which we can experience manifest life.
Pranamaya Kosha
Become aware of the breath, however and wherever you feel it. Notice the quality of the breath, it’s relative smoothness, quietude and depth.  Be aware of the steady almost timeless rhythm of your breathing.
Be aware of the breath in the abdomen and watch the gentle movement of the breath.
Now expand this sensation to the whole body; feel that the whole body is breathing.  Every cell of the body is breathing.
Begin to sense the pranamaya kosha extending through the whole body as a field of energy which also extends all around the physical body to an arbitrary distance of 12 finger widths. The physical body is seated within this more expansive field or cocoon of vitality. This pranamaya kosha is continually, in each moment, being nourished and sustained by the prana, or the life force within the breath.
Manomaya kosha
Now become aware of the more subtle space of the mind: the field of thoughts, feelings, images and dreams at night. Continue to be aware of the steady rhythm of the breath but also be aware of the mind stream.  Neither clinging, rejecting or choosing – spacious relaxed yet alert awareness. Thoughts… feelings… images…memories…passing like clouds across the sky like space of the mind. Simultaneously be aware of the clear blue sky through which these clouds are passing.
Continue to be aware of the mind stream and the vast sky like space beyond.
Simple observation of thoughts and feelings… letting them come… letting them go.
Allow self-images also to arise, ‘I am a mother, a father, a student, a teacher....’   Whatever the self-images may be, allow these images to come and to go. No need to give them the stamp of reality; be light with such images as they arise.
Continue to be aware of both the mind stream and the clear blue sky beyond.
Vigyanamaya Kosha
And now identify completely with the clear blue sky, entering into the vigyanamaya kosha.  Visualise an eagle flying in the clear blue sky. See its strong balanced wings and sense its poise and freedom.  Become the eagle flying high and free… feel your easy and balanced flight, the air against your body and the vast space around you.  With your all seeing gaze you can view the patterns of the personality in a very different context and of being of little consequence.
Know that you are free, unbound, undisturbed. The vast space of the clear blue sky all around you. Your all seeing gaze clear and bright.
Anandamaya Kosha
Now see the shining sun, representing the anandamaya kosha, high above you, and direct your flight towards it. Fly ever higher towards the sun, as if being drawn into its very source. Fly yet higher… higher still… and feel the whole of your being being illuminated and infused with light and with joy... abundant light abundant joy. Feel that you are this scintillating light, this causeless joy, this shining sun…

Then there is simply radiance... Timeless, causeless, endless radiance....

And now be aware of the eagle once again, the clear blue sky around it. Become aware of the steady flow of the breath… and the arising once again of the mind stream. In this breath awareness begin to feel the outline, the shape and the weight of the physical body, and its contact with the ground. Be aware of where you are, the room in which you are seated, and any others around you. Be aware of sound perceptions from the external world and take your time to fully identify with your embodied existence before starting to move the body… and externalising your awareness.
Hari OM Tat Sat

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


An extract from the now updated Ashram publication: "Mantra Yoga and Ashram Chants" by Swami Nishchalananda.

A 27 bead mala, turquoise and rose quartz
Number of Beads and their Symbolism.

A mala is a string of  beads. The most common mala consists of 108 beads, although those of 27 and 54 are also used. In Yoga, 108 is considered a sacred number. The reason is as follows:
The number 1 represents Oneness, Unity, Perfection and Totality.
The number 8 symbolises Nature, the manifest universe, as well as the individual personality.
According to certain schools of Yoga, we are made up of 8 tattwas (subtle elements): prithvi (earth, solidity, structure), apas (water, fluidity; all fluids), agni (fire, chemical processes), vayu (air, electromagnetic forces), akasha (space), manas (individual mind), ahamkara
(ego, individuating principle) and buddhi (faculty which permits the flow of Awareness).
The 0 symbolises shoonya (transparency or emptiness).
A mala made in the Ashram
Therefore, the number 108 indicates that when there is complete transparency (0) between the individual personality (8) and the totality (1), there is a state of Transcendence. When the mind is empty of thought and mental agitation (0), then the individual (8) is in perfect osmosis with Consciousness (1). From the viewpoint of Yoga, the number 108 symbolises the fulfilment of human life. 
Japa encourages this transparency between the individual personality and underlying Consciousness. Therefore, the number of beads on the mala symbolise the purpose of doing Japa. The numbers 54 and 27 are important merely because they are divisions of 108. Moreover, the individual digits of all these numbers 27, 54, 108 and even 1008, always add up to 9. In numerology, the number 9 symbolises the perfection of human life. Therefore, whether you use a mala with 108, 54 or 27, or even 1008, it always symbolises the aim of Yoga: to lead us to perfection and realisation of our essential Nature.  Use a mala with whatever number of beads suits you. 

Tibetan style mala. 108 beads
The Structure of the Mala. 

The beads are separated from each other by a special kind of knot called a brahma granthi (literally, ‘the knot of Brahma’).The mala is made into a continuous loop by joining the two ends together using an extra bead, known as the sumeru (the summit), which is offset from the other beads. The sumeru bead is an essential part of the mala and is regarded as both the starting and ending point for all mala rotations. It acts as a reference point so that the practitioner can count the number of mala rotations during Japa.

How to Use the Mala.

The tips of the thumb and ring finger should lightly press together and the mala is supported, but not held, at their junction. The middle finger is used to rotate the mala. The second and small fingers are not used but are held away from the mala. Other traditions have other ways of holding the mala which are equally valid. For example, the mala is often held in the right hand, draped over the last three fingers and rotated with the thumb. Use whatever method you prefer. 

Crystal Mala. 27 beads
Start your practice at the sumeru bead. Rotate the mala, bead by bead, synchronised with each repetition of the mantra, until you return to the sumeru. This obstruction will tell you that you have finished one round of Japa.