Pancha Koshas

Creation begins with a divine spark of spirit, which then moves into more manifest levels until it reaches us as embodied souls. The yogic and vedantic paths provide us with an understanding of how creation manifests from its purest state into something that exists in physical form – like each one of us! By embarking inwardly through these levels, it is believed that we can uncover the essence within ourselves which lies beyond birth and death; connecting to Great Nature at its very heart.

The journey of life is a cycle, as we move from our Source and back again through death and rebirth. While there are many wonderful gifts that living brings us, break the wheel — or swim upstream to find something more powerful: Self-Realization. Seekers know it’s not an easy course; delusion accompanies attachment with suffering at its heels… but those seeking True freedom understand this is the only way out of samsara in order to gain eternal liberation.

Kundalini Shakti is a powerful primordial force that resides in the subtle depths of our inner planes. It’s said to be responsible for creation – from emanating all forms and shapes, both tangible or beyond reach. Yet within each individual it remains hidden beneath five sheaths known as pancha koshas. Unveiling this wisdom can lead us closer on a path of realization towards discovering ultimate truth.

Our body is comprised of the five gross elements found in food, which make up our Annamaya Kosha – our physical food body – forming an outermost protective layer around us that enables us to engage with and explore this world. To maintain a healthy and balanced kosha we should pay attention to how we nourish ourselves through diet, rest & sleep as well as incorporate movement into our lifestyle such as yoga asana or other forms of exercise for better body awareness.

The Pranamaya Kosha is an incredible source of life energy that animates our physical body. This wondrous force forms a network of subtle currents (Nadis) and powerful spinning wheels (Chakras), each having its own unique values which provide the vital strength to sustain organ function. The aura surrounding humans amplifies this Life Force, enabling it to extend beyond one’s being with a greater reach than ever before through something called Pranavayus. It has been said to be the secret power that binds even heaven and earth together!

Our mental sheath, or manomaya kosha, is a complex blend of thoughts and emotions that pieced together create our identity. It consists of Chitta (subconscious), Manas (conscious mind) and Ahamkara (ego). Our samskaras- such as habits, thought patterns & automatic routines – all exist here in this plane along with the guna influences – rajas , tamas & sattva. Together they form an intricate web which gives us insight into our individual make up.

Our inner wisdom is found in the fourth layer of our being, Vijnanamaya kosha. When cleansed from psychological traits such as attachment, aversion and delusion – it can become a conduit for Atman’s divine light to flow through us. This higher function of the mind, Buddhi, yields wondrous qualities like awareness, intuition, discernment, will power and insight. This gives rise to a Wisdom Body that allows for witnessing life with greater clarity through increased presence & self-awareness!

The Anandamaya kosha, often referred to as the Bliss Sheath, is a divine gateway that opens our eyes to Pure Consciousness and awakens us to an ever-present celestial peace. This sacred vessel holds within it Kundalini Shakti ––the spiritual power of dualistic samadhi–– deepened knowing, heightened integration and unbridled love for all things. Seated at its heart lies the Causal Body where truth resides in perfect harmony with wholeness offering you true inner freedom from earthly suffering.

Our spiritual journey is ultimately a quest to rediscover the One true Source, and Kundalini Shakti acts as our faithful guide along this path of enlightenment. As we traverse through each layer or sheath that veils Atman – from Vijnanamaya kosha to Anandamaya Kosha – our lower mind will eventually bow in recognition of its own relativity when confronted with Self-Illumination beyond all layers. Ultimately, it is only by surrendering ourselves fully into divine guidance can we finally return home.

Many Blessings,

Michelle

Simple way to ground yourself while standing.

This is an exercise for you to use to calm yourself in times of stress and upset.  It is ideal for bringing you back to ‘the moment’ and pushing your concerns and worries away.

Remove your shoes. Stand with your bare feet firmly on the ground, legs slightly apart, and allow your feet to really feel the support of the earth underneath you.

Take a few moments to find a relaxed posture – you may find that gently swaying around your hips helps you to settle into a relaxed upright posture. Make sure that your head is resting in a relaxed way upon your shoulders, just move the head around the shoulders slowly to find a relaxed position. Allow your back to relax. Allow your in-breath and out-breath to fill your chest and abdominal area. Rest your gaze at about 45 degrees or just ahead.

Now place your attention firstly on your feet, and then on the earth beneath your feet. Just feel the earth. Imagine that your feet have invisible roots pushing down into the earth. Push these roots as far as you can go.

Imagine now that your roots are contacting the fresh green energy of the earth. Allow this fresh energy to rise up through the roots into your feet. Now allow the earth energy up through your feet into your legs, up into your pelvis and abdomen. And then allow the earth energy to flow through your chest, heart and neck and shoulder area.

You are now grounded and ready to begin your meditation exercises.

Hope this helps and was enjoyable!

Many Blessings! ~Michelle~

Dance with Yoga

Every year, you hear more people start “doing” yoga. Maybe it’s your friend, a coworker, or a family member. There’s something magnetic about the practice that makes everyone instantly attracted to it. Moving your body, keeping it limber, noticing the little nuances.

In my personal dance with yoga, I have been practicing asana for about 20 years now, it has lead me to deeper spaces of my being than I was unaware existed. I haven’t been to an actual asana class for years, unless you count that Im currently in a 300 hour We Evolve training I am participating in.

When you go for your first asana practice, you might think it will improve only one aspect of your life. Perhaps you do it for its physical benefits, or because you want to incorporate some type of spiritual practice into your life. But soon you realize it seems to affect every aspect of your being – and soon you come to realize, the more you learn, the less you know and the practice of yoga becomes more important, it somehow becomes part of you.

The True Importance Of Yoga

True yogis understood that humans are physical, mental, and spiritual beings. Yoga, which in a literal sense, means “to yolk” works on all of the subtle layers of our body to, bring us back to our center or seat and bring us back to harmony. True yoga in India, didn’t develop only around physical exercise, not at all. It was primarily a spiritual practice focused on the development of virtues, sadhana, and inquiry that help us reach our highest potential, and find purpose in our life.

Still, even if you only practice the physical postures or asanas, you will see a change in your being. If you incorporate pranayama, you get even more benefits. If you include meditation, well the grey matter in your brain only gets stronger and more dense in certain areas of your brain. That’s not only a promise coming from subjective experiences of practitioners, it is also something that has been proven by science today. 

Physical yoga practice is a form of education about living a better life. On the mat, we become aware of our body and our movement. We connect to our breath and learn to control it. The breath serves as a sort of bridge between our physical body, our mind, and our spiritual self. You can experience that as soon as you start controlling your breath. And you don’t have to believe me my word – you can try it right now. 

Start deepening your breath. That means your inhales and exhales get longer, and you activate all the organs involved in the breathing action. As you inhale, lift both your belly and chest and try to make your exhalation longer than your inhale. Only after a couple of moments, you will experience a sense of calm, your thoughts will be quieter, as more air flows into your body, your nerves will calm down reducing stress and anxiety and the more you practice, the more your body will enter a meditative state. Try closing your eyes, and breathe for a minute or two.

Now, in only a few moments of conscious breathing, you have experienced the true importance of yoga. Without any preparation – you have managed to connect your body, your mind, and your spiritual presence.

When we start practicing yoga regularly, we learn of this control over our bodies. We learn we are able to calm ourselves down, heal our pains, and become aware of the present moment. This happens even if we’re not aware of it, but it does become more significant when we are conscious of what we’re doing.

After you learn to connect your breath, movement, thoughts, and emotions, this will soon lead to taking these skills and incorporate it into life off the mat where real “yoga” begins.

That’s the true importance of yoga. When we start experience this ancient wisdom first hand, and experience the benefits in everyday life, what a blessing our practice becomes. When we add the knowledge of Ayurveda, we then we are experiencing true health, harmony and happiness.

To understand your unique constitution, please feel free to book a consultation with me and I will even give you personalized pranayama and possibly some asana as well as diet, lifestyle and healing practices you can incorporate into your life. As we heal ourselves, we are building our personal spiritual practice and personalized medicine as well as improving our mental health. With yoga, you gain back control of your own being. That empowerment is what makes it so important, especially in this fast-paced time in which we are living today.

Physical Benefits Of Doing Yoga

Some people wonder if they’ll lose weight when doing yoga. Some want to improve their performance, whether it is greater flexibility or strength. The third want to heal their chronic pain or improve their posture. The truth is – yoga does all that. 

The reason why yoga improves every aspect of your body is that it uses primal movements. When you observe yoga poses, you will notice you’ve done many of them since you were a child. We squat before we walk, nearly every child tries rolling on the floor, stretching, and doing the candle pose. With yoga, we’re not focusing only on one aspect of our body. We’re doing natural movements that simultaneously improve our strength and range of motion.

Still, there are different styles of yoga you can do, if you want to focus on a certain physical benefit. All styles will still improve every aspect of your body, but some do some things a bit better than others.

For example, if your main goal is to build strength and to lose weight, a more dynamic style of yoga would be appropriate. There are many styles of dynamic yoga, including Ashtanga, Rocket yoga, Iyengar yoga, Hot yoga, and more, but they can all be described as Vinyasa Yoga. Vinyasa yoga is every type of practice where you spend a lot of time in standing poses and move through them at a fast pace. 

On the other hand, those who want to combat back pain and other chronic issues, or want to improve their flexibility, will be attracted to more gentle yoga styles. Although Hatha yoga meant something else in the past, today we relate this word to a slow and gentle yoga style. Other variations are Restorative and Yin yoga. In these styles of yoga, we spend most of our time in sitting and lying positions, and we hold them for longer.

Most yogis are attracted to one style of yoga the most. Still, with time, you will realize you don’t have to decide. Simply choose the style of yoga that gives you the physical benefit you need at this day, this season, or this period of your life. 

Mental Benefits Of Doing Yoga

Even if your main motivation for doing yoga is physical benefits, you will notice the mental benefits of the practice from your first class. 

By being aware of our body, and connecting breath with movement, we have something to focus on. At that moment, our thoughts slow down, and we begin to relax. Science has proven time and time again that yoga improves mental health. A single class can remove the stress from that day, and regular yoga practice can relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. 

Whenever you feel stressed, anxious, or have negative thoughts about yourself and the world – try doing yoga. At least for that hour, and an hour after the practice, you’ll get back to a calmer and more positive state of mind. With time, you will see the benefits last longer, and you will be able to use yoga as a type of self-therapy whenever you want to improve your mental well-being. 

All styles of yoga will give you this feeling, whether you’re sweating through a challenging Vinyasa sequence or relaxing your body through a gentle Hatha practice. 

Spiritual Benefits Of Doing Yoga

Regardless of our religion or view of spirituality, most of us feel there’s something else, beyond our body and our thoughts. The spiritual aspect of our lives is what gives us purpose, a greater meaning. Only when we can feel our greater purpose, can we combat our daily struggles long-term. 

Yoga can give you that. The focus on the movement and breath allows you to calm your thoughts. When your thoughts and emotions are calm, you are able to return to the present moment. The present moment is when spirituality happens. 

Every person can experience something different in spirituality. It can be that you simply feel a state of love and bliss. Some get physical sensations, others have visions. That’s why it’s hard to explain what spiritual benefit you can expect from yoga. Yoga is very individual – and the best things happen when you don’t expect them.

Still, what we can promise is that you can expect to gain spiritual experience, knowledge, and understanding. When this begins to happen, yoga stops being merely a physical practice, and it becomes a part of your life. You start using the practice to improve yourself, to treat yourself and others better, and to finally find meaning, love, and true joy in this beautiful life you were given.

That was exactly why old Indian yogis created this practice in the first place. The goal was to reach a higher state of being and to live spirituality both on and off the mat. 

Many will say yoga today moved away from this initial idea, but that’s far from the truth. Yes, it did change – but humanity changed as well. It’s only natural we adapted the practice to make sense to this day and age. We need a different approach, we practice more physical poses, but the goal is the same.

And whether that goal is why you started doing yoga, or it’s only somewhere in the back of your mind, with regular practice, you will achieve it.

Keep doing the type of practice you enjoy, incorporate what you learned into your everyday life, and see for yourself how you and your surroundings change for the better.

Bring more joy, peace, love, and meaning into your life, and enjoy the process of improving your life little by little, every day with yoga. 

Kitchari

Lately I’ve been utterly obsessed with kitchari. Its amazing! Through all of my food adventures I have found kitchari to be the perfect food dish for creating balance in the body and mind.

In Ayurvedic philosophy, health starts in the digestive system. The function of the whole system is dependent on the proper digestion, assimilation and elimination of our food. If these things aren’t happening properly, we become vulnerable to disease. The metabolic energy of digestion, called agni in sanskrit, literally means fire. This fire must be strong for us to properly digest and assimilate our food and so its strength is a direct indicator of the health of our entire system. And so, beyond just cleansing the body of toxins, called Ama, kitchari will rekindle low agni, paving the way for greater balance in the entire system.

Kitchari Recipe:

1 Cup of yellow mung dal

1 Cup of basmati rice

6 Cups of blessed water

2 Cups of easily digestible vegetables (such as asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, summer squash, winter squash, yam, sweet potato, turnips or zucchini), cut into bite sized pieces.

2 Tablespoons ghee or coconut oil if you prefer

2 Inch piece of fresh ginger root, minced

1 Tablespoon turmeric

1 Tablespoon cumin

1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons Himalayan pink salt

1 stick kombu seaweed (optional)

Soak the split mung dal overnight (or for at least four hours). Strain the soaking water, combine with the rice and rinse the mixture at least twice, or until the water runs clear, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan or soup pot, warm the ghee over medium heat. Add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and sauté for a couple of minutes, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the turmeric, coriander, fennel, and fresh ginger. Stir briefly, until aromatic. Stir the rice and dal mixture into the spices and sauté for a few moments, stirring constantly.

Add the water, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add bay leaf and kombu. Then, add hard vegetables like turnips, sweet potato, yams, winter squash, carrots or celery. When the soup comes to a boil, stir in the salt, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Add your softer vegetable half way through about the kitchari’s cooking process, stir in the vegetables and allow the stew to return to a boil. Continue to simmer until the rice, dal, and vegetables are fully cooked. I like to have very little water remaining when finished. The consistency is more like a thick stew than a broth. Make sure your beans, rice and hard vegetables are thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat, cool, and serve.

Some great add ons to kitchari are chutney, cilantro, plain yogurt, raisins, mixed greens, (romaine, spinach, chard, kale, sprouts), sesame seeds, shredded carrots & beets.

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  ~B.K.S. Iyengar

Each ingredient plays a specific role in this dish. Kitchari can stimulate your circulation, invigorate your metabolism, and clear out congestion. The beans are alkaline forming and blood-purifying, they also provide protein and nutrients to nourish the body. Cumin and bay leaf reduce water retention. Coriander promotes liver function and bowel movements, balances blood sugar, is anti-inflammatory and is great for the lungs. The amazing health benefits of turmeric include its ability to reduce inflammation, heal wounds, improve skin health, protect cognitive abilities, and ease menstrual difficulties. Turmeric also helps eliminate depression, alleviate pain, slow the aging process, protect the digestive tract, and prevent cancer. Mustard seeds fight inflammation and cancer. Fennel is great for bone and skin health as well as digestion. Kombu is great for digestion, immune health, supports metabolism, a great source of iron, and is excellent for bone and teeth health. The rice is easily digested, the warming sites kindle the Agni so that we can become digestive superstars!

In conclusion, balanced agni is what gives us vigour and optimal health and well-being. Our bodies are incredible and intelligent, and incorporating kitchari into our diet gives the body a chance to reach homeostasis and beyond. Such a simple dish can initiate drastic improvements in the quality of digestion, assimilation, elimination. It can also shine light about your cravings, energy levels, and overall joy for life!

If you want more info on the next Ayurvedic Kitchari Cleanse Im leading, click here.

Many blessings,

Michelle

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”  ~Thomas Edison