When the body is cleansed, the mind purified, and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self also comes.
B.K.S. Iyengar explains in his Light on the Yoga Sutras that the body is the temple of our soul. As a temple is kept clean daily, we clean our body and mind daily with our Yoga practice to connect with the sacred core inside.
In Yoga, we say the body has five layers, or koshas. The physical body (Anamaya kosha), energy body (Pranamaya kosha), mental body (Manamaya kosha), intuitive body (Vijnanamaya kosha), and the soul body (Anandamaya kosha). In our Yoga practice we cleanse all the koshas from the outer layer to the core of our being with the use of the Asanas (Yoga postures), Pranayama (breath control) and Savasana (relaxation).
The Anamaya kosha, (the physical body) continually accumulates tensions, toxins, and waste materials. Tensions in our body are like traffic jams hindering the natural flow of circulation. Good health is good circulation. The circulation in our body is like a river. When the river flows slowly and has log jams, the river bottom accumulates debris, muck, and slime. When the river flows fast and unobstructed, the river bottom is clean. It’s the same with our body.
In Yoga we have a wide variety of Yoga poses that we practice to release tensions and tightness to stimulate circulation and purification to every muscle, joint, organ, and gland. Some Yoga poses contract a certain muscle group, like the back muscles, and others strengthen them. We call this the “squeeze – release” effect. Like a sponge, you squeeze out the tensions, toxins, and waste materials, and then release, allowing fresh new blood and nutrients to flow into the cells.
The twisting poses are especially good cleansers. Like wringing out a wet rag in opposing directions, we wring out tensions from our back, hips, neck and shoulders with standing, seated, and reclining twists. The twisting poses also affect the inner body, cleansing and purifying our digestion and elimination. The inverted poses are effective cleansers as well. Our body is 70-80% water. When we turn the body upside down, we stir up the stagnant rivers throughout the body and stimulate circulation from inside out.
When the Yoga exercises are integrated with conscious, deep, and relaxed breathing, they maximize the cleansing affect on the Pranamaya kosha (the energy body). Toxins and tensions are eliminated and, in turn, the body is refueled with fresh oxygen, vitality, and life force. I read many years ago in the classic book Stretching, that tight and tense muscles trap energy, but when you stretch and release tension, you gain energy.
If any of you have ever wondered what the point is in moving on from one level to the next, here is one good reason! The more advanced poses cleanse the body in a more concentrated way. The beginning poses are like Ivory soap, giving us a gentle cleansing. But the more advanced poses are like Comet or Bon Ami, giving us a more effective scrubbing, especially to the old chronic and congestive areas. Just a little food for thought for those of you who have been staying at one level for five, ten plus years.
The Manamaya kosha (mental layer), also gets cluttered and clogged up daily with psychological and sensorial distractions. Attachments to past experiences, bondage to the demands of the body, and anticipation of future events clutters the mind and heart. The Yoga asanas performed with a conscious relaxed breath have a quieting affect on the mind and calm the emotions. The inversions, the restoratives, and the Pranayama (yogic breathing) are especially effective in cleansing the mental body.
Rohit Mehta, in Yoga, the Art of Integration, tells us that we need to retreat into solitude from time to time for mental purification. In the retreat of solitude, we transcend the demands of the body and mind. We quiet the chattering mind and listen to the voice of silence. A retreat to solitude doesn’t necessarily mean going off to the mountains or to the Bahamas. Often when we go to a quiet place of solitude, our minds are still noisy with an inner chatter. Instead you can create your own retreat of solitude, your own Bahamas, in your own sweet home with Savasana, the relaxation pose. Savasana is most effective after an asana practice when the body has been deeply cleansed and the mind has been stilled by a focused and mindful practice. My teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, says, “When you have stretched completely, you can relax completely.”
Savasana means the corpse pose. In Savasana we totally let go of the demands of the body and the mind and sink into stillness and silence. It’s in this pure silence that we deeply cleanse the mind and heart. After 10 or 15 plus minutes of Savasana, the body is refreshed and the mind renewed—a truly cheap vacation.
In Savasana, when the body and mind have been purified, we can touch base with the Vijnanamaya kosha, the intuitive body, our inner wisdom. Often I have gained guidance on what steps to take and what turns are necessary, and I have gained clarity on my true needs in the heart of silence. After all the koshas have been purified, we connect with the core of our being, our soul. And in the union with the soul, we can experience the joyful awareness of the present moment.
The old saying tells us, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I often find when I clean the kitchen, floors, or drawers, it also lifts my spirit and makes me smile inside. The principle of Saucha, purity, also relates to feeding our body with clean food, water, and air as well as passing on pure thoughts, words, and intensions.
This season, join us with in depth Yoga to cleanse and purify your body and purify your body from the skin to the core with joyful awareness and inner bliss!