Ecstatic Yoga Workbook
Asana I Workbook
Definition of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice that links body and breath through movement and meditation. Yoga roots back over 5,000 years ago and it’s first yoga text formally outlined around 400 to 500 BCE in The Yoga Sutras, by Patañjali. The Sanskrit word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root word yuj, meaning to yoke, join, or unite, which is reflective of the practice’s primary focus: binding together the breath, body, and mind, with the ultimate intention of union with the Divine.
This definition alone depicts the deep connection of asana, pranayama and meditation in the practice of yoga. This lesson will go into more depth on the connection between asana or the physical practice of the poses, pranayama the practice of using breath to facilitate the energy bodies and meditation, pure conscious awareness, samadhi and the practice of quieting the mind. In other words the mind, body, spirit connection. The mind, body, and Spirit are interconnected far more than the eyes can see, you could say intimately connected.
Ecstatic Yoga, sacred embodiment is a whole harmonious approach inviting all aspects of our being coming into balance and peace. What benefits the body will benefit all other aspects of one’s being. What nourishes the body will nourish the mind and subtler bodies. Yoga for centuries was just raja yoga, control of the mind, using meditation and pranayama practices only. Throughout the 5,000 years yoga added Jana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga and hatha yoga finding an integration of spiritual study, love and devotion, pranayama, service and physical poses. Thus an integral wholistic approach to health, awakening and overall well-being of body, mind and spirit.
We will use traditional science and yoga philosophy to help explain the deeply intimate connections of meditation, asana and pranayama practices.
Science has shown us that thoughts and emotions when reduced become the binding of tiny molecules called neurotransmitters in your nervous system. As fast as lightening when you have a thought or emotion it causes synapses in your nervous system to fire, causing chain reactions and the release of neurotransmitters. Studies have shown when people think certain thoughts it activates different parts of the brain.
Positive thoughts and pleasurable emotions will release endorphins that activate opiate receptors in the brain providing emotions of joy and peace. While feelings of fear or rage release molecules called catecholamines… causing stress hormones to be released, fight or flight response, heart rate to increase the face to flush.
Neurotransmitters are involved in all the physical body systems, the heart pumping, digestion, respiration, all controlled by the binding of neurotransmitters to the cells of the body. The same neurotransmitters involved in thought and emotion have receptors in the bodies organs, therefore, it is scientific to say that thoughts and emotions are physical processes and have a direct effect on the physical systems of the bodies.
The digestive system in particular has been referred to as the “second brain” because of how many nerve endings and the abundance of similar receptor sites as found in the brain. Thoughts and emotions will have an effect on the body, including the digestive system and nervous system. Have you ever had a “Gut feeling” or “Butterflies in the stomach”
Thoughts and emotions can affect our physical body, yet it also goes the other way around… The organs in the body can release neurotransmitters which process in the brain and can affect our thoughts and emotions. The human body cannot be separated from the mind and emotions, nor the mental and subtle bodies, everything is interconnected.
Understanding the science of neurotransmitters and receptors teaches us that the mind, emotions and the body are inseparable.
What about the mind under stress, what is the connection to the body when our mental state is in a state of high anxiety?
The field of psychoneuroimmunology through many studies has a thousands of empirical findings that the mind and body are deeply connected. Research has shown that stressful emotions alter white blood cell function. Stress diminishes white blood cell response to viral infected cells and to cancer cells. Also, vaccination is less effective in those who are stressed and wounds heal less readily in those who are stressed. Mental-emotional stress can increase levels of C-reactive protein, indicative of inflammation.
Through many studies science has shown that exercise, meditation and breathing techniques can help anxiety, stress, insomnia, reactivity and attention disorders. Most all calming and meditation practices involve the breath. When we slow the breathe, breath into the lower abdomen, we trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body and brain, soothes the mind and creates relaxation. Rapid and shallow breathing can trigger the stress response in the body, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and the flight or flight response is activated, causing anxiety and even panic. The body then produces neurotransmitters that create stress related issues all throughout the body.
We cannot separate the mind, body and breath, they are all interrelated and connected. Negative thinking and a racing mind can cause stress, irregular and shallow breathing can cause anxiety, however if we learn how to manage the mind through meditation to create stillness rather than disturbances, breathe in the body and move the body in ways to create balance and vitality we can use this mind, body, spirit connection to benefit our overall health and well being.
Practicing asana, meditation and pranayama has been proven scientifically to benefit the mind, body and spirit of a person. Practicing meditation will benefit the mind, create stillness and peace within. Which will also affect and benefit the body as it rests in the parasympathetic nervous system and produces feel good neurotransmitters throughout the body. Pranayama also triggers the relaxation response and triggers health building hormones and neurotransmitters. Practicing asana poses has many physical health benefits that vary from pose to pose, and overall create balance, stability, flexibility, and strength in the body, mind and energy systems.
Yoga is an all inclusive practice of asana, pranayama, meditation, philosophy, bhakti and service. Yoga see’s a human being as far more than just a physical body… there are many etheric systems that exist before we embody into this physical form and that remain after we embody. The physical body cannot exist without these etheric systems, pathways, energy fields, and vibrational vortexes. However, the etheric Self, the energy bodies can sustain and continue to exist without a physical body. You are far more pure consciousness and a vibrational vortex than a physical body. This state of conscious awareness and your vibrational vortex is your eternal Self, your Soul… the part of you that directly extends forth and is sustained by the Creator, Source, the incomprehensible God of our limited understanding.
Lets begin discussing the connection from a yogic perspective. Imagine for a moment that you have been living in a small one room shack for the past 25 years. It is all you know and although you feel cramped you have become accustomed. Then one day due to some miraculous turn of events you attain a large mansion and you are able to move in and live with your loved ones in this spacious and beautiful home with gardens and acres of outdoor trails to walk, rooms for everything and a large gathering room for your family and friends. This is a drop of water in the ocean to what it is like expanding from a limited mind to the pure awakened consciousness that you eternally are.
Patanjali uses the 8 Limbs of yoga, integrating asana, pranayama, pratyahara, concentration and meditation for absolute liberation or samadhi.
Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga
Yama : Universal morality
Niyama : Personal observances
Asanas : Body postures
Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
Pratyahara : Control of the senses
Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
Samadhi : Union with the Divine
The 8 Limbs integrate body, breath, inner sensation, concentration, meditation and bliss to help us balance body, mind and spirit and allow an integrated journey into Samadhi.
The kosha’s or sheaths of the body point us to the journey to our whole being.
Each sheath, each body, each aspect of your being is sacred, important and needed in order to experience a physical body. Although each and every shealth of the body is equally sacred, they are not all eternal… only in Samadhi are you eternal… the unchanging pure conscious awareness.
Lets begin in the beginning… the eternal state of your being as pure consciousness. This is where you exist as a pure extension of the all loving, omnipresent eternal Source, Creator… as a Soul or Spiritual Being, extending from Source, one with Source, created in the likeness of Source, like a ray of sunlight extending forth from the sun. You exist as a Soul now and always, for all eternity in the ever present now.
In this state you remain wholly aware of your oneness and likeness with your Creator and all that is, you remain wholly aware of your pure innocence. You remain wholly aware of your true nature as perfect love. This is the awareness you enter into during a deep meditation or samadhi… the bliss body.
This eternal pure conscious awareness, eternally one with and in the likeness of Creator Source, all-loving and infinite in nature. This is your True Divine Nature… ever-present, eternally creating and wholly free.
Then a body arises in form, and this True Divine Nature animates through it… however, we have a few steps in between.
Using the Kosha’s from yogic philosophy is the best way to explain how we are created from eternally pure consciousness or Samadhi to a physical temporary body awareness. Samadhi is accessed by moving through all the other kosha’s…from the Anandamaya kosha of pure bliss and expeanded awareness of self as everything, to the wisdom body we touch in meditation called the Vjnanomaya kosha to the emotional and mental systems called the Manomaya kosha, next the subtle energetic systems and pranic energy fields supported by the pranamaya kosha and finally to the physical body or the Annamaya kosha.
We each exist and animate through more than just our physical body simultaneously. All five kosha’s or sheaths of our being exist simultaneously and create an entire interconnected and integrated system. You can lose your physical body, leave the Anamaya kosha, however, still have and animate through our prananmaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnanomaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. You can reincarnate into a new body and although it may look different, the same kosha’s are maintaining its survival. When a body passes, the greater part of you, the eternal part of you remains and you can come back and have another physical experience if you so choose.
In order to have the most balanced experience of being we will need to care for all the layers, sheaths, bodies and aspects of our beings. For example, the pranamaya kosha of the subtle body is tuned with energy, pranayama practice, breath, movement & exercise and good nutrition. The vjnanomaya kosha is supported through meditation, stillness, mantra, single pointed focus, concentration, peace. Lets discuss how we can take care of all the aspects of our being, all the bodies for a balanced body, mind, spirit connection, highest joy and vitality of the whole being.
Maintaining good care and attentiveness to all your bodies/sheaths knowing they are all interconnected, assists in vibrant health and integrated wellness of body, mind and spirit.
How to Care for Each Kosha
Anamaya Kosha, Physical Body or Sheath-
This is possibly the easiest sheath to keep healthy… good nutrition, nutrient dense foods, organic and clean foods, avoiding processed, chemicals, artificial additives, and toxins. Making sure the body receives its 90 essential nutrients from an organic, nutrient dense, clean source. Drinking plenty of clean water. Including fiber and live foods, organic fruits and vegetables. Exercise daily by moving the body in yoga, walking, biking, running… whatever form inspires you and you are able to continue regularly as a habit. Providing the body sleep 6 hours minimum of good uninterrupted sleep is best. Of course keeping the body clean, warm, comfortable and well cared for. Also reducing EMF’s from cellular devise’s, televisions, cell towers… densely populated area’s.
Connection to other bodies; A physically healthy and low stressed body will have a healthy nervous system therefor healthy neurotransmitters and release health building hormones which affect the pranayama kosha and subtle body and the manomaya kosha emotional and mental bodies. When these first three bodies are healthy we can enter into the more expanded bodies or vjnanomaya and anandamaya kosha’s and reach self realization.
Pranamaya Kosha- Subtle Energy Body or Sheath
Practicing pranayama regularly both vitalizing, and calming practices will benefit the subtle energy body or pranamaya kosha. Breathing deeply and properly in the lower abdominal, practicing asana flows and all forms of dance and exercise support the prana systems. Also proper posture, positive thinking, healthy eating, joyful relations and doing what one loves can assist the prana systems within and around the body.
Clearing energetic blocks through conditioning so the chakras can spin vibrantly, the nadi’s can flow with vitality.
Connection to other bodies: When the pranamaya kosha is healthy, vital and balanced it supports a healthy, vital and balanced physical body. A healthy pranamaya kosha also supports a healthy manamaya kosha. Inversely a disturbed or unhealthy pranamaya kosha can negatively affect the physical, mental and emotional bodies.
Manomaya Kosha- Mental & Emotional Body or Sheath
Thoughts directly affects our emotions, emotions can also affect our thoughts, however, the mental body where thoughts reside is the most powerful way to affect the emotions. Thinking triggers emotional responses and is responsible for bringing either peace or conflict to the emotional and mental bodies.
Clearing emotional and mental blocks through past hurts, traumas and negative thinking habits. This is more difficult than making sure your body is receiving good sleep, nutrition and exercise. This often takes the help of a friend or therapist because we stuff hurts and traumas into the subconscious mind and when they come up they are often accompanied by reactivity and toxicity in the emotional body. However, we can heal all our past traumas by being that compassionate all loving space for them to land. By leaning toward the pain rather than pushing it away once again, under the rug of our unconscious to rot and fester… until the next time. Embrace those hurts, however rageful they may be with unconditional love and acceptance. They are the voices of our inner hurt child, needing a compassionate ear to listen to them.
The greatest power we have in keeping our manomaya kosha strengthened and vital is three fold; One, be inner directed and commit to entertain positive, inspiring thoughts that promote emotions of peace and well-being. Two, just as you would help a child going through emotional pain, use love and compassion to heal your own inner emotional wounds as they arise… heal the samskaras. Three, practice meditation regularly to allow the mind to calm, quiet, find greater and greater levels of stillness and peace.
Manage the thoughts, choose only positive thinking. (Choose only the thoughts you want to create in your life and emotional body)
Heal the inner wounds or samskaras with unconditional love and acceptance.
Practicing meditation regularly
The great thing about these important ways to promote a healthy mental and emotional body is they are under your control. You can always find ten minutes everyday to sit in silence, single pointed focus to help the mind slow down and become more still and present. You are wholly free to provide radical love and acceptance toward yourself, especially when you are in pain. You are fully empowered to choose the thoughts you think… remember you are not your thoughts, you simply choose thought spheres to tune into. Practice witnessing, being the neutral observer of your mind as a path to controlling and managing your thoughts. You can always cancel a negative thought and replace it with a positive thought. This is not a one time practice, like weeding a garden, you need to ongoingly weed out any and all negative thinking and replace with positive thoughts. Choose only thoughts that enliven you and bring you joy, that create health building neurotransmitters and release health building hormones in the body.
Vjnanomaya Kosha- Wisdom & Meditation
Meditation, stillness, presence and single pointed focus.
Resting in this kosha will positively affect all kosha’s from the physical body, to the subtle energy bodies to the mental and emotional bodies and this sheath is the doorway into the ultimate experience of awakened samadhi.
Anandamaya Kosha- Bliss body, awakened consciousness
Basking in your own Divine True Nature, Awakened
Resting in samadhi will benefit mind, body and spirit, all the kosha’s and all aspects of the being.
This is the ultimate state, basking in union with the Divine Self and the God of your understanding as pure conscious awareness.
In conclusion Yoga is a whole harmonious experience of benefitting and balancing mind, body and spirit, all the kosha’s and bodies and all aspects of one’s being.
Both science and spirituality and yoga accept that meditation, the quieting of the mind, pranayama, breathing practices, and asana, physical poses that promote physical health and well-being are all connected and inter-related. Meditation, pranayama and asana benefit the mind, mental and emotional bodies, the subtle body and the physical body. Yoga is not complete until you also include karma yoga or service, bhakti yoga or love and devotion and jana yoga spiritual study… then you are truly living a yogic lifestyle… traveling the joyous journey to complete liberation, peaceful unification of all aspects of your being, entering into absolute union with the Divine of your understanding.