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Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha) Practices

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Beth

Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha) Practices

The Sacred Mountain by Paul Gaugin

This is the final post in my series on the five-layer Kosha model of the human being. The physical body (Annamayakosha), the breath/energy body (Pranamayakosha), the mental/emotional body (Manomayakosha), the Witness/Wisdom Body (Vijnyanamayakosha) and practices for each along with a description of The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha) are available from the Yoga for Healthy Aging archives.

This post will being with a brief review of the Kosha Model so you can see how a Bliss Body practice fits into the Joseph LePage’s Ten Step practice, and I will then offer two suggestions for a Bliss Body practice. 

Kosha Model Review

The Kosha Model comes to us from the Taittirya Upanishad, which predates the Yoga Sutras by 1000 years. It is a multi-dimensional description of the human being at all levels: physical, energetic, psychological, intuitive wisdom, and spiritual. B.K.S. Iyengar describes The Kosha Model this way:

“Yoga identifies five of these different levels or sheaths of being (kosas), which must be completely integrated and in harmony with each other in order for us to achieve wholeness.
The kosas are like the layers of an onion or the Russian dolls where one is nested within the other.”

—B.K.S. Iyengar, from Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom 

We describe and often work with the Koshas separately but ultimately they are one interrelated system that make up the whole human being. Joseph LePage’s Ten Step to Freedom suggests ways to use this model in an applied psychology framework:

Annamayakosha – Physical Body
1. Become aware
2. Attune to body sensations
Pranamayakosha – Breath/Energy Body
3. Breathe into body sensations
Manomayakosha – Mental/Emotional Body
4. Identify feelings
5. Explore beliefs
Vijnyanamayakosha – Witness/Wisdom Body
6. Turn the mind back on itself
7. Practice skillful means
Anandamayakosha – Bliss Body
8. Connect to Source
9. Return to Source
10. Practice Seva (selfless service) as a vehicle for Unity

LePage suggests that working with The Bliss Body (Anandamayakosha) will open us up to the “True Self, which transcends, integrates and includes all the koshas.” And that the work “results in freedom from internal and external conflict and, therefore, from stress and its negative consequences on physical, emotional and spiritual health.” — Joseph LePage, from “Ten Steps to Freedom,” Integrative Yoga Therapy, 1998 

Anandamayakosha Practice (Bliss Body, Steps 8, 9, and 10)

Let’s start by looking more closely at the last three steps in the Ten Step practice. I will then offer my two suggestions for Bliss Body practices.

Step 8: Connecting to Bliss (Source)

This step asks us to explore ways to connect to Source by becoming familiar with the ways our thoughts and emotions work (steps 1 through 7) and then recognize our thoughts and emotions as energy in motion, which we can use as a guide to connect to Source. We do this by tuning into any and all sensations that thoughts and emotions give rise to in body, breath, and mind. 

I know that sounds a bit mystical and “woo woo” but how can words accurately and clearly describe the indescribable? And there is no guaranteed way to do this. It’s different for everyone. Suggested yoga practices for this step are Svadhyaya and Waking The Witness (see LINK). 

Step 9: Returning to the Source

Once we make an intention to connect to Bliss (at whatever level we choose to work on), we are asked to allow our thoughts, emotions, and contradictions to slip into the background and invite Bliss to come into the foreground as our mind stills and we come to a place of “complete acceptance and awareness of all aspects of our self within the field of Unity.” 

This, of course, is hard work and not an easy thing to accomplish as it requires us to release and let go of our attachments and desire to be in control.

Step 10: Practice Seva (Selfless Service)

As we get closer to understanding and realizing Step 9, we can begin to work on Step 10. Here LePage asks us to engage in enlightened living through a life of Seva (selfless service) and use our energy to support the transformative process for others. 

After practicing the 10 steps, you may be wondering whether you are “there” yet? This is a big and important question, and the answer for most of us, most of the time is, ‘Nope!’ This is directly related to an understanding of how long it takes and how challenging and often difficult this type of work can be.

However, getting there even for a few brief moments is enough to let us know that “there” exists. We know it’s a worthy goal and that to take the necessary steps we will need to do our own personal work and generate the desire and energy to engage in appropriate and healthy relationships with others. It’s both the journey and the goal. We can encourage this state BUT we cannot control its appearance or the experience of it. Sometimes, as a group of students wrote in their yoga therapy presentation, “shift happens.” Iyengar has a comforting thought on this when he says,

“Few of us may get all the way to samadhi, but we are concerned here with evolution and progressive growth and change. And it is this growth and change, this ever, greater ability to see the truth, that will allow us to live increasingly in freedom. It is as simple and as difficult as learning to discipline our own minds and hearts, our bodies and breath.” — Iyengar, B.K.S.. Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom 

Two Suggested Practices

1. A consistent yoga practice helps set the stage for the Grace of the Bliss experience on any or all of its levels. Yoga postures encourage smooth functioning of the body’s systems and their relationship with each other. Breath and mudras help us calm, cool and balance our mind and emotions. And relaxation, along with meditation practice, helps to still the “fluctuations of the mind.” 

These practices help us create what Joseph Campbell, a professor of comparative mythology and religion, calls a “bliss station” in which to root ourselves:

“[Sacred space] is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.” — Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth 

Have you identified your bliss station?

2. Another way to set the stage for the Grace of Bliss is the practice of Seva (selfless service). Here’s a description of this practice from Ram in his post Altruism (Karma Yoga), a Wonderful Way to Start the New Year!:

"Altruism aka Karma Yoga aka seva in Sanskrit translates as a selfless service without expectations for service provided. Any individual can achieve mind-body awareness and ultimately attain enlightenment by practicing seva/Karma yoga without any personal expectation. A Karma Yogi—an individual rendering selfless service—gets rid of all egoistic tendencies while offering such a service and puts the well-being of others as a top priority ahead of his/her personal gain or achievement.
Selfless service requires an individual to perform any service without attachment or expectation, and remain unaffected by the results of such service. At the same time such an individual needs to cultivate a loving attitude towards the selfless task, without developing any stress from it, no matter what the outcome is. Performing a task without any expectation, letting go of all results, whether good or bad, and focusing on the selfless action alone is the essence of Karma Yoga. In the light of non-attachment, the selfless doer attains freedom from emotional disturbances, including but not limited to desires, ambitions, fear, worry, anxiety, judgment, and rage. This leads to true happiness."

I have always found time to volunteer in some way most of my life because it never fails to help me feel peaceful and contented, no matter what issues small, tough, or deep, I may be dealing with in my five-sense everyday material life. Now that I’m free-tired, I can do more. Three years ago I set a goal of three Seva projects for this stage of my life, but now find that I’m actually doing four and may add another one or two. My Seva list includes:

  1. Contribute monthly posts for the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog
  2. Record a weekly hour-long radio program titled “For Your Health” for the Blind and print challenged
  3. Manage a donor-advised fund in honor of my parents that I set up to provide financial support to yoga and healthy choices programs for at-risk populations in my local community
  4. Write grants for a local arts center whose mission is “to celebrate creativity and inspire appreciation for diverse artistic cultures”
Acts of Seva can range from smiling at a stranger to serving meals at a homeless shelter to becoming politically active to work on an issue you care passionately about. This Bliss Practice begins by asking oneself this question: In what ways am I offering my time, talent, and service to others?

How will you practice realizing your Bliss?

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