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After spending time on investigation of the historical, philosophical and theoretical foundations of yoga, this paper seeks to explore the modern yoga culture and the manner in which individuals use the “modern postural yoga” to make meaning of the practice themselves as individuals, as members of the modern yoga community and as inhabitants of the earth. As a way of bridging the gap that exists between theory and practice, this paper is developed upon attending a yoga class and providing a descriptive and analytic report of the experience gained from the attendance.
This is a narrative of Yoga class that happened on 23rd March 2018, from 6 pm to 7 pm for 2 hours. The yoga class was located at Samara Yoga Studio in Davis Square. The class was one-hour restorative asana. The teacher in charge of the class is Sumra Yatara.
During the session, we started with child’s pose. While doing this, the exercise entailed starting on the knees, sitting back on the heels and then proceeding to open the knees slightly sider compared to the hips (Singleton and Byrne 97). While doing this exercise, the process involved inhalation and stretching the spine. Also, exhalation of as one walk the arms long in front of one, bringing the torso down so that one can rest the forehead on the mat. I found the pose so much relaxing.
While attending the yoga class, the second process entailed shifting the weight forward for a cat pose. This exercise happened for about 3 to 5 minutes and involved moving organically with the breath (Alter 21). During this time, the instructor required that we exhale, tuck the chin to chest and then tuck the tailbone for a cat. For the cow method, we were asked to inhale slowly. In the next pose, the instructor asked us to lower down and then get a needle pose. While doing this, we extended the right arms while inhaling. When exhaling, we threaded through space between the left hand and left knee with the palm facing up. All this time, the right ear was resting on the mat. After holding for one minute, this same process was then repeated for the left side. The next pose entailed kneeling on the shins, with the right hand on the left knee, for a gentle seated twist. We did this for approximately 3 minutes and the switched sides. The next process is known as Paschimottanasana and entailed extending the legs in front of one to allow for the seated forward fold (Telles and Naveen 13). The last pose was stacking of the legs in double pigeon famously referred to as Agnistambhasana.
The class is beautifully designed with a retreat in mind. The details included are carefully and thoughtfully planned and thought out. The room is fully equipped with modern heating systems to ensure room temperature of choice. There is also a modern sound system in place supported by Bluetooth system. The diverse lightning systems support different moods and options for the schemes. There are enough mats, blocks, bricks, belts, bolsters, and blankets to be used in the class. There are three bathrooms with one that is wheelchair accessible. There are large spacious hall and a beautiful therapy room for massages and other therapies.
When I got in I realized that people shared pleasantries with each other and some little time talks. This was an indication that perhaps a good number of people know each other. Nonetheless, there was an exception for a few who were not to so social or talking to each other. Apparently, these people were the new lot in the class/studio. In fact, the teacher paid so much attention to what the newcomers were doing. The newcomers were getting to acclimatize with the exercises being administered. The participants are disciplined and are doing exercises as required. Everyone is doing the poses and only posing when requested. In fact, during the rest time in between the exercise then the participants leave the rooms and get to water drinking point while some rest on their mats. Even though at the beginning there were some people chatting, the teacher kept on encouraging participants to rest and sit in meditation. The verbal and body language of the instructor is in synch with the activities or the exercises that he is asking people to engage in. The instructor uses student-centered approach. While giving the instructions, the teacher requires the participants to be at the center of the training. Part of the training entails the integration of stories while doing the postures.
During the training, the five koshas of yoga were applied. In fact, the understanding of the philosophy underpinning the five koshas helped me so much to understand some of the instructions given by the teacher. It is always said that when one understands that the practice of yoga works to release the blockages in many parts of the body, it the beginning of the understanding the nature of practice (Douglas 88). The blockages in the body in most cases hide fears and unexpressed emotions. Through yoga as evident in the class, one ends up feeling great. During the classes, application of Annamaya kosha was evident as the outside body was exercised. The outer parts that underwent the exercise included the muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. In fact, for me just like many, were concerned about this when starting the yoga practice. For most of the guys who were chatting before the commencement of the exercise, one of the areas of concern was to be as flexible as possible, have relaxed bodies, be strong, improve their balance and be stress-free, aspects that can easily be achieved through this first form of kosha. During the exercise, it was noted that the best way to impact the first kind of kosha is through asana.
The second kind of kosha evident in the exercise was the pranayama kosha as the teacher insisted that the trainees take deep breaths. By taking the deep breaths, the body felt so much invigorated and much more alive. As much as prana comes to the body through food and water, it also does the same through breath. The class was restorative asana hence in a way or another impacted Pranamaya Kosha.
Through the exercises during the class, there was a clear manifestation of Manomaya Kosha. In many cases, people go for yoga exercise because of the physical benefits as well as mental benefits. After exercise, one gets mentally relieved and emotionally upbeat. In fact, it such benefits that take people back to have the yoga exercises from time to time. Through this kosha, one ends up taking care of their instinctual needs and at the same time helps them realize their individual needs. This implies that taking part in the yoga exercise will mean that one is safe, secure and able to love and be loved. In fact, one of the stories that the teacher said is that if one has experienced anxiety such as those arising from loss of jobs, or unaware of when to pay rents, one can consider taking the Manomoya kosha tour (Devananda 27). The practice can be as simple as engaging in alternate nostril breathing to do away with the feelings and thoughts. Often, many people tend to live in one kosha than others. For some people, they are body-oriented while others are mind-oriented. Engaging in yoga practices, one ends up balancing the awareness of different layers of self and they end up shifting out of the Manomayakosha (Arya and Kumar 21). This implies that the anxiety that individuals have ends up fading to some extent. The grounding in wisdom body gives individuals a wider perspective on their life experiences and they end up seeing that they get better.
We can do it today.
However, after training when the anxiety fades but it is still in place, then there are chances that it is grounded more on Vijnanamaya Kosha. In fact, for most of the participants including me, turn up for an exercise class with the thought of having just physical exercises but in the process, they find themselves connecting to a deeper level of intuition, thinking deeply about wisdom and having a higher sense of knowledge (De Michelis 76). Continuous practice brings this form of kosha. In this kind of kosha, individuals move beyond the feelings and concerns that are pegged in survival and security and get into the feelings that include compassion, love, and joy. The relationships that individuals have ended up changing and they become increasingly fulfilling and even joyous. When people exercise often their path of yoga improves and their journey moves from ego/mind to big self. When one gets to a point that they release the fears from their mental body and release the blockages that are in the energy body then indeed they are cultivating the Vijnanamaya Kosha (Stankovic 26).
The last and fifth kosha that was evident is Anandamaya kosha which is trying to achieve a bliss body. Having inner peace and feeling to be one with yourself and your God. At this point, one does not feel like the body is separate (Telles, Naveen, and Dash 507). However, the class did not relate to this kind of component as it is more personal one. The teacher confessed not having got to this kind of level. In fact, the teacher insisted that anybody who reaches the ultimate satisfaction of kosha would not need to be told. The teacher was not in a position to tell us as he has never reached according to his confession.
Attending yoga remains one of the most fulfilling practices that one needs to have in their life. Exercising through yoga ensured inner peace. One of the best times to exercise was the entire restorative asana with particular emphasis on the second process where I had to shift forward for a cat pose for about 3 to 5 minutes and involved moving organically with the breath. During this time, the instructor required that we exhale, tuck the chin to chest and then tuck the tailbone for a cat. For the cow method, we were asked to inhale slowly. Both the inhalations and exhalations were so refreshing. As much as I went for exercise because of physical benefits I ended up getting so much help in terms of the mental benefits. After exercise, one gets mentally relieved and emotionally upbeat. In fact, it such benefits that take people back to have the yoga exercises from time to time.
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